by Olumayowa O. Adesanya

On Friday, the 28th of February, the Westminster Media Forum hosted policy makers, media and legal practitioners, academics, students and other interested stakeholders to one of its numerous media-focused events. This particular session was titled ‘Next Steps for the UK Music Industry – Streaming Services, Social Media and Market Consolidation’. The Seminar was divided into two halves with Lord Clement-Jones[1] chairing the first half and Andrew Bingham MP[2] chairing the other half.

Intellectual Property legislations have struggled since the advent of the digital era to keep up with the changing times whilst still maintaining its relevance. This has not been made any easier given that infringement has become relatively simplified. Rather than battle the system, it has become apparent that creative industry stakeholders need to exploit the system to their own advantage.

Dr Alice Enders took to the podium to speak on the prospects of future growth in the music industry after the Chairman’s opening remarks. According to her, Smartphone adoption has triggered a growth in subscription services and DTO (Download-to-own) music with a commensurate decline in physical sales. Based on statistics provided by Enders Analysis, the United States ranks highest in digital sale of music while Japan has witnessed a decline owing to its transition off mobile. Notwithstanding, piracy remains a challenge, although marked improvements have been noted in developing countries like Brazil. She opined that the present challenge for the industry is in adequately monetising the ad-supported music market.

Up next was Francis Keeling[3] who identified the challenges to creating a sustainable business model in a dynamic market as: risk; developing the right sustainable model; education of mass consumers; and creating the right legal framework.

Dr Enders and Mr Keeling were joined by Mark Williamson[4], Jeremy Silver[5], Chris Butler[6] and Mark Foster[7] for a panel discussion: Digital Disruption – revenues, consolidation and competition. Before questions and comments were received from the floor, each speaker was given the opportunity of a brief address.

Mr Williamson highlighted how streaming services like Spotify had reduced digital piracy with special focus on the workings of Spotify (including its new platform: Spotify Artists) and how royalties are disbursed. Agreeing that there has been innovation in terms of the devices employed in digital entertainment, Mr Silver was not particularly sure that same could be said of the music itself. He went further to explain that irrespective of the influx of artists given the ease of access to the market, it would appear that consumers have a problem of discovery. To resolve this, streaming services mine data received from its users to determine consumer behaviour and preference in order to recommend new music to such users based on the data received. He termed this present era as the Digital Dark Age with the hope of us progressing into the Renaissance in the next couple of years. According to Mr Butler, the role of Google as a search engine and the owner of YouTube should not be overlooked in the lobbying for digital freedom against copyright. He noted the role adverts sponsored by legitimate companies play in generating income for unlicensed platforms with infringing material. This is in itself counteractive in the drive against piracy as income is generated albeit not from the material, but from the adverts. Mr Foster rounded up by emphasising the need for fragmented digital licensing models to be streamlined and at a lesser cost to suit individual needs of the consumers.

Based on questions and comments from the audience, the panel discussed a number of issues ranging from the relevance of licensing in the digital era compared to the analogue era (physical sales) to the costs involved in adding layers of music experience where streaming is concerned as opposed to live music. There was also a debate on access to music and the value placed on it by consumers when different models were examined. One major area of concern was digitisation of classical music by orchestras. Funding and audio quality are just some of the factors to be considered.

Left to Geoff Taylor[8], digital sales have not killed the creative industries, rather, it may be said to have boosted it with increasing revenues pouring in from cloud computing and the shelving of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) system. This is taking into consideration that as consumers migrate from physical to digital, some are dropping out. He attributed the increased investment in music to a number of factors: high quality music being produced; innovation in marketing; Music Export Growth Scheme; and strong copyright regulatory framework. He, however, lamented the domination of search results by pirate sites and emphasised the role of online intermediaries (particularly advertisers and e-commerce payment service providers) in addressing infringement by denying their services to illegitimate platforms.

His address was followed by the panel on Commercial Innovation – Licensing, Copyright and New Services where he was joined by Cliff Fluet[9], Francis Lowe[10], Peter Jenner[11] and Ben Chapman[12]. The conclusion of the panel was that multi-territorial licensing proposed by the EU Directive ‘on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market’ is a step in the right direction with moves for greater transparency and accountability. As with the previous panel, each speaker presented an address prior to the discussion.

The focus of Mr Fluet’s address was on author’s attitude towards recognition and remuneration where some artists are content with just recognition forgetting monetary gains are made from their music being played, which are not necessary remitted to them in the form of royalties. He also discussed the withdrawal of digital rights from collective licensing and advocated for a one-stop-shop Digital Service Provider licenses, which he termed the ‘Holy Grail’. The role of the Performing Right Society in managing both mechanical and performing rights was explained by Ms Lowe. She made mention of bespoke licence packages created to suit individual client’s requirements and needs with smaller licences being sold online. So far, there have been 2,000 sales. In addressing the role of private copying in view of cloud services, she discussed the levies issue on personal gadgets and cloud services. She finished by lauding the UK for its stance on stronger copyright framework. Mr Jenner highlighted the unfairness of Non-Disclosure Agreements to copyright owners who are not getting fair remuneration and advocated for a wholesale retail market similar to domain names. In the words of Mr Chapman, BBC Playlister has three functions: Remember, Recommend and Replay.

Thus, the first half of the seminar ended with closing remarks from the Chairman followed by a coffee break.

[1] Member, All-Party Parliament Group on Music

[2] Member, All-Party Parliament Group on Music

[3] Global Head of Digital Business, GDB, Universal Music Group

[4] Director, Artist Services, Spotify

[5] Specialist Adviser on Creative Industries, Technology Strategy Board and Executive Chairman, Semetric

[6] Head of Publishing, Music Sales Group and Chairman, UK Music Publishers Association

[7] Managing Director, UK and Ireland, Deezer

[8] Chief Executive, BPI (British Recorded Music Industry)

[9] Partner, Digital Media and Branded Entertainment, Lewis Silkin

[10] Head of Legal, Policy and Public Affairs, PRS for Music

[11] Partner, Sincere Management and President Emeritus, International Music Managers’ Forum

[12] Head of Popular Music, Radio and Music multiplatform, BBC