Recently Jeff Price discovered that music-subscription services including Spotify AB, Rdio Inc. and Apple’s Beats Music collectively owed tens of thousands of dollars to his clients, who are mostly songwriters and music publishers.
Mr. Price believes the shortfall resulted from a problem he said plagues the digital music world: bad data.
By using systems he’d built that match recordings of songs with their creators, Mr. Price, founder and chief executive of Audiam, recovered $50,000 about 10 days ago.
The company has banked more than $1 million in missing payments to clients including Jackson Browne and James Taylor since its launch less than two years ago. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica recently signed on as clients. Audiam keeps a percentage of the royalties it recovers.
Music distribution is now ruled by tech companies—whether giants like Google Inc., Apple and Amazon, or newcomers like Spotify—which pride themselves on offering customers all kinds of digital efficiencies, from accessing virtually limitless amounts of music instantaneously to automated payments.
But there is still inconsistency when it comes to how artists and songwriters get paid when fans stream their music.
That’s partly because tech companies typically outsource the royalty payment process to third-party companies: they provide their music “usage logs,” but leave it to others to sort out who should be paid for each play of a recording, and how much. All three services said they work to provide the most accurate data to their royalty administrators, so they can pay out quickly and accurately on the services’ behalf.
The long-fragmented music industry, meanwhile, has never created a global database that links each sound recording to the many entities that may hold an interest in it: the record company, the performer, the songwriter, the music publisher and the publishing administrator. And now that everyone from amateur DJs to unsigned garage bands can distribute their own recordings online, entering accompanying data as they please, the sheer volume of sound recordings – including covers of older songs – is exploding.
Sometimes, a label, publisher or artist in a hurry might upload song information but leave some data fields blank or enter incorrect placeholders.
Between 15% and 30% of the recordings played on digital music services don’t have the proper ownership tags in these services’ systems, Mr. Price estimates, likely preventing copyright owners from receiving hundreds of millions of dollars. Between 7% and 12% of the money being paid out by digital music providers is mistakenly paid to the wrong people, he added, or to the right people in the wrong proportion.
But third-party royalty administrators say that when it comes to the percentage of revenue they pay out, their success rates are much higher – and are improving. While most digital services now offer consumers access to about 25 million tracks, only a fraction of those account for the bulk of listening activity—and revenue. Those heavily streamed recordings are generally mapped to their proper owners.
The recordings with improper data attached generally aren’t the ones getting significant play, said Michael Simon, chief executive of the Harry Fox Agency, which calculates and pays out royalties on behalf of companies including Spotify. Mr. Simon said that his agency currently matches more than 95% of the revenue yielded by music streaming services to its rightful owners, even though the percentage of recordings matched is slightly lower. The group’s match rate is constantly improving, he added.
Still, correcting the data behind obscure or rarely-streamed recordings is important to ensure that the copyright holders are paid, especially in the event that unlikely songs “go viral” and soar to unexpected popularity, Mr. Simon said.
Ronald Gertz, chairman of Music Reports Inc., another big third-party royalty administrator, said his company also accurately matched about 95% of the revenue generated by big streaming services, but said he welcomed Mr. Price’s efforts to improve the data.
Frank Johnson, chief executive of MediaNet, the royalty administrator for Beats Music and its predecessor, Mog, said his company had invested millions to build a system to match recordings with their copyright owners – a system he believes is more accurate than any other in the industry – and added that he welcomed input to correct inaccuracies.
In an age of shrinking record sales, though, many artists and songwriters are keen on collecting every penny they’re owed – even if the missing pennies don’t always amount to much. Mr. Price said he has seen copious data errors resulting in inaccurate payments. Several years ago, for example, Mr. Price said he discovered that Eric Clapton’s publishing administrator was erroneously getting paid each time fans listened to a particular recording of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” on one digital service, even though the song was written by the late Irving Berlin. Mr. Price said he corrected the data and fixed the problem.
Mr. Price co-founded TuneCore, a company that helps artists and labels distribute music to digital music stores, but was pushed out by the board two years ago along with the company’s other co-founders. He launched Audiam last year with a focus on recovering songwriter royalties just from YouTube.
Now, Mr. Price has expanded his focus to recovering missing royalties from interactive, or on-demand, music streaming services, which must pay royalties each time a song is played. Internet radio companies like Pandora Media aren’t a focus because they use different royalty systems.
“I would like to create an efficient pipeline,” said Mr. Price.
Authored by Tom Gara via wsj.com.
Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay currently make up the National Football League's short list of who they want to play the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show. But in a twist, the NFL has asked the candidates to pay the league to get the job. So who's bigger? The Super Bowl or these high-profile artists?
