A2IM, the American Association of Independent Music, kicked off its annual indie week event today with panels on publishing and neighboring rights.
Nearly 500 members are in New York from across the U.S. and the world, including missions from Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K., and representatives from countries like Brazil and Japan, with the goal of comparing non-competitive information so that members can learn from one another. Since eventually many labels will face the same issues, the meeting is a way for indie owners to draw upon the experience of older members.
Often, indie labels are each left to their own recourses, making it very easy to fall into the mentality that "its you against the world," as A2IM VP Jim Mahoney put it. "But when you come here and are in the same room as the guy who put out the Lumineers and the guy who put out Mumford & Sons, that's empowering."
The other thing that A2IM tries to present to its members is to teach them about more ways to make more money, sussing out varied revenue streams. Thus, the panel on how to navigate YouTube to capitalize on the revenues flowing from music videos and user generated videos. Likewise, there was a panel on international performance royalties, also known as neighboring rights, and how to collect money when master right records are played on radio around the world or played in bars and stores in those markets.
While U.S. terrestrial radio stations aren't compelled to pay artist performance and master rights performance royalties, in most countries those royalties are compulsory, with about 65 societies overseeing their collection -- which, as was pointed out during today's indie week kickoff, are not to be confused with publishing and songwriting collection societies.
"[In the U.S.] we [pay] digital performance royalties without discrimination" to all artists and labels, said SoundExchange director of international Ryan Lehning. In fact, the amount of those digital performance royalties that SoundExchange pays to international performers and rights holders far exceeds the amount that those societies should be paying to the U.S. on terrestrial artist and master right performance royalties -- and yet many of those societies continue to discriminate against the U.S.
He said that SoundExchange is still adding territories but by the end of the year expects to be tied into most of the world. Whether labels go through SoundExchange or look for their own solutions, the process is said to be data intensive. When Razor & Tie was first looking to tap into those income streams, "we felt that we had our metadata in order," said Razor & Tie VP of digital and new business Mathew Reiffe. But he soon found out that he didn't. For example, tracking down where the album recorded, especially on older albums, was an issue, because it matters in some countries and is one of the qualifiers used to determine if the album is eligible for a performance royalty.
Anoher problem: Some societies won't take spreadsheets with all the data, and it all has to be entered into their systems manually, Reiffe noted. A2IM president Rich Bengloff said the organization will continue to fight on behalf of U.S. labels on this issue.