Skip to main content

CISAC 2020 Report: Global Songwriter Societies Collections Fell 10.7% Last Year

The economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic caused a 10.7% decline in 2020 music publishing collections, according to CISAC.

The economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic caused a 10.7% decline in 2020 songwriter royalty collections, according to the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies (CISAC), resulting in 8.19 billion euros ($9.34 billion) in total collections — down from 9.17 billion euros ($10.26 billion) in the year prior.

The economic downturn specifically hit the touring sectors hard, as well as general licensing collections, in 2020. But growing digital revenue helped offset some of the decline.

Concerts and background music in retail and in hospitality locations “were down by nearly half in 2020 and are hardly like to recover in 2021,” said CISAC director general Gadi Oron in the trade group’s annual report released Wednesday (Oct. 28). That decline — 45.2% to be exact — was down to 1.49 billion euros ($1.67 billion) from 2.72 billion euros ($3.04 billion) in 2019. A dearth of live music royalties drove that drop more than licensing collections from retail and hospitality locations like hotels, bars and restaurants, according to CISAC executives.


That 10.7% overall decline for music, however, was “considerably less disastrous than was foreseen one year ago,” as Oron observed, while TV and radio — still the largest sources of income for collection management organizations — declined less than expected due to a resilient economy.

At the front-end of the COVID-19 pandemic, CISAC was anticipating a 25%-30% decline in collections for 2020, based on estimate reports then from member organizations, Oron tells Billboard.

As well, “digital collections have managed to mitigate the fall in other income sources in many countries,” Oron said. “The surge of digital collections globally is a tribute to the efforts of CISAC societies to change strategy, shift resources and step up digital licensing activities. Those has been a key defense against the collapse of income from other sources. Without a doubt, the pandemic has been a catalyst for change, accelerating a transition to digital that will not be reversed.”

Digital grew 16.2% in 2020 to nearly 2.4 billion euros ($2.74 billion) from 2019’s 2.064 billion euros ($2.3 billion) and along the way passed concerts and background collections to become the second largest source of music publishing licensing revenue for CISAC collection management organizations.


The countries or territories with the largest gain in digital music share were Mexico, up 75.3%; Australiasia, up 51.3%; South Korea, up 27.2%; Canada, up 45.7%; and the U.K., up 43.7%, according to the report, which didn’t provide corresponding revenue amounts.

“Our task now is to ensure that collective management organizations worldwide continue to adapt to the hyper-acceleration of digital,” said Marcelo Castello Branco, CISAC chair of the board and CEO of Brazilian collection management organization União Brasileira de Compositores, in a statement in the report. “We will be judged by the way we respond collectively and individually to better serve our creators in the global digital economy. This is a crucial endeavor, and I have no doubt that our members will rise to the task.”

The No. 1 generator of music publishing licensing revenue remains television and radio, which declined 4.4% in 2020 to 3.25 billion euros ($3.7 billion) from 2019’s 3.4 billion euros ($3.8 billion). Meanwhile:

  • CDs and video generated 621 million euros ($709 million) in 2020, a 4.8% decline from the prior year’s total of 652.3 million euros ($730 million)
  • Synchronization fell 13% to 26 million euros ($29.7 million) from 29.9 million euros ($33.5 million)
  • Rental and public lending decreased to 12 million euros ($13.7 million) from 14.9 million euros ($16.7 million)
  • Publication licensing collections fell to 5.7 million euros ($6.5 million) from 7.07 million euros ($7.9 million) in 2019

The only other category showing an increase in 2020 — besides digital — was private copying assessments, which garnered 338 million euros ($386 million), a 46.2% increase from 231.2 million euros ($259 million) in 2019. But that increase was attributed due to the collections of back payments in Germany, according to CISAC executives.


North America’s licensing collections performed better than any other continent, declining just 0.3% in 2020 to 2.44 billion euros ($2.78 billion) from 2.447 billion euros ($2.74 billion) in 2019.

The Asia Pacific region performed relatively well, as well, with a modest 3.7% decline to 1.42 billion ($1.62 billion) from 2019’s 1.475 billion. ($1.65 billion).

Europe, the largest collection region, suffered a 16.9% decline to 3.96 billion euros ($4.52 billion) from 4.77 billion euros ($5.3 billion).

