Com­ing On Stream With Mu­sic in a Dig­i­tal Age

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas

Record and CD sales have been on a spi­ral decline since the early 2000s, hav­ing been re­placed by Dig­i­tal mu­sic sales. “How­ever in 2014, Dig­i­tal mu­sic sales, once be­lieved to be the record in­dus­try’s sav­ior af­ter years of Nap­ster-in­duced piracy, dropped for the first time since the iTunes store launched in 2003, ac­cord­ing to new year-end data from Nielsen SoundS­can,” Rolling Stones mag­a­zine re­ports. Track sales de­creased 6 per­cent, de­spite mas­sive hits such as Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (al­most 6.5 mil­lion) and Mack­le­more and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” (6.1 mil­lion), while over­all al­bum sales, in­clud­ing CDs, were down 8 per­cent. Stream­ing ser­vices in­clud­ing YouTube and Spo­tify picked up some of the slack, in­creas­ing 32 per­cent, to more than 118 bil­lion to­tal streams, which, ac­cord­ing to SoundS­can, is the rev­enue equiv­a­lent of 59 mil­lion in sales in 2014.

Ear­lier this year LIME an­nounced that it had signed “a unique part­ner­ship agree­ment with one of the world’s lead­ing mu­sic stream­ing op­er­a­tors, Deezer, to de­liver “yet an­other in­no­va­tive of­fer­ing to Caribbean sub­scribers” in­clud­ing in Saint Lu­cia. Deezer re­port­edly has the largest dig­i­tal mu­sic li­brary in the Caribbean and Latin Amer­ica, (over 35 mil­lion songs) and its stream­ing ser­vice is now avail­able in more than 35 lo­cal mar­kets.

It is avail­able on LIME sub­scribers’ smartphones and other de­vices. The Deezer stand­alone ser­vice called Deezer Pre­mium+ al­lows cus­tomers ac­cess to mu­sic tracks and al­bums, as well as 30 ra­dio chan­nels. While this spells good news for mu­sic lovers, it poses new chal­lenges for artists and song­writ­ers from the re­gion and their Col­lec­tive Man­age­ment Or­ga­ni­za­tions (CMOs) in­clud­ing the Eastern Caribbean Col­lec­tive Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mu­sic Rights (ECCO) Inc.

“For our mem­bers the chal­lenge will be ob­vi­ously to move with the times and en­sure they have their mu­sic dig­i­tized stored so that per­for­mances of their works can be tracked us­ing new “fin­ger-print­ing” tech­nolo­gies and once that is done they must then get their cre­ative works on to the host of stream­ing ser­vices now avail­able,” Steve Eti­enne, the Gen­eral Manager of ECCO stated. “So there are op­por­tu­ni­ties there out­side of tra­di­tional ra­dio airplay and “live” per­for­mances for which our mem­bers can ben­e­fit by en­sur­ing their works are avail­able dig­i­tally and, once tracked, roy­al­ties will flow from this grow­ing method of con­sum­ing mu­sic. ECCO is work­ing with fel­low CMOs in the Caribbean and the UK to li­cense th­ese stream­ing ser­vices to the ben­e­fit of its mem­bers,” the GM re­ported.

How­ever, there is some mis­un­der­stand­ing by some sub­scribers over the ser­vice be­ing of­fered. Case in point: one ho­tel in Saint Lu­cia which now uses the Deezer ser­vice has in­formed ECCO that it will no longer re­quire a li­cense since all “mu­sic rights” have been cleared by Deezer as writ­ten in the ser­vice agree­ment that Deezer of­fers .

This is in­ac­cu­rate on sev­eral counts ad­vised Mr. Eti­enne. “First of all the in­di­vid­ual rights bun­dled to­gether un­der copy­right can­not be as­signed to more than one party at a time. There­fore all the rights as­signed to ECCO by its in­di­vid­ual mem­bers and through re­cip­ro­cal agree­ments with the US , UK and other CMOs across the world are held by ECCO for the en­tire OECS and can­not be given to a third party such as Deezer. Rather, Deezer re­quires a li­cense to make the mu­sic avail­able (in other words, to dis­trib­ute it) but they and other Dig­i­tal ser­vice providers are not li­censed for the public per­for­mance of that mu­sic. “Se­condly the source of the mu­sic ac­quired by a hote­lier is a mat­ter of choice by the hote­lier and is of no con­cern to ECCO. What ECCO is re­spon­si­ble for is the li­cens­ing of all public use of mu­sic that oc­curs at the ho­tel, be it sourced from any of a mul­ti­tude of stream­ing ser­vices, the out­put from a ra­dio sta­tion, back­ground mu­sic via a record or CD player, live per­for­mances or ca­ble TV ser­vice.

“We in­tend to as­sist the hote­liers and other mu­sic users in un­der­stand­ing the new par­a­digm be­fore they be­come prob­lem­atic and our mem­bers lose out as a re­sult of pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions and/or lit­i­ga­tion.

“It is im­por­tant to in­form mu­sic users and the gen­eral public that all stream­ing ser­vices re­quire a li­cence to com­mu­ni­cate copy­right works to the public via the in­ter­net and ECCO is re­spon­si­ble for grant­ing a li­cence for the OECS ‘space’. It must be noted that Deezer is yet to be li­censed by ECCO” ex­plained Eti­enne.

Even with an in­crease in the num­ber of ra­dio sta­tions on is­land, ECCO mem­bers have seen a drop in roy­alty pay­ments as more ra­dio sta­tions has also meant a lower per­cent­age of ECCO mem­bers’ works be­ing per­formed.

Just last year an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion of cre­ators joined forces to call for fairer rules and greater trans­parency in the dis­tri­bu­tion of roy­al­ties by dig­i­tal mu­sic ser­vices. The pro­pos­als were pre­sented in a new re­port on ‘Fair Com­pen­sa­tion for Mu­sic Cre­ators in the Dig­i­tal Age,’ re­leased by the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Cre­ators of Mu­sic (CIAM).

“We want our mem­bers to avail them­selves of all the in­for­ma­tion and we want li­cence hold­ers and po­ten­tial li­cence hold­ers as well to also be in­formed and re­al­ize that they are just as much a part of build­ing a real mu­sic in­dus­try, a ma­jor sub-sec­tor of the cre­ative in­dus­tries that ben­e­fit the GDP of coun­tries in the OECS in much the same way tourism does,” Eti­enne stated.

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