Jez Bell, Director of Licensing Omnifone; Matt DeFilippis VP New Media & Technology ASCAP; Peter Bradbury Head of Rights BBC (Photo: Jason Gross)

Who cares about companies who collect royalties for songwriters and publishers (i.e. ASCAP, BMI)? You should - how they work and don¹t work has an effect on the whole industry.

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Various horror stories were heard about the challenges of making payments to these organizations. James Buffett-Smith (Spotify¹s Head of Licensing Business Affairs) outlined the main problems: ³societies don¹t talk to each other or agree what they each have rights toŠ two societies sometimes insist on payment for the same thing they claim to own.² Jez Bell, director of licensing at Omnifone, describing the hardships of the Rara music service his company started from scratch- "if you¹re doing something new, you have to rehash your arguments with each collection society and by their nature, they¹re very cautious."

In the middle of this mind-boggling mess, there is a ray of hope on the horizon. The Global Repertoire Database is being developed by a cross-industry working group to create a single authoritative source of data so that you can easily find out who has rights to songs around the world. Andy Harrower (Head of Broadcast Licensing, PRS for Music) was encouraged by this system, which would help ³find out how wrote (each song) and who owns it in each territory," adding "that will make things much easier for writers, publishers and consumers."

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Matt DeFilippis (VP New Media & Technology ASCAP) provided an interesting perspective on new media, explaining that it actually only accounts for 10% of the entire "collection pie," which Andy Harrower (Head of Broadcast Licensing PRS For Music) agreed with from his experience, but added "it¹s a key part of what we do and an important part of the future."

Moderator Peter Bradbury (BBC¹s Head of Rights) took a vote to ask if the audience thought that collection societies were necessary or not. The good news for these societies, though a small sampling, is that the entire crowd voted yea.