Latin America fell a whopping 24.3% to 340 million euros ($388 million) from 449.1 million euros ($503 million) in 2019.

Africa declined 18.7% to 60 million euros ($69 million) from 73.8 million euros ($82.6 million).

“The digital markets in most of Europe by now are fairly mature so it couldn’t offset the decline in live and general licensing from background music as much as it did in Asia,” Oron says.


Looking at the largest countries by music collection size, the U.S. ranked No. 1 again with a 27% market share and increased collections slightly by 0.7% to 2.21 billion euros from 2.19 billion euros in 2019:

  • France, ranked No. 2 with a 11% market share, declined 12.8% to 902 million euros from 1.034 billion euros in 2019
  • Japan, ranked No. 3 with a 10.3% market share, declined 4.8% to 842 million euros from 884.5 million euros in 2019
  • Germany, ranked No. 4 with a 9% market share, grew 9.8% to 736 million euros from 670 million euros in 2019
  • The U.K., ranked No. 5 with a 7.5% market share, grew a whopping 18.8% to 611 million euros from 514.3 million euros in 2019
  • Italy, ranked No. 6 with a 3.8% market share, suffered the biggest decline of the top-performing countries, down 35.1% to 310 million euros from 477.66 million euros in 2019
  • Australia, which rose to No. 7 with a 3% market share, declined 5.2% to 242 million euros from 255.3 million euros in 2019
  • Canada, which fell to No. 8 with a 2.9% market share, declined 8.3% to 235 million euros from 256.3 million euros in 2019
  • The Netherlands, ranked No. 9 with a 2.2% market share, declined 7.8% to 184 million euros from 199.6 million euros in 2019
  • South Korea, ranked No. 10 with a 2.1% market share, grew by 9.4% to 173 million euros from 158.14 million euros in 2019

Of the 50 largest countries in terms of music collections, the only other countries to post increases from 2019 to 2020 were Mexico (up 4.1% to 84 million for a 1% market share), India (up 2.2% to 20 million), Thailand (up 34.7% to 7.5 million) and Vietnam (up 8.8% to 5.5 million)

Overall, when licensing for audiovisual, visual arts, drama and literature are added to music licensing collections, CISAC recorded a 9.9% decline to 9.32 billion euros ($10.64 billion) in 2020 from 10.34 billion euros ($11.6 billion) in 2019.


With the pandemic still ongoing through 2021, it seems global collection organizations won’t see a rebound until 2022 — meaning members won’t get much of that until 2023. In response, some collections management organizations have set up safety nets for members. For example, Brazil’s ABRAMUS co-launched a financial package of R$14 million ($2.7 million) in the form of advances available to composers, artist musicians in vulnerable situation; while Germany’s GEMA set aside 40 million euros ($45.7 million) for advance payments to members as a protective shield, while also setting up a 5 million euros relief fund, which paid out up to 5,000 euros ($5,700) in transitional support more than 2,300 hardship applications. GEMA CEO Dr. Harald Heker pledges to maintain GEMA’s “protective shield” policy for members in 2021, according to the report.

In Mexico, SACM, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020, created the “Health Emergency Solidarity Plan” for its members, which included life and extensive medical insurance for active members, spouses and heirs; humanitarian non-refundable financial support for members with lower income; and the granting of loans to active members and extension of time to cover debts among other steps.

While most of the report focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted collections, CISAC president Björn Ulvaeus used his introductory note to focus on a bigger issue: the need for creators to be compensated in a “fair environment.”

“That is where there is an enormous problem, that needs to be fixed right now,” he wrote. “Today, creators work in an inequitable eco-system. If we accept that the song — or the creative work of any repertoire — is the foundation of our creative industries, why do we then accept the near-invisibility of the creator in the commercial value chain?”


He noted that streaming is fast heading towards being the most important source of creators earnings in the future, but those revenue “are currently simply not providing a fair reward when shared across millions of individual recipients.”

“Every creator, in every repertoire, must be guaranteed: a fair environment in which to work,” Ulvaeus continued. “It is time to move the creator from the green room to the main stage.

Editor’s note: Collections revenue numbers from 2019 may not reflect the numbers Billboard reported last year due to CISAC updating collections results as late data came in to the various collection societies that were in turn passed onto CISAC. This story used an exchange rate of 1 to $1.141417 for 2020 and 1 to $1.119381 for 2019.