Biz Q&A: SACEM CEO Jean Noel Tronc on Managing the World's Second-Largest Rights Society

Jean Noel Tronc is CEO of France's authors, composers and publishers collections society SACEM -- a job he's only held since June 2012.  Coming from the IT and television sectors, Tronc has had a steep learning curve but already under his stewardship has initiated shifts in how SACEM operates. Here, Tronc discusses his ongoing hardnosed negotiations with YouTube, balancing the "tremendous power" of digital concerns and the undervaluing of the music market.

Read all our MIDEM 2013 coverage HERE.

Billboard.biz: SACEM is currently in hardnosed negotiations with YouTube after your deal expired in 2012 [on Jan. 19, Youtube stopped monetizing music videos from SACEM's repertoire] – where do the discussions stand?
Jean Noel Tronc: I want to make a deal. Negotiations are still ongoing. I was actually talking with them right before this interview. SACEM revenue from streaming services altogether might represent only €10 million, which is not that much compared with our €803 million collections for 2012. But we believe streaming will have amazing growth in the future. SACEM has always had a very proactive strategy towards digital.
 
What’s the problem with YouTube?
I can’t speak on the negotiation itself. We certainly want to improve our former deal. It takes time, but we are negotiating fairly. After YouTube stopped monetizing our repertoire, we could have withdrawn our catalog from YouTube, but we did not. We are part of the solution, not part of the problem!
 
Another big topic for SACEM is the changing role of authoring rights societies in Europe initiated by the European Commission.
SACEM signed pan-European licenses with iTunes and Spotify in 2009 – we have even granted licenses for non-European countries, as SACEM just inked a deal with YALA Music in the Middle East.

And with Armonia [a coalition between SACEM, Spain's SGAE and Italy's SIAE], we are now able to offer pan-European licenses for a 5.5 million-song catalog.

SACEM is the second largest authoring rights society worldwide in terms of members, and probably the first in terms of international diversity within its membership. We represent members from 163 countries.
 
You don’ t come from the music space. What's your take on the music sector?
I want to change the way people look at our industry. In France, people are used to saying the music market is worth €650 million, but it is actually ten times bigger. For a start, why wouldn’t we take into account the recording market at retail? Then we need to add the revenue from the live sector, from the different collecting societies and from music instruments sales. That leads to €6 to €8 billion, and this is a conservative figure as it excludes the sales of devices playing music. This is important for EU and US regulators to give music its place in their political agenda.
 
What do you expect from the EU?
Rather than a cultural exception, there is a digital exception in Europe. The digital sector is the one being protected with fiscal and legal benefits. But the economic growth in Europe will come from the creative industries. We are putting in place a common strategy with players from other areas, such as cinema, video, books and media. We need a creative agenda to balance the tremendous power of the IT coalition and their so-called “digital agenda”. A lot of the value of the IT conglomerate has been generated thanks to our content. We need to equilibrate this transfer of value. It is time for changes. Fair competition has to apply.

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