Amazon, one of the original members of the recently founded MIC Coalition (Music Innovators, Consumers), has withdrawn from the group.
The formation of MIC was announced as the MusicFIRST-led bill Fair Play, Fair Pay was introduced. The legislation centers around establishing a master recording royalty for terrestrial radio; currently, only songwriters and publishers receive compensation when radio plays music. The U.S. is one of only four countries in the world -- China, North Korea and Iran are the other three -- that doesn't compensate artists when their music is played.
The National Assn. of Broadcasters has long opposed paying performers and record labels for their music when its played on terrestrial radio, and has successfully fought such legislation over 20 times in the last 100 years. But with the music industry getting closer to achieving their goal with each passing year, a coalition of music companies including NAB, formed MIC to oppose Fair Play, Fair Pay.
According MIC's website, the coalition's purpose is to "ensure that consumers and consumer-serving business, such as retailers, restaurants and hotels have continued access to play music at affordable prices." The prices that music users have to pay was not, however, the sole agenda of MIC at launch. Transparency around music rights holders was supposed to be a significant aim for the coalition, a focus that would ease the distribution of payments, according to Amazon vp of digital music Steve Boom.
"When we joined the coalition we had a particular agenda topic that we were interested in, and that was transparency," says Boom. "What has become clear to us since MIC went public is that part of the agenda -- transparency -- is getting lost in the wilder noise surrounding rate-setting." Amazon doesn't play music if it doesn't know who publishes the song; or even if it knows the name of the rights owners, but does not have the contact information. If there was transparency in the form of a centralized database, then Amazon service could offer a wider selection of music.
Since most of the music Amazon uses in its Prime Music service is licensed through direct negotiation, rate-setting -- whether it be through the Copyright Royalty Board or through rate court mandated by the Dept. of Justice consent decrees -- is not a priority for the company, according to Boom, and therefore not an issue it is prepared to take a position on.
Transparency should be just as important priority to the industry as rates, according to Boom. Without transparency, its hard to know who to pay, or if the right people are getting paid. "By transparency, we mean having a centralized database of rights ownership so we can identify who the rights owners are and have their contact data so we can pay them," Boom says. "A centralized database would advance transparency and make payments easier. That was our agenda item, but it clearly got consumed" by the fight over royalty rates. MIC is "no longer a vehicle for us to push for transparency," Boom says.
Prime Music is currently celebrating its one-year anniversary, with several million members listening every month to a catalog that includes over 1 million songs and more than 1,000 playlists. Boom says the service has performed above initial expectations. "Prime members love having music as a part of their membership," Boom said in a statement.“ And we’re just getting started -- we are always listening to our Prime members and will continue to enhance Prime Music to make it the best music streaming service for them.”
While the service initially was mainly populated with catalog music, recently the labels have been allowing more new releases to appear on the service, including such albums as including Mumford & Sons' Wilder Mind; Meghan Trainor's Title; Mark Ronson's Uptown Special; Blake Shelton's Bringing Back the Sunshine; Courtney Barnett's Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit; and Blur's The Magic Whip.