France's Sacem Posts Record Revenues of $1.7 Billion

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For the fourth successive year French authors' rights society Sacem has reported a rise in revenues with royalty income climbing 3.2 percent to €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) in 2017.

Of that total, €844 million ($1 billion) was paid out to members and affiliate neighbouring rights organizations -- down over €350 million ($430 million) on last year's reported total.

Sacem attributes the fall to contractual changes with French mechanical rights collection society SDRM that came into effect last year to improve transparency in reporting. The organization claims that in pro forma terms, its distributions rose by 1 percent in 2017.

In line with previous years, revenues collected on behalf of Sacem's 164,000 members (including over 20,000 from outside France) generated the lion's share of income, rising 2.1 percent to €970 million ($1.2 billion).

Breaking that total down, audio-visual rights (income from TV and radio stations) accounted for €320 million ($397 million) with public performance revenues from music played in cinemas, clubs, bars, stores and hotels (grouped as general rights) generating a further €306 million ($379 million).

International collections totalled €84 million ($104 million), while private copying brought in nearly €96 million ($119 million). The remainder was made up of online collections (€84 million), CD and DVD sales (€81 million) and income from other collection societies. 

Drivers for growth included the rise in streaming and music consumption, coupled with a rise in membership. Sacem also cited a number of "innovative" developments it forged last year with helping grow collections for its repertoire of 121 million works. 

These included a partnership with music identification company DJ Monitor to better improve electronic music tracking, as well as the launch of a collaborative blockchain project with IBM, ASCAP and the U.K.'s PRS for Music.

The non-profit organization also made a number of reforms to its corporate governance structure last year, including the creation of a new supervisory board and ethics committee, chaired by Bruno Cotte. In terms of data volumes, Sacem processed 2.1 trillion digital music transactions (combining streaming and downloads) last year -- a year-on-year rise of over 114 percent. 

"In 2017, we continued to drive a range of innovative projects aimed at ensuring full and fair remuneration for all our members in order to secure the long-term future of the international cultural environment," said CEO Jean-Noël Tronc in a statement. 

"The principle of fairness is fundamental to all our activities," Tronc went on to say, citing Sacem's work in lobbying the European Commission to tackle the value gap in its forthcoming digital copyright legislation.  

"In 2018, we are continuing to proactively support the industry-wide "Make Internet Fair" campaign, calling on regulators to establish a framework that will ensure that creators receive fair remuneration in order to guarantee the long-term future for the creative industries," said Tronc.

Referencing the €80 million ($99 million) Sacem invested in social and "cultural sustainability" projects -- including song writing camps, creative workshops and support for festivals and live shows -- in 2017, Tronc said the organization remained "deeply committed to a sustainable and vibrant cultural environment."

He also credited last month's licensing deal with Facebook (covering the repertoires of SACEM, Wixen Music Publishing and Canadian society SOCAN) as marking "a new milestone in our efforts to ensure that musicians and creators are fairly remunerated for the use of their works on any digital platform."

UPDATE 4/19: Following the publication of this article, Philippe Otero Del Val, finance director of Sacem, sent Billboard a statement saying that the $844 million total paid to members and affiliate neighboring rights organizations, as per its 2017 financial figures, "do not include some mandates that were included in 2016. In fact total distributions are up this year to €1.3 billion from €1.2 billion in 2016."


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