Welcome to the March issue of our monthly public affairs bulletin, BASCA Briefing. A digest of current activities and BASCA policy, in each issue the Briefing will provide a short introduction to our active campaigns, and look at news issues from the music writers’ point of view.
As we approach the final deadline for submissions into the Independent Review of Intellectual Property & Growth, BASCA takes a look at what else is happening on the industry’s horizon: the EU Commission’s thinking on pan-European online licensing and the potential regulation of collection societies, as well as the practice of coercion and a renewed commitment to our Code of Conduct by the BBC. We also look further than our immediate horizons at what developing countries will mean for the music business going forward, as well as the arrival of a new digital service in India and Malaysia called Beyond Oblivion.
COMMENT - Codes of Conduct
As we write this, a large part of the music industry is burning the midnight oil finalising responses to the Independent Review of Intellectual Property & Growth, led by Professor Hargreaves. At the same time music writers, their publishers and collection societies across Europe are awaiting the EU Commission’s thinking on the way forward for pan-European online licensing of rights and the future shape and possible regulation of collecting societies.
Both of these interventions in the music industry and the way in which we do business by the great and the good have the potential to change the lives and livelihoods of composers and songwriters. In the responses to the Hargreaves review, to which BASCA is party, we have tried to emphasise that the UK music industry has a positive story to tell: the UK is one of only three countries in the world (together with the USA and Sweden) who are net exporters of music and, in spite of the changing landscape more online services have been licensed in the UK than any other European country.
It is also important to remember whilst we wait for the UK and European authorities to shape our fate that there are huge swathes of the globe where the licensing and collection of income that should be due to writers is in its infancy; it is from these relatively immature markets that growth in performance and mechanical income is likely to come over the next decade and BASCA will support the efforts of writers, their publishers and collecting societies to promote this process.
COMMENT - Cloud music service ‘Beyond Oblivion,’ beyond belief, or oblivious to reality?
BASCA has learned that Beyond Oblivion, self-styled as “the brand new disruptive digital music service,” will be launching beta versions in India and Malaysia in August this year. Beyond Oblivion is currently doing the round of industry organisations and rights owners, promoting its system and rationale towards the legitimate delivery of digital music. It has employed a lot of phraseology such as “the value of copyright is our business” and new terminology as in, “beyondizing” which is Beyond Oblivion’s term for tracking down the rights owners of uncatalogued digital tracks and providing them with the tools necessary to add them to its music library.
Beyond’s aim is to offer music fans the “biggest music library on earth”, suggesting a collection of upwards of 70 million files could be available. It claims it will transform the recorded music and publishing industries, change the habits of music consumers and pay a micro-royalty, per play, whether the songfile is legally or illegally downloaded, ripped or shared. Its representatives talk of an eco-system of users and devices and of liberating an infinite amount of music in a safe, social and everlasting environment where music gurus will share their “files, playlists and point of view.” They are, the say, much more than a music service, they are “a movement”.
Breathtaking stuff! The basic premise is to load the music license into the sale of a music player by charging a license fee per music-capable device. This license fee lasts for the life of the device. Buy a new device, and you pay another licence fee, but as it is paid for within the cost of the device, there is no secondary “pay-wall” which the music user has to negotiate separately in order to gain access to the contents of the Beyond infinite library.
This clearly calls for comprehensive agreements and buy-in between device manufacturers, labels, publishers and collecting societies with roles, rights and rewards clearly and fairly defined in the accompanying revenue model, as well as universal take-up by music consumers. The future was orange, we were once told. This year may reveal it has gone past the colour spectrum and Beyond Oblivion.
COMMENT - Looking to the Wider World
“BASCA exists to support and protect the artistic, professional, commercial and copyright interests of songwriters, lyricists and composers of all genres of music.”
These words appear on our website as part of our mission statement. One of the ways in which we seek to support and protect our members’ “professional, commercial and copyright interests” is by trying to improve the terms of trade under which they work. Regular readers of the BASCA Briefing will know that we have been campaigning against the coercion of television music writers into assigning the rights in their music to production companies (a battle which we are taking to the EU Competition Commission together with our colleagues in the European Composer & Songwriter Alliance, ECSA).
Some years ago BASCA, together with the Musicians’ Union, agreed a code of conduct with the BBC which explicitly separated the commissioning process for TV music with the acquisition of publishing rights - this was seen as huge step forward. We then took a huge step backwards as it became a Code of Conduct that was “honoured more in the breach than in its observance”. However, we have recently held discussions with BBC Music and it has made a firm commitment to re-launch the Code of Conduct and to abide by its terms. Early indications show that they are being as good as their word. Over the coming months BASCA will endeavour to agree similar codes with other organisations and groups.