Treasure-hunting in Music Publishing’s Black Box

For years I’ve been told by aspiring superstars that they are looking for a publisher, when they actually mean a publicist. Similarly, I’ve been asked by many artists to be their manager when, really, they’re looking for a booking agent. This industry is layered with seemingly obvious but often complex terms and roles.

Performer rights? Performance rights? Performing rights? Are they the same? Are they different? I’ve often felt that, much like getting a driver’s license before one is permitted behind the wheel, there should be a global music academy that writers, performers and music-industry folks alike should  register with, and attain a 75% or higher aggregate, before entering the music industry. Perhaps we’d see a lot less disputes (but then where would that leave all of our music lawyers?!).

While all of these terms can be confusing, it’s important to understand the two sides of how music comes to being and how your copyright is protected and monetised on each side.

Consider a song. What is it comprised of? What’s the most important element that makes a song a song? And who decides what’s more important? Think of a song as a pie. In the one half, you have the physical sound recording (often termed ‘the master’ or P-Line) and in the other half there is the composition – meaning (collectively) the arrangement, lyrics, and melody. Remember, one can still be a composer without lyrics! A lot of music revenue has been generated from Karaoke!

The simple thing to keep in mind is the distinction between the song and the recording. There is only one song or musical work. There can be countless recordings of that song. As corollary to that, each artist earns from the exploitation of their recording, but the composers of the musical work earn from every recording.

So, while distribution companies and record labels facilitate the commercial exploitation of the sound recording, a song doesn’t exist without its composers or authors. The value of these individuals’ creative efforts, and the potential active and passive revenue their work brings in, can last for years beyond the original sound recording’s initial release. For example, if your song is covered 20 years after it was composed by a popular artist, or a snippet of your composition is used in future recordings, you will be entitled to revenue on these new works. If you’re not exploiting your composition copyright by seeking publishing royalties, you’re only earning on half of the copyrights you own!

Any time your music is broadcast on radio or streamed/downloaded on a Digital Service Provider (DSP) like Apple Music/iTunes, your label (or distributor) will attribute a recording royalty AS WELL as a publishing royalty generated by the commercial activity. To receive these publishing royalties from collecting societies, composers and/or their publisher must become a member of a collecting society and register the musical compositions. But this is an oft-overlooked, “boring” part of the business that takes a back-seat to the more colourful and exciting allure of TV interviews, festival performances and red-carpet-attire movie premieres. And while it might seem administrative and less exciting, it’s important to know that the music publishing market was valued at $4.8bn in 2019 and is expected to reach $7.2bn by 2025 (a full report on trends available here).

Covid 19 made us smarter.

At the start of the lockdown in South Africa – where I’m originally from – I reposted a story on my IG (@morganrunsalot) that said something like “If you don’t come out of lockdown smarter or fitter, you’re doing it wrong”. Well I can unashamedly tell you that the banana loaves and lack of road running has made me shapelier (round is a shape, isn’t it?!). At the time I was a booking agent and it was important for me to find income for my performers when their livelihoods were being threatened – nay eradicated – by the pandemic. Along with my stage-stripped performers, I was forced to sharpen my knowledge on non-recorded income, neighbouring rights and publishing (cue “A Whole New World” from Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle).

Now more than ever, with the live performance rug being so swiftly and ruthlessly pulled as a result of Covid-19, creatives are understanding how important it is to collect their unclaimed public performance or neighbouring rights income, mechanical royalties and performance royalties from the PROs and CMOs. But it is often a lengthy and complicated process to register and collect what’s due to the rightful copyright owners of these works. In an article published in Billboard in June 2019, it was estimated that around $250 million in unclaimed, orphaned publishing royalties had been gathering in the Royalties Black Box, awaiting to be credited to their creators. If unclaimed for more than 3 years, the unspoken for will revenue will be returned to the pool to be distributed amongst those who already have the greater market share. And boy, is that painful to witness! It’s like reading the news report of a mystery ticket holder with a winning Lottery ticket who just never claimed his or her R135m-rand – although it should be noted that some of this money does get allocated to initiatives including member’s benefits (pension funds etc).

Publishers are a vital cog in the machine to ensure that your works are correctly registered, protected and exploited to maximise your revenue and amplify your success.

Paradise Worldwide, headquartered in Berlin but with offices worldwide, have recognised the growing need to protect the C-Line copyright of their artists and labels. And in keeping with their tech-led, artist-first ethos, the company has developed an additional service offering to their clients in Paradise Publishing.

Paradise Publishing is a modern publishing service that offers administrative services to register and collect mechanical and performance royalties directly from CMOs and DSPs. The writers retain 100% of their rights and are offered flexible and transparent publishing options. The company can also collect retroactively on writers’ behalf for up to 3 years of unclaimed publishing royalties.

In a 2019 report, it was shown that the music publishing market revenue generates 38.4% of its revenue from streaming by using the metadata and Music Recognition Technology that the parent company already has access to. In this, Paradise Publishing has an exponential head start on our competitors.

The Publishing department uses a mix of technology and human engagement to support composers. Here, the composers can have the registration of their works processed in one place! The department registers the works and collects royalties DIRECTLY with ASCAP and SOCAN in North America and Canada, SAMRO and CAPASSO in Africa, and GEMA for the rest of the world.  In countries where there might be no copyright protection societies, Paradise Publishing has effectively brokered direct deals with the DSPs to collect Mechanical Royalties. These royalties are audited and reported with full transparency to our labels and/or writers.

Outside of registration, dispute-resolution and collection, we seek to achieve fairly-remunerated and appropriately-brand-matched synchronisation deals for writers, global collaborations with songwriters across the planet and long-term talent development for the people whose music elicits the emotions that make us dance, cry or fall in love.

Morgan Kaye

Publishing & Rights Manager, Paradise Publishing

Road runner, vegan, global citizen.