Tag Archives: artist rights

The “Zero Effect”: Do New Consumption Charts Penalize Artists Windowing Streaming and Compilation Records?

26 Mar
(Posted on Hypebot, March 19, 2013)

Although we can’t tell how consumption charts are weighted (as far as I know that information hasn’t been released publicly), it’s pretty clear that if you are not on streaming services–meaning you have zero streams–you will be penalized in the chart.

I picked the consumption chart for the first week of Taylor Swift’s October 27 release of the 1989 juggernaut to try to measure how the consumption chart reacted.  The choice was admittedly cherry picking, but with a purpose:  Taylor’s sales were historically significant and her reported streaming should have been somewhat muted given Spotify’s well-publicized decision to reject the record on the artist’s terms.  This would potentially yield good benchmarks for testing the consumption chart at the margins as well as the more bread and butter titles below the top 10.

Based on data for the week ending November 2, 2014, Taylor Swift’s first week sales were so strong it probably doesn’t matter that her streams were somewhat lower for the consumption chart.  At #1, she outsold the #2 NOW 52 title by 10:1, and NOW 52 outsold the #3 Sam Hunt album by 10:8–but Sam Hunt had 4 million streams that punched up the chart position.  NOW 52 had zero streams because it is a compilation record.

Compilation records and soundtracks do not get credit for streams because they have no streaming rights.  This is true even if the music services allow playlists–or possibly create playlists themselves–using the compilation or soundtrack brand in the metadata with the track listing of the underlying tracks.  These playlists work because the individual tracks are already available on the service under direct license from the label or artist licensing the tracks to the compilation or soundtrack. (This is the kind of free riding that was the heart of Ministry of Sound’s recent lawsuit against Spotify and probably why Spotify settled.)

The “zero effect” is much greater further down the chart, however.  In the same week of November 2, Frozen: The Songs, a compilation record, got credit for zero streams and 10,723 albums sales for a chart position of 49.  Blake Shelton sold 8,735 albums but got credit for 930,928 audio streams and a chart position of 44.  The same week Iggy Azalea sold 4,947 albums but got credit for 5,060,617 streams for a chart position of 25.  In other words, Frozenwill never have any streams because compilation records typically do not get streaming rights, and got a much lower chart position in spite of selling over twice as many albums.

If you compared based on album sales alone, the Guardians of the Galaxy zero effect soundtrack would have entered the chart at #25, not #40, Sam Smith would have been #15 instead of #6, Bob Segar would have been #23 instead of #34.  Another zero effect soundtrack is Now Disney 3 that would have been #40 instead of #59, and U2’s Songs of Innocence would have been #64 instead of #94.

Seasonal records such as Christmas albums are also penalized.  The Nov 2 chart showed that based on album sales alone, Home Free’s Full of Cheer would have entered the chart that week at #66 instead of #104.  While the title had 26 streams, that was a sufficient penalty to cost the record 38 chart positions.

Conclusions?  Charts are relative beasts to begin with, and the consumption chart won’t keep a phenom like Taylor Swift from dominating the top position.  Measuring streams probably isn’t enough to affect the top 10 or the top 5.  But for records that are compilations, soundtracks, seasonal or other specialty titles that either aren’t allowed a streaming audience based on contract, are windowed, or haven’t found that audience yet for another reason, the consumption chart penalizes high sellers that are not present or are not credited with streams on streaming services.

If chart position matters to your record, then this should be of concern to you as the zero effect creates an incentive to stimulate streams for chart position–assuming you can get credit for streams.  Some would say that the more streaming, the lower the sales.  Without getting into cause and effect on that issue, it certainly can be said that the lower the streams, the lower the chart position even if sales of a given title are higher than another given title.

From a profitability perspective, artists whose records sell but don’t stream may well be thankful.  If that trend continues, then it would also stand to reason to question the benefit of chart position as a selling tool.  But then we hear about services like YouTube routinely deleting billions of fake plays in its video playlists during December.  If this same phenomenon is repeated in streaming services used to measure chart position….not to imply that anyone in the music business would ever try to rig the charts.  Perish the thought.

