It has never been a better time to be a creator or business owning their rights. It is not even a surprise to hear this anymore. So much has changed since the early days of Midem territory catalogue trading. Things are looking up for the business and creative community alike. Here are some of the biggest current and future changes.
> Making your music:
The ability to create decent music has never been more available. The costs of the means to produce have been slashed from the thanks to the DAW, cheap mastering, cheapish mixing, and the fact that getting in the studio is less and less a requirement. Beyond that, grabbing stems from Splice and other catalogues is beyond simple and Tracklib is making it easy to get samples too. Gibson in bankruptcy might even mean some heavily discounted guitars (I kid).
> Getting your music out there:
Distribution is now available for free, or cheaper than free (although free typically does come at some cost, choose your vendors wisely – as people need skin in the game). Merlin has largely helped level the playing field in terms of digital negotiations. DSPs are more global in nature than ever, and as more and more markets turn on creators are there too. Marketing and advertising have made reaching far-flung fans in a niche market anywhere in the world simple and frankly almost commonplace.
> Collecting and managing your rights:
Publishing is finally coming into its own in the same way the recorded side has had a renaissance (or reincarnation depending on how you look at it). The tools to manage your own catalog from the creative side are available with Songspace and others. My company, Songtrust, has made it easy for publishers and creators alike to collect globally without committing to a strict multi-year, potentially multi-territory, sub-publishing deal.
> The wave of consolidation in publishing:
Due to a slimming of publishers over the last 20 years, there are fewer traditional publishers chasing the biggest deals. However, the space is still quite competitive now that numerous financiers are in the market. Today, one doesn’t necessarily have to sign a traditional deal or build a staff at the start to make sure, rights are maximised. There are real, and now, accessible, administration options that work, no matter your size.
Today, just as Merlin did on the recorded music side, ICE and Songtrust are paving the way on the digital front in Europe, enabling not just the savviest Top 15 or so publishers, but mid-sized and small publishers to compete on a more global scale.
New markets are finally opening up too, sub-publishers and other service providers are popping up in territories that were thought to be far too complex. For example, POP Arabia is paving the way for rights holders in the Middle East, APRA is licensing catalogue across Asia, and Backoffice is making LATAM more efficient.
Additionally, PROs are finally getting permission from their boards to invest more in infrastructure, hopefully resulting in lower rates and dramatically increasing collections over the coming years. The shining example is the success of the PRS/PPL combined licensing activities.
> Starting your own music business has never been easier, yet proving and providing value is still as hard as it ever was. Signing an artist or band to a label and/or publishing deal, and actually fulfilling your minimum obligations successfully, has never been more simple. For so long, many new label/publishers were “fly-by-night everything” by necessity. That mentality is of the past. There are no excuses other than ignorance and the inability to Google in order to run your companies right, as the multitude of service providers have made working in the music business so much less work.
> Midem is changing, for the better:
Having come to Midem almost every year since founding Songtrust, I feel there has been a subtle shift in thinking. It’s been nearly impossible to truly be competitive against established indie publishers as an upstart or going alone without offering some sort of trade (potentially rate, a large advance, or short terms). Now you can trust a provider to cover the very basics by simply asking what tools they are using.
I now see more and more managers, labels and others, smartly starting publishing companies alongside their businesses. The infrastructure available today (like Songtrust), enables stakeholders to hold on to their publishing rights, or shop hard and fight for great deal terms from the best partners.
Sadly, I am remiss for one thing: the model of long term partners. I hope these new service providers consider the long term prospects of their clients heavily and invest appropriately in client services. The notion of “fly-by-night everything” also extends to software businesses. In order for these companies to be sustainable, they will need to constantly evolve and consider the needs of their clients.
While the early days of Midem of perpetual catalogue trading are all but over, long term sub publishing deals are trading less and less – and only with huge advances attached. Now, publishers and rights holders have so many more options. Just like on so many other sides of the business which we’ve seen steadily slide into commodity status, publishing is becoming more democratised – the best is yet to come.
Joe Conyers III speaks on the “Copyright reforms in North America: What Next?” panel at Midem next Thursday, June 7.
Top photo © JTeivans / Getty Images