Based in Chesapeake, VA, Homemadesoul Music is a music licensing and publishing firm created to partner with independent artists.
Our Mission is to connect with independent artists all over the world, educate, empower, and equip them with the tools to generate revenue for the music they create.
Homemadesoul Music also provides publishing administration services for the sole purpose of generating long-term revenue for musical works provided by independent artists. From our efforts, artists from all around the world are awakening to the vast opportunities that are available to them.
DATE & TIME
Sat, January 13, 2018
1:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST
Russell Memorial Library
2808 Taylor Road
Chesapeake, VA 23321
By: Paul Resnikoff June 12, 2017
Music sync is like a secret billion-dollar market that requires all the right handshakes. But a sync agent can only shake so many hands. Which is why artists, songwriters, DJs, and other content owners are starting to make the deals themselves.
Before we jump in, DMN would like to give a huge shout-out to our partner Songtradr. This is a company generating serious growth in the sync market for artists, DJs, songwriters, publishers, and producers at all levels. Thanks guys for educating us about this growing area of the business, and helping creators get a much bigger piece of the pie.
If you want to score the next Transformers movie or play guitar in Pepsi’s newest Super Bowl ad, then you’re probably going to need an agent. More specifically, what the industry calls a ‘sync agent,’ short for ‘synchronization agent’. Basically, these are people that have relationships with music supervisors at major brands, Hollywood studios, and advertisers like Ford and Doritos.
They can get you some juicy slots. But they also take a juicy cut in the process.
For everything else, a sync agent is probably getting in the way. Or, preventing you from getting the deals you want. Part of the reason is that there are now thousands of lucrative sync slots, at all levels, with more arriving every single day. In fact, any time a visual production is created, it almost always requires a musical counterpart.
Some are massive, but most aren’t. And agents aren’t equipped to handle them all.
Why? Music sync is like a secret billion-dollar market. Except you need all the right handshakes to get access to it. But a sync agent can only shake so many hands. Which is why artists, songwriters, DJs, and other content owners are starting to make the deals themselves. Large and small. And anyone with good music can tap into this market.
But First, the Basics: What Is a ‘Sync’ License?
As we mentioned, ‘sync’ stands for ‘synchronization,’ and it technically refers to any deal that pairs your music with visual media (they’re perfectly ‘synchronized,’ hence the name). Under this umbrella are a wide range of pairings, including movies, video ads, TV shows, even wedding videos.
All of these examples require a license to use music, and therefore, generate revenues for the owner of that music. And if you’re not getting paid, you either (a) gave it away for free, or (b) someone is infringing upon your rights. That’s because US Copyright Laws (and copyright laws in many other countries) require proper licensing for any sync use.
But how do you get these lucrative sync deals — small, medium, or large?
The answer to that question is rapidly changing, and a lot of middlemen are about to get the squeeze. This is an industry undergoing massive upheaval. But the exciting part is that the new winners might actually be the artists and writers themselves, not the agents and gatekeepers doing the deals. For the first time, content creators are going to start winning.
So here’s a look at what this sync market currently looks like.
At the top are the ‘opportunities,’ meaning places that need music and will pay for it. At the bottom are submissions from content creators, including the songwriter, producer, and musician. In between, you’ve got all the people that are manually negotiating and approving what the music will be.
The problem with this system is obvious.
There are too many gatekeepers, and the matching process is extremely inefficient. At best, a sync agent has great relationships with a lot of different music supervisors. But there are only so many relationships that a human being can manage. All of which means that highly qualified music is often being pitched to a small percentage of possible matches.
And a lot of money is left on the table.
But sync agents themselves often demand exclusivity for pitching music.
Practically speaking, that ensures that multiple people aren’t pitching the same songs to the same people. But it also means that if your agent doesn’t make a solid match (see diagram above), your qualified music is out of the running for potentially thousands of other productions.
All of which helps to explain why sync isn’t a bigger market.
So here’s where all these massive inefficiencies really take their toll. Instead of being a multi-billion dollar business, synchronization is one of the worst-performing sectors of the recorded music industry.
Even worse, the biggest labels are hamstrung by traditional dealmaking. That is, direct, relationship-based deals that only address 1% of the available market.
