Over the past fifty years, the British Music Publishing industry has undergone dramatic changes. It has evolved as an entity with innovations in technology, changes and creations of laws and new mediums to promote and exploit songs to a wider audience. Therefore, the way in which the music publishing industry operates and exploits its assets has completely transformed, and continues to do so at a rapid pace. This paper will attempt to explore the ways in which publishers exploit song copyrights and the way in which this has changed over the past 60 years.
It is important to define what is meant by copyright and its role within the industry. The Performing Right Society website states: “Copyright protect original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It allows an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody. When a song or piece of music is written, the person who wrote it owns the copyright and therefore has the right to decide how and when it should be played. ” The main outlets for administering and exploiting music copyrights in the United Kingdom are major music publishers, independent music publishers and self-publishing (Dodgson, 2008).
The primary method of exploiting song copyrights utilised by Music Publishers is the licensing of songs the publisher controls to be recorded, produced and sold. Copyright enforcement is in the form of a license (permit of use) that must be acquired for song usage. The law states that the owner of a song copyright is to be paid whenever a composition is mechanically reproduced (Wikströmm, 2009). This generates royalties that are collected by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), which acts as an agent on behalf of the music publisher to administer the right to reproduce the specific song and to collect the royalties.
The format on which songs have been featured has diversified radically. Until the revolutionary creation of digital compact discs in 1984, record companies would have typically obtained a license in order to commercially distribute albums and songs on formats such as vinyl records and cassette tapes. Compact discs are still present in today’s record market, but are dominated by wholly digital releases such as mp3s, which were available from 1994 (Stern, 2012). With the introduction of purely digital formats of music, mechanical reproduction had to be completely redefined, as mp3s are not hysically tangible. Orlowski (2012) comments: “Digital music revenue has overtaken revenue hauled in from sales of plastic discs for the first time in the UK. British music industry trade group the BPI released figures showing that digital revenue – from downloads, subscriptions and advertising – had made up 55. 5 per cent of income in the first three months of this year. ” Moreover, the invention of online music shops has had an effect. Consumers can now access, preview and buy millions of tracks from their own home computer instantly.
Programs such as iTunes are integrated with online music shops, making music playback and purchasing much simpler than previously possible. A publishing company also receives revenue in the form of print and folio royalties. This occurs when a song they control is duplicated as sheet music, or when a song is lyrically adopted for multimedia or books. This is one of the most traditional methods of exploiting intellectual property, alongside the recording of songs. Before records were available, sheet music was highly in demand and provided a large source of income (Ennis, 1992).
Publishers can maximize their revenue by creatively marketing their songs in print form, such as releasing songs with the same genre in the same publication e. g. great rock songs or power ballads. The internet has played a key part in the decline in sheet music sales, as online availability is now an easy and inexpensive option for consumers. Furthermore, a music publisher will generate income by receiving royalties from the public performance of the songs they hold the copyright to.
This can be either live or broadcasted, and includes outlets such as television and radio stations, websites, live music venues, shops, festivals and clubs. It is vital for a publishing company to register with all relevant collection societies, who would obtain royalties in the territory they operate in. In the United Kingdom, a music publisher will typically assign its rights to the Performing Right Society, who would collect all the public performance royalties on the publisher’s behalf.
This is lucrative for publishers, as any space that is open to the public wanting to use music must acquire a public performance license. The ways in which intellectual property has been exploited through public performance over the past 50 years have significantly changed. During the 1960s, the BBC monopolized the radio industry with national and regional programs, until the emergence of offshore pirate radio. This caused the BBC to rename its stations and reintroduce local radio in order to counter the success of the illegal stations. 973 introduced commercial radio, which saw a large increase of stations and shows available. This had a big impact on music publishing companies, as they could access a much wider audience through the larger range of outlets to exploit their songs, and subsequently receive performance royalties. Radio expansion has increased throughout the years with the introduction of DAB radio, and internet radio stations. Furthermore, the expansion of television technology has had a dramatic impact on song copyright exploitation.
The 1960s witnessed the first transatlantic satellite television broadcast and the introduction of more channels for viewers to choose from. The following decades saw a further increase in channels and the opening of British Satellite Broadcasting. The implication of such innovations is that music publishers could access a far wider audience than previously possible and therefore had more potential to exploit their song copyrights with the United Kingdom and to other countries. Additionally, this era saw rise of commercial television, and thus a secondary means of exploiting song copyrights.
A song appearing in an advert generates promotion and can incur a rise in sales for it. For example, Eames, T. (2012) comments: “Public Enemy’s track ‘Harder Than You Think’ has continued to rise in the singles chart since its use in a recent Paralympics advert. Spotify has revealed that the track has seen a 3000% increase in streams since its use in the commercial. It has risen to number 11 in the UK singles chart, and has also reached the top five in the iTunes chart. ” This example shows that utilizing a song copyright in adverts can be a highly successful way of secondary exploitation.
