This is the last of our series of MIDEM liveblogs from Music Ally‘s Stuart Dredge.
A running theme of this year’s MIDEM has been criticism of publishers, both from startups and labels, over their perceived sluggishness at embracing new business models.
Today, a publishing panel had the opportunity to put their side of the story. It was moderated by Jane Dyball, SVP of international legal and business affairs at Warner/Chappell Music.
The panel (l-r): Ed Averdieck, director of Real World; Laurence Le Ny, head of music content, Orange France; Arnold Mabunda, music publisher, Gallo Music Publishers; Hartwig Masuch, CEO, BMG Rights Management; and Mary Megan Peer, VP of business development, peermusic.
Dyball introduced the session by explaining its theme — The next 200 years of music publishing — the aim being to talk about the short and long-term challenges and opportunities for music publishers.
BMG’s Masuch kicked off the discussion, talking about the philosophy underpinning the relaunched BMG. He says digitisation has had even more of an effect than the company had anticipated back in 2005. “There will be a much deeper need for very transparent services in collecting the money and distributing the money,” he said, pointing to the fragmented nature of the digital space, where a publisher will be collecting more smaller payments.
He also suggested that the importance of pure A&R will be less important than the technical nuts’n’bolts of a publisher’s business going forward. Peer disagreed, saying “the A&R process is increasingly important for a publisher nowadays”, as labels have less budget. “We’re finding that we’re doing some of the early-stage A&R work… working with bands to develop their sound, perhaps paying to make their masters…”
Mabunda was asked about some of the new business models he’s seeing in South Africa, through his work with writers and artists. “What we have done from my side is established an online licensing website which provides the end user with the master recording and the copyright all in one. It makes easy licensing, it makes easy processing, and the music is made available instantly.”
Dyball turned to Le Ny to find out how Orange has been working with publishers. She said that music has been a key content strategy for Orange in France and other countries. The company offers music downloads, streaming, and video-on-demand on both mobiles and online.
“The new content strategy since one year was to do partnerships with experts and leaders on music, so we started last year with a Deezer partnership… and the second partnership was with some French publisher associations, CSDM, on the lyrics service.”
This was the first legal lyrics service in France – a web portal, said Le Ny. “For us it’s a first step. We want to get more lyrics from the labels, because we need to provide an offer that’s as good as we see from illegal… We need to have all the back catalogues, and the new releases.” Le Ny said the service will come to mobile, TV channels and internet radio.
The service came about through a recognition that unlicensed lyrics sites have attracted huge audiences online, fuelling the decision to launch a partnership between Orange and publishers.
Real World’s Averdieck was asked about his hopes for 2011, and he mentioned the notion of ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. “Thanks to iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, in the consumer lands, one could say that the challenges have already been delivered. Music is already more accessible than ever before,” he said.
He didn’t think Google and cloud music services were “transformational” though – in stark contrast to the views of the major labels expressed at MIDEM. Averdieck was more interested in talking about B2B opportunities where music plays a ‘supporting role’ – for example, making music available to be used online in videos and advertising. Real World, too, offers ‘one-stop licensing’ combining the master and the publishing.
“We want to take that one step further and pre-clear the rights. The advantage of that is as well as being able to license the master and the song in one go, one can license the right instantaneously, which is what we think the clients are looking for.”
By this time next year, Averdieck expects to know how the market will react to this idea. Peer was asked if she’d be interested in this kind of scheme.
“We’ve certainly seen the benefit of either controlling or working closely with the owner of the master copyright,” she said. “In terms of automatic pre-clearance, I think that’s pretty tough.” However, she thinks that for uses like sync, it’s increasingly possible to get writer approval in a day or so – not quite instant, but moving in that direction.
Back to BMG’s Masuch, which has done some research into what people are looking for from publishers. He described a “complete disconnect”, with the creative community wanting transparent and reliable processes, while musicians want more creative input from the publisher. BMG opted to focus more on the former initially, although he stressed that the company has a number of creative execs capable of the latter.
Asked about her hopes for the future, Le Ny notably called for more discussions between labels and publishers over new business models and digital innovation.
Ny said she looks forward to an integrated music universe where she’d be able to listen to a song on Deezer, buy it if she likes it, read the lyrics, watch the video, and get concert tickets. “It’s what we try to do at Orange.”