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The Future of Digital Music Delivery Is Already Here

Posted by Frank Johnson | July 1, 2015 1:10 pm | 1 Comment

digital music streaming fulfillment royalties rights management

“Everyone involved in creating a piece of music should be able to rely on income from that music when it’s used.”

Such a simple concept has proven seemingly impossible to achieve. Artists, songwriters, and performers often don’t know when their music is used. The owners of sound recordings expend enormous resources taking legal action to prevent illegal use. Publishers use complex formulas to calculate payments, arriving at numbers that often don’t reflect the total use of each piece of content.

It shouldn’t be this difficult.

Scouring the ends of the Earth, hunting royalties in back corners of the Internet is an effective but temporary fix. 900,000 unclaimed royalty sources is a staggering number, and it’s growing. The back-end pipes of the music industry are broken. Wrapping them in plumber’s tape may slow the leak, but it fills no holes. Rights owners deserve a better solution.

Simply put, the only way to guarantee royalties are delivered to copyright holders is for every music service to sit atop a fully rights-managed content delivery platform.

Right now, when a song is purchased, downloaded, or streamed, that data is sent to a third party. That third party then attempts to connect the right people with the right payments. In many cases the payments and associated statements, each with millions of lines of information, are sent to another company to distribute to the artist and writers.

This is the simplest representation. Many services are much more complicated, adding in layer after layer of complexity. When this complexity yields breakage. someone always loses. In almost every case it is the artists, songwriters, and performers. Their actual take-home pay is truncated and fractured, and it isn’t because companies don’t want to pay them. They’re doing the best they can.

We aren’t here to debate record deals, songwriting splits, or speculate on how much artists should be making. Our experience in the music industry has shown us that contracts even as they exist are not reliably fulfilled. We firmly believe that until someone can say, “Your music was used in exactly this way, you are owed exactly this much,” the conversation can’t truly begin.

This is the world we envision at MediaNet. Every established and disruptive music service perched on a firm foundation, one that is intimately aware of how music is being used and who is supposed to be paid. It might seem like a pipe dream, but we’ve already built it here at MediaNet. It’s already working, and rights holders are being paid.

Using our 15 years of digital music delivery experience, we decided in 2012 that content needed to be tied to rights at every level. If not, it becomes a game of Bad Telephone, where each extra layer of digital music infrastructure adds loss and obscures data. Right now digital music delivery is a Rube Goldberg machine. We’re making it lean and mean, as simple as the Easy Button.

We’ve launched and support some of the world’s best-loved music apps, like Beats, Songza, and Turntable.fm. The data required to stream digital music at this level is enormous. 4.1 petabytes pass through our servers each month, 8x the volume of data stored in the US Library of Congress.

Taking in track catalogs, assigning deep metadata, resolving duplication, managing infrastructure, and delivering in 11 formats for dozens of B2B use cases across the globe is an enormous undertaking. Managing content, catalogs, and data at this scale isn’t possible for everyone, but we do it every day. Any music service can be integrated into our platform.

Rights-managed digital music delivery is something every artist, songwriter, performer, label, publisher, and rights holder deserves.

The dirty truth no one is telling is that there’s no single fix for digital music. No magic business model. A rights-managed music fulfillment platform won’t solve piracy, and it won’t ensure all rights holders are treated equitably. But we believe none of these greater challenges in music can be faced until a fundamental question is answered: Can you effectively monitor and run your entire digital music supply chain? That is one question we do have the answer to: “yes.” We’ve already built the platform for you. And it’s working.

Our vision of the future of music is simple. We envision a world where the panoply of music services can all confidently and transparently report and pay every rights holder for every single play. To that end, we’ve put our cards on the table and invested in that future. Our goal is to ensure that when a song is played, everyone gets paid.

Imagine that.

-Frank

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