It also indicates that song reuse can be successful, as it was originally released in 2007 and was more commercially and financially successful in 2012. Another example is the Phil Collins song ‘In The Air Tonight’ featured in the 2007 Cadbury’s campaign, which saw sales in the song increase. Davis, S. and Laing, D. (2006) comment: “nowadays, there’s a lot more interest in placing previously created songs in television than there was before. Ten years ago, there were a lot more specially written jingles in commercials and a lot less licensed songs. ” Furthermore, synchronization is a vital tool used to maximize income for
Music publishers. Various media outlets such as television programs and commercials, films, computer games and other audio and visual formats will require a song to accompany their visual images, and will seek a license from a music publisher. Alternatively, a song plugger within a music publishing company will contact potential clients offering the songs they control the copyright to. Synchronization licenses differ to mechanical and performance licenses because they are obtained directly from the copyright holder, as opposed to being obtained by a collection society.
These fees are also negotiable. In some cases, a song used in a film will serve a much larger purpose than simply accompanying moving visuals. For instance, the 1992 film ‘The Bodyguard’ featured the Dolly Parton song ‘I Will Always Love You’, performed by Whitney Houston. The film acted as a vehicle for the song as it essentially became a bigger success than the film itself, generating mass sales and promotion for Houston’s recording and therefore revenue for the music publisher. The song was also a cover version, and additional royalties were received for the new performance of this.
The ‘Guitar Hero’ videogame series has proven to be a successful new revenue stream for synchronization royalties. The entire game is based around songs, new and old, and further downloadable compositions are available for a fee. Over 250,000 songs are daily accessed on the mobile version of the game according to recent statistics, emphasizing the effectiveness of reusing songs to generate revenue. Music publishers have been able to enjoy the success of the series by collecting royalties from technology that would not of been available in previous years.
This is now possible due to the sophistication of the game software, and the hardware to harness such innovation. The invention of karaoke in the 1960s and the karaoke machine in the 1970s created a method of secondary exploitation for music publishers. Firstly the establishment at which karaoke is occurring must have a license to play copyrighted songs. Secondly, a license is required for use of the song composition, as well as for use of the original music. Additionally, a fee is due for the right to reprint lyrics for the karaoke machine, and for the ability to sync music to visuals where present.
Song copyrights can be exploited further with new uses, such as ringtones. This method of exploitation was initiated during the early 2000s when mobile technology was beginning to possess such capabilities. Music publishers can also seek new artists to perform or record a version of a song they control. Furthermore, acquiring an sample a composition that the publisher controls can be an effective way of receiving revenue. Mobile applications are a recent innovation for mobile song exploitation.
This new revenue stream allows music publishers to exploit their song copyrights further through dedicated artist applications, games, and music applications. Consumers can now buy songs on their mobile devices, which is revolutionary compared to the buying methods of the past 50 years. The internet has indisputably had the biggest impact on the business of music exploitation within the past 50 years. It has allowed music publishers to reach all corners of the globe with minimal effort and expense.
Before its integration with society, music publishers relied on promotion and sales via high street stores and promotion through print, television and radio. Artists and their publishers now rely heavily on the internet for all aspects of song exploitation. For instance, bands use their official websites and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to market themselves. They use these as a platform for promotion, sales and interaction with society. The same is true with record and publishing companies.
Universal Music Publishing, BMG Rights, Sony Music and Warner Chappell Music all have dedicated Facebook and Twitter accounts. Harrison, A. (2011) comments on digital sales: “As digital distribution of music develops, the rights in a song may well be far more valuable than a physical sound recording like a CD”. The increase of piracy on the internet poses threats for the music publishing industry. Although physical piracy had a presence, online music piracy progressed with technological advancements in the 2000s with the increase of internet speeds. This allowed users to download and share bigger files and with ease.
Consequently, this has led to mass online illegal downloads, meaning sales from legitimate physical and digital formats are lost. Therefore, music publishers and songwriters are affected dramatically in terms of revenue. Furthermore, the internet allows songs to be leaked before their official release date. This could mean loss of sales due to the illegal sales themselves, but also a lack of promotion could jeopardize sales and disrupt a marketing campaign. The webcasting service YouTube has proven to be an integral platform to exploit songs over the last few years.
Devised in 2005, it is the largest video sharing community in the world, and boasts over two billion visitors a day. Although highly successful, YouTube has always had issues with copyright infringement due to many users uploading content to which they do not control the rights. This lead YouTube to introduce a filtering system that scans new uploads for possible infringement. Kravets, D. (2012) states: “If a full or partial match is found, the alleged rights holder can have the video automatically removed, or it can place advertising on the video and make money every time someone clicks on the video”.
Therefore, music publishers and songwriters are more likely to receive their entitled revenue. In conclusion, the internet and digital mediums of music are now at the forefront of song exploitation. Although conventional methods are still relevant, the music industry has been forced to adapt to the societal, cultural and technological emphasis of the internet. It has paradoxical impacts on music publishing companies and composers, but ultimately allows many new sources of secondary exploitation.