So what is it all about?  Is there a “zero effect” or is there zero affect?  Sales or stream?

Advertisements

Suggested Deal Points for Artist-Songwriter Split Agreements

29 Sep

This post covers suggested deal points for a split agreement from an artist/writer perspective (not from a producer/writer or outside songwriter perspective).  This is not intended to be legal advice or to be a substitute for being represented by an attorney in your negotiation.

Whenever you co-write with someone not in your band (which could be a producer or another songwriter) there are some issues you have to be concerned about. Some of this may be a little too complex legally for most people to try on their own, but we will assume that if you have a record deal (which is when most of these issues come up) you will already have a lawyer or manager to help you. These are not all the issues involved, but if you cover all of them you will avoid a good deal of confusion later on.

1. Splits: It seems obvious, but make sure there is no dispute about who wrote how much of the song.

2. Promo Videos: You will need to be sure that the co-writer agrees to whatever terms are in your record deal that cover the synchronization license for promo music videos that are in your recording agreement. Assume that you’ll need to get a free sync license for promo music videos. “Promo music videos” can include YouTube which is technically a commercial exploitation but which throws off so little revenue that is may as well be promotional. One way to refer to this is “a free sync license for promotional or “YouTube-style” music videos”.

3. Controlled Compositions: If you are an artist signed to a recording agreement with a controlled compositions clause, you want to be sure that your co-writer accepts all the terms that apply to you. If you are the unsigned co-writer, be sure you understand all the terms of the controlled comp clause that apply to your song. You can ask for a copy of the “redacted” clause from the artist contract (and artists who do a lot of co-writing should have a digital copy of this clause ready to send out as it is a fair request).

4. Demo Ownership: Make sure you are clear about who owns the copyright in the demo recording. Remember—there are two copyrights in each sound recording, the sound recording itself (the demo) and the song that’s recorded (that you are co-writing). If you are the featured artist, you want to own 100% of the sound recording copyright in the demo. The percentage ownership of the demo and the percentage ownership of the song are two very different things and the ownership shares are independent of each other. Just because your cowriter owns 50% of the song doesn’t mean the cowriter owns 50% of the recording. This will become important if you use a pitching service for film and TV placements (“syncs”) and the licensee wants to use the recording of the cowrite. If you are signed to a record company, the record company will technically own the demo (or will take the position that they do).

5. Other Sync Licenses and Pitching: Aside from music video syncs, there is a whole world of film and TV licensing as well as advertising opportunities. These often require servicing a recording of your song to the film and TV supervisors or creatives at advertising agencies. There are people who operate these pitching services, and major labels (at least theoretically) do it themselves. If you co-write with a writer who either has a pitching deal or a record deal, you need to have an understanding of who can pitch the song and who can approve synchronization licenses. If you are the featured artist, you will want to have some control over who is pitching the song because if your co-writer pitches the song for a use you do not want to approve, that can create confusion in the film and TV licensing community and may result in your not getting considered for syncs you do want. (The conversation with the co-writer will go something like this: “Want do you mean the artist won’t approve it? YOU PITCHED IT TO ME!”)

6. Creative Commons: As usual, you have to be very careful not to write with anyone who intends to make your co-written song available under any kind of a “Creative Commons” license. The “CC” license does not work very well for professional songwriters, mostly because it is very poorly drafted and it is effectively irrevocable. See “Carefully Co-Writing Without Creative Commons”, Public Licenses: The Gift that Keeps on Giving (by Prof. Jane Ginsburg), Common Understanding (by ASCAP’s Joan McGivern)

7.  Self Distribution:  Every digital distributor in the US will make the artist assume the responsibility for paying mechanical royalties.  If you are distribution a record with co-writers, make sure you have a clear understanding with them as to what your obligations are for mechanical royalties.  If you are distributing a recording with cover songs, i.e., songs written by “outside” writers, you will be responsible for paying them and you will need to get a mechanical license for their songs.