The National Football League doesn't usually pay the act that performs at halftime during the Super Bowl. But in a twist this year, the league has asked artists under consideration for the high-profile gig to pay to play, according to people familiar with the matter.
The NFL has narrowed down the list of potential performers for the 2015 Super Bowl to three candidates: Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay, these people said. While notifying the artists' camps of their candidacy, league representatives also asked at least some of the acts if they would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.
The NFL is considering potential performers for the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show, including Coldplay. The band performed at their album-release party in Los Angeles, shown above, in May.
The pay-to-play suggestion got a chilly reception from the candidates' representatives, these people said.
NFL spokeswoman Joanna Hunter said the league's contracts with performers were confidential and that its only goal was "to put on the best possible show."
Super Bowl Boost Musical acts reap big rewards after their halftime performance ends.
As for the lineup, she said, "when we have something to announce, we'll announce it." Super Bowl XLIX is to be played outside Phoenix on Feb. 1.
It is unclear how much money the NFL was seeking, and whether it would likely have amounted to more or less than the extra income the chosen performer might stand to generate from the exposure. No decision has been made yet and it is possible another act could be selected.
The Super Bowl halftime show, which this year featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bruno Mars, drew a record 115.3 million viewers in February, according to the NFL, more than the game itself. The entire event averaged 112.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That was more than double the size of the audience for the Academy Awards this year, more than triple the audience for this year's Grammy Awards and more than 11 times the size of MTV's most recent Video Music Awards.
The show has always been among the most valuable promotional opportunities for the music industry, and in recent years some performers have put tickets for their tours on sale immediately following their appearance on the field, to capitalize on the exposure. Beyoncé announced her "Mrs. Carter Show" tour immediately following her halftime performance in 2013, for example, and the world tour grossed more than any other that year besides Bon Jovi's, according to trade publication Pollstar. Bruno Mars also put tickets to his "Moonshine Jungle" tour on sale the Monday after the game this year.
CD and download sales also typically get a temporary boost during the week following the artist's Super Bowl performance.
But it is impossible to know what percentage of an artist's concert ticket and album buyers were inspired by the halftime show. The impact is likely to be more significant for an up-and-coming artist such as Bruno Mars than for established stars such as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Coldplay, promoters say. Ms. Perry, for example, sold 92% of the tickets to the concerts she headlined from May to July, grossing more than $36 million, according to Pollstar. Rihanna grossed $141.9 million on 90 shows around the world in 2013; Coldplay grossed $171.3 million on 67 global dates on their last tour in 2012, according to Pollstar.
The NFL typically covers the halftime performers' travel and production expenses, which can run well into the millions. PepsiCo Inc. PEP +0.49% PepsiCo Inc., will be the title sponsor of the show for the third consecutive year in 2015, but doesn't "sign or work any deals with the talent selected," said a Pepsi spokeswoman.
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Bruce Dickinson has spent his life singing in the rock band Iron Maiden. Now, the frontman is working on an altogether different type of metal: airplanes. Mr. Dickinson just finished a three-year world tour with his legendary metal band, but he's also been a pilot for 25 years, and is now focusing on a new solo act: He set up last year a company that mixes airline leasing, plane maintenance and pilot training—all in the Welsh valleys.
The business, Cardiff Aviation, plans to build an airline fleet of up to 10 aircraft within a few years and fill a market niche from its 132,000-square-foot hangar in St. Athan, Wales, Mr. Dickinson says.
Having clocked more than 7,000 hours flying time working part time as an airline pilot for British World Airlines and Astraeus Airlines, Mr. Dickinson also occasionally flew his band around the world for gigs. In 2008, Iron Maiden decorated an Astraeus Boeing Co. BA +0.14% 757 in their own branded livery and flew it on a world tour.
At Cardiff Aviation's hangar, he sells maintenance and repair services to aircraft-leasing companies and airlines. The facility can work on all Boeing and Airbus Group EADSY +1.63% NV narrow-body jets.
Mr. Dickinson also aims to convince leasing companies to turn over their old, unused and unloved planes. He'll refurbish them, sublease them, and use his pilots to fly them, to help bolster airlines' fleets in busy periods, like the summer holidays.
Cardiff Aviation will provide the plane and pilots on ad hoc charters in Europe—"wet leasing" in industry jargon—and then fly the planes south for the winter to Asia to offer the same service to customers there. Mr. Dickinson hopes to begin wet leasing next year and plans to offer training for airlines pilots from his hub in Wales.
"It's knowing the niches that all these areas occupy and seeing how they fit together," Mr. Dickinson said on the sidelines of the Farnborough air show in England last month.
Authored by Rory Jones via wsj.com.