Tag Archives: content

Why a $1.6B billion law suit for non-payment of royalties is not likely to affect Spotify’s March IPO

Spotify recently filed confidential plans for an initial public offering to take place on March 31 on the New York Stock Exchange were thrown a curve when it was sued by Wixen Music Publishing for damages of at least $1.6 billion and injunctive relief. 

Wixen accused the Swedish company of streaming thousands of its their artists songs without compensation. Wixen’s 2,000 members include Tom Petty, Neil Young, the Doors and the Beachboys, which Variety says represent between 1% and 5% of music streamed.

Spotify has an estimated valuation of about $19 billion and $3 billion in annual revenues. As of fall 2017, the leading streaming platform had accumulated 140 million regular users, including 60 million paid subscribers. Initially, its shares will trade privately, allowing some early investors to cash out.

It would be the first major company to carry out a direct listing, an unconventional way to pursue an IPO. Spotify plans to simply list its shares on the NYSE and let them trade, and, for now at least, will not raise additional capital.

Silver Lining?

Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s General Counsel, was recruited from Microsoft in 2016 where he learned the licensing business under the stewardship of Marshall Phelps, an IP licensing pioneer. Before establishing MS’s leading patent licensing program, Phelps helped generate more than $1billion in annual royalties for IBM.

My money is on Gutierrez to settle this suit in a timely manner and for Spotify to move on, uniquely positioned for success.

“Forcing Spotify to step up and enter into an agreement with a major publisher that is fairer to its artists may expose the streaming site to similar deals, but it will also solidify its reputation as the content leader amid streaming services,” an industry observer told IP CloseUp. “It will likely set a precedent for others industry deals of this nature and make it more difficult for Pandora, YouTube, and others to continue paying token royalties.”

Wixen’s lawsuit, reports Rolling Stone, follows several other lawsuits that have focused on Spotify’s alleged failure to pay [appropriate] royalties on a song’s musical composition. Recorded songs have two separate copyrights: The sound recording, which is typically owned by the record label, and the musical composition (also known as the “mechanical license”), which is owned by the songwriter and publisher.

In 2017, Spotify settled a class action brought by Cracker front-man and artists rights activist, David Lowery and another artist, for $43 million.

Proposed Changes

In the meantime, the Music Modernization Act, a bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives on December 21, would impact copyright holders suing over mechanical reproduction after Jan. 1, 2018, which helps explain the New Year’s Eve lawsuit filing.

“We are very disappointed that these services will retroactively get a free pass for actions that were previously illegal unless we actually file suit before Jan. 1, 2018,” said Wixen president Randall Wixen in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Neither we nor our clients are interested in becoming litigants, but we have been faced with a choice of forfeiting rights and damages, or taking action at this time.”

Image source: slashergear.com; wikipedia.org

Royalty rates paid musicians decline for some streaming services

When it comes to getting paid, the bigger streaming service is not necessarily better for most musicians and song writers.

While the revenue and market share have grown for the leading streaming services, some significantly, the royalties paid to artists have been declining.

According to a recent article in The Trichordist, a publication dedicated to the protection of artists rights in the digital age, streaming royalties paid to artists declined in 2017.

The blog took snapshots from a major indie portfolio for 2017, 2016 and 2013. It found that “when streaming numbers grow, the per stream rate will drop.”

This data set is isolated to the calendar year 2016 and represents a label with an approximately 150 album catalog generating over 115 million streams, a fairly good sample size. All rates are gross before distribution fees.

Spotify was paying .00521 back in 2014, two years later the aggregate net average per play rate dropped to .00437 in 2016, a reduction of 16%, reports the Trichordist. The current effective per stream rate at Spotify has now dropped to 0.00397, a reduction of 9% since last year. This a cumulative reduction of 24% since 2014, which is an average decrease of 8% a year of the per stream rate.

Business Model Questions

“If the music business could set a per stream rate that allowed revenue growth, proportionate to consumption growth that would be a much better model,” said David Lowery, editor of The Trichordist and leader of the band Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. Lowery teaches in the Music Business Certificate Program at Terry College of Business, University of Georgia.

A notable change from last year is that Pandora replaces YouTube with the greatest value gap of streams at 21.56% volume with only 7.86% of revenue. YouTube drops to 8.38% of volume with only 1.70% of revenue.

