Are any bands earning any money from the digital music biz? Only some are. So why isn't the rest being gobbled up by artists?
That question and the perils of royalty contracts were addressed at this panel, which was more free form than most SXSW panels. Questions were interspersed throughout the discussion along with a cute, funny instructional video about royalties, which was a nice refresher for the many artists, labels and lawyers in the audience.
Moderator and TuneCore founder Jeff Price (who angrily insisting that the RIAA is the past of the music industry) started off by promising to discuss "the money that you're making and may not know about and how we can get it you" and warning that "not everyone will make millions but it's getting better," in terms of royalty payments.
Bryan Calhoun, a VP at royalty collection agency Sound Exchange, explained the complicated breakdown of payments to labels, artists, etcetera, and explained that his company paid out $300 million in 2011, which has grown tenfold over the last five years. Then he dramatically held up a publicly distributed list of SXSW artists not registered with his service that are missing out on payments.
George Howard, an advisor at Wolfgang's Vault, laid out the cold hard truth that a single music stream comes to a fraction of a penny for an artist, leading to "a shocking amount of lost revenue for them." Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, argued though that as bad as they are, the rates now are fair and transparent at least.
Howard's retort: "here's the fucking problem -- Pandora has a negative growth ROI," meaning that streaming services can't earn enough money from the contracts that they negotiate with the labels.
Bolstering that, Rhapsody head of product and services Jon Maples laid out what the future of the streaming biz needs to be: "It's all about growth … it's important to get to the point where it's economically viable."
• MODERATOR: Jeff Price, CEO/founder TuneCore
• George Howard, advisor Wolfgang's Vault/Daytrotter
• Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director Future of Music Coalition
• Jon Maples, head of product Rhapsody
• Bryan Calhoun, VP of new media and external affairs Sound Exchange