ASCAP, SACEM and PRS For Music Team Up on Initiative to Improve Royalty Collection

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Three of the world’s biggest collection societies -- ASCAP, France-based SACEM and the U.K.’s PRS for Music -- have joined forces to prototype a new model of metadata recording and management to speed up licensing and royalty payments.

Utilizing IBM blockchain technology, the partnership aims to develop a new system for better managing the links between International Standard Recording Codes (ISRCs) and International Standard Work Codes (ISWCs) -- standard data codes for identifying recorded works and compositions. At present, large numbers of songs and recordings will often have multiple codes assigned to them, making it hard to determine where ownership ultimately lies.

The three societies leading the new cross-sector initiative hope that using blockchain technology will iron out those conflicts by strengthening royalty matching processes and, in turn, speed up licensing, eradicate reporting errors and ultimately reduce costs for society members. The end goal is a shared decentralized database of music work metadata with real-time update and tracking capabilities.

"We believe the benefits may be really significant, if not crucial," Jean-Noël Tronc, SACEM's chief executive officer, tells Billboard. "One of the key issues for rights owners is to improve the accuracy in matching data to distribute the right amount of revenue to the right owners. By leveraging what we can do to tighten the links between ISRCs and ISWCs, we believe there is huge potential for improving the processes of royalty matching."

At launch, the pilot model will apply blockchain technology to around 25,000 music works to test how it can be best used in processing music data across multiple rights holders and revenue streams. If successful, Tronc hopes to enlarge the proof of concept trial to a larger number of works and possibly broaden the initiative to other societies and industry bodies around the world.

"As three of the leading societies in the world, we have a responsibility to be at the forefront, to invest and then offer the community to contribute," he says, noting that while technology and innovation are vital elements in developing and growing the music business, "cooperation between [industry] players is even more crucial."

"ASCAP is always looking for opportunities to exploit new technology platforms to specifically address the needs of our members and the music industry, which has been calling for greater transparency and accuracy," adds ASCAP's CEO Elizabeth Matthews in a statement.

"Blockchain has become well-known for its use in payments systems because of its ability to capture real-time data and transaction updates that can be shared with multiple parties, and in the process, dramatically improve operations by reducing costs," she went on to say.

Those words were echoed by PRS for Music chief executive Robert Ashcroft, who said that establishing "authoritative copyright data" was one of the biggest challenges the industry faces.

"The digital market requires real-time reporting on behalf of multiple stakeholders across the world," said Ashcroft in a statement. "If blockchain can help us achieve this, it will unlock opportunities for developers of new digital applications, increase accuracy of royalty payments and release value for rights holders."