Indie Label Sample: 115 Million Streams

Top Players

Apple appears to be the lone streaming service that is growing both in market share and revenue, and is paying relatively high royalties. It accounts for 22.29% of the revenue on 10.48% of the streams, and pays approximately six-times the per-stream royalty rate of Pandora. (Apple’s iTunes is a direct purchase model, while Pandora offers a more radio-like format, which precludes on demand listener selection.)

More than 95% of the streams and 98% of the revenue were concentrated in the top ten companies. The top three, Spotify, Apple iTunes and Pandora, comprise about 80% of the streams for this representative catalogue and 82% of the total streaming revenue.

For The Trichordist‘s 2017 streaming sample, go here; 2016, here; and 2013 here.

Image source: thetrichordist.com

 

IP CloseUp visits up 26% in 2017; page views up 31%; readers drawn from 134 nations and territories

IP CloseUp, the blog of IP perspective, research, and people, grew in 2017 to more than 56,000 views and 44,000 visits, up 26% and 31% respectively from 2016.

Now in its seventh year, IPCU was read in 134 nations and territories in 2017. The top ten readers were the U.S., Canada, India, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, and France.  They were followed by the Netherlands, Japan, and China.

The most active month in 2017 was January, with 20,357 views. IPCU averaged a post a week and generated 52 posts for the year. Posts typically include links that make further research and exploration easier.

Since its inception in 2011, there have been more than 120,000 visits to IP CloseUp and 176,000 page views.

The most read post this year was about Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, who was forced to sue U.S. and other automobile companies in the 1980s for patent infringement. The Kearns post generated 17,548 visits in January. A subsequent Kearns post published in 2016 can be found here.

IP CloseUp coverage includes patents, as well as copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Subscriptions are free. IPCU can also be followed on Twitter @ipcloseup.

Image source: http://www.ipcloseup.com

An AT&T-Time Warner deal may affect the value of more than premium content & copyrights

The $85.4 billion buyout of Time Warner Corporation (TWC) by AT&T, if it goes through, is a good omen for the value of content providers, like HBO and CNN.

It is unclear, however, how the ambitious acquisition will affect less well-branded copyright holders like independent film productions, TV studios and recording artists dependent on digital distribution.

If content is now truly king, the tide may rise broadly, and rather rapidly.

If nothing else, the proposed acquisition conveys a heightened respect for content – and willingness to pay premium for it – that Google, its YouTube subsidiary and others have heretofore been reluctant to acknowledge.

“The deal is probably neutral for copyrights, but it has the potential to be positive,” one purveyor of music and the content told me from Los Angeles. “The combined entities will still be about half the size of Google, and will be saddled with $120 billion in debt. With those numbers, AT&T’s 5.1% dividend may longer be a given.”

Time Warner is the world’s largest diversified media company.

AT&T’s $107.50 per share offer is 35% premium over its market value. You have to wonder what the transaction might do to secondary content brands like indie labels and movie producers. It’s not just about having a great lineup, but about the particular content that Internet provides believe audiences will crave, which is currently in flux.

AT&T is betting that premium content will matter deeply. Other streaming services are not so certain.

The Future of TV & Broadband

If all of this sounds a bit speculative,” reported The New York Times, “that’s because it is. What this deal actually symbolizes is that the future of television is increasingly going to be built on lots of bold, possibly speculative, experiments.”

Recent acquisitions by Verizon included AOL and Yahoo, which some view as content. I tend to believe that content protected under copyright, and premium content (HBO, CNN) will certainly benefit.

time-warner-1-1024x390

This chart represents TWC prior to the sale of  AOL to Verizon.

 

Bad Business or Goog Timing?

Is the AT&T-TWC deal inherently anti-competitive or merely timely recognition of undervalued assets? After the deal will all content delivery continue to be treated fairly on the AT&T network so far as delivery speeds are concerned?

Will Disney, Comcast – which had acquired NBC-Universal – and Fox move swiftly to shore up their own content?  It’s too soon to tell, but there may be more pressure on Google to become more proprietary with regard to content (and maybe patents) than it has in the past.

It also will be interesting to see if there is a ripple effect on streaming content like music with services like iTunes, Pandora and Spotify.

A list of assets owned by TWC can be found here.

Image source: cnn.com; valuewalk.com


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