Artist Managers, Artists' Front-Line Defense, Find Labels Severely Lacking

Group Survey Interview 2015
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Less than five percent of managers think artists will sign with labels in the near future.

A comprehensive new survey of music managers has revealed that over one-third of managers questioned represent artists signed to recording contracts that contain no mention of digital income, while over 50 percent have no idea of the revenue share split between their artists’ label and streaming services.

Commissioned and published by U.K. trade organization the Music Managers Forum (MMF), the 72-page "Dissecting The Digital Dollar" report surveyed over 30 practitioners from across the music, digital and legal sectors, alongside 50 artist managers in five markets, who represent signees to the three majors and over 100 independent labels.

Of those questioned, 46 percent had no idea what charges and deductions their artists' labels are making on digital income. Only 11 percent believed that the existing split of streaming service revenues between labels and publishers/songwriters -- whereby labels receive on average four to six times more revenue than publishers -- was fair.

Other notable findings include that 38 percent of managers viewed labels increasing artists’ share of streaming income as the key issue concerning digital rights and royalties. Just under 30 percent of participants regarded labels' volunteering of information on specifics of digital deals, including details about revenue share, advances and equity, as the most important problem. The latter was also judged to be the number one issue that managers would like governments to assist on, presumably in the form of legislative guidelines, although the report did not clarify what form this government assistance would potentially take.

Most worryingly, only 2 percent of managers surveyed thought the music industry will see growth as streaming services come of age, with the same percentage believing that labels would become more transparent as the digital market matures. As a result, only 4 percent of managers thought new artists would primarily sign with record labels in the near future.     

"As a business we need to pull together," said Radiohead manager Brian Message at the report’s London launch, where he was joined by its author Chris Cooke and MMF chief executive Jon Webster. "We have so many constituent parts, but it feels like unless we pull together there’s so much competition for the entertainment dollar… we are going to continue to see a fractional development of the overall opportunity," Message warned.