Accordingly, here’s how sync stacks up to other markets according to the IFPI, which tracks global recording revenues for the big labels.
Is this market really that small?
Talk to companies disrupting the sync space, and they’ll laugh at the above graph. Songtradr, a platform that licenses thousands of songs, thinks this estimation is merely a fraction of what’s really going on. Why? For starters, there are millions of transactions happening annually across digital platforms that don’t involve big labels, sync agents, or even music supervisors.
Those deals include tons of smaller-budget projects from major brands. And they really add up.
Beyond those oversights, the above graph only measures the recording industry, which ignores the entire publishing component of a song (and any associated royalty revenues). It’s not even half of the action.
Amazingly, major brands are now spending lots of money on lots of smaller projects. “A huge growth area is online campaigns,” explained Paul Wiltshire, CEO of Songtradr. “And larger brands are creating thousands of pieces of content a year, many of which use music. It’s a huge growth area that Songtradr is focused on. And musicians can access these opportunities without having to give up their rights.”
Wiltshire started noticing this trend for lots of corporations, not to mention producers of television, film, advertising, and sports content. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is making a $100 million blockbuster film. In fact, almost nobody is. Yet everyone needs great music for their productions. And none of them want to go through a complicated maze to get it.
Basically, Wiltshire and his team picked this problem apart and launched something that could match music for anyone. That is, everyone from Doritos down to a low-budget student filmmaker, with everything in-between. “It’s not just the big deals, we can accommodate every deal,” Wiltshire told us. “Why not address all the possibilities?”
And, in the process, multiply the synchronization space into a multi-billion dollar business.
But how do you address everything?
The answer is by creating a platform that enables any type of transaction and deal, automatically. And, ensures that music creators are happy, getting properly paid when the deal is done, while maintaining control of their rights.
All the content is available, searchable, and licensable. And anyone can play this game (not a few ‘connected’ music sync agents and dealmakers).
One way to make sure the deal is fair is to set the parameters ahead of time. Basically, Songtradr offers recommended pricing based on deal data, then lets the owner go higher or lower to control dealflow.
These deals include uses in a wide variety of platforms, including YouTube, OTT content, and major brands.
If you want to simply negotiate directly in a particular category, pre-set pricing is disengaged. Here’s what those controls look like on the company’s 2.0 platform.
Those settings then inform your pricing when it comes to license. Like this.
The next layer is to alert DJs, songwriters, and musicians when opportunities arise, or when they’re being shortlisted or licensed for a project. Kind of like Google Analytics for licensing. “We want Songtradr to take the stress and disorganization out of wondering where the next opportunity comes from,” Wiltshire told DMN.
Then, all of the opportunities, licenses, and projects can be viewed in a one-look dashboard.
But the number one issue that this platform addresses is rights.
That is, properly registered credits, metadata, and royalty splits, without a thousand lawyers getting involved. In fact, that’s one of the biggest reasons why music supervisors don’t take direct submissions. They don’t want to deal with incomplete metadata or missing rights, or any legal complications. Typically, a music sync agent takes care of all those things, and passes those guaranteed pre-checks to the supervisors.
It’s almost as if the sync agent allows the supervisor to sleep at night. Then again, what if all the parameters are pre-set, along with concrete contract terms? Suddenly those issues go away. And the sync market truly starts to reach its multi-billion dollar potential.
And, makes songwriters, DJs, and musicians some serious money in the process.
Mozaicsoul released of a set of remixes for her critically acclaimed EP ‘Unexpected Turns’ (www.exclaim.ca – 9/10). The project is produced by Okito featuring the guitar talents of Sean Kantrowitz and emcee skills of James Midaz Carter. This remix project titled ‘Unexpected Turns REDUX’ is currently available on all major online outlets (itunes, spotify, amazon music, google play, rhapsody, etc).
One of the biggest problems the music industry faces today is knowing which labels and publishers, performers, songwriters and producers own the rights to songs and recordings, and what their split of the royalties might be. Many believe that record keeping with Blockchain technology can help. Advocates of Blockchain foresee a music industry where every time a song is sold or streamed, payments on royalty splits would be clearer and quicker.
A Blockchain is ultimately a database that maintains a continuously growing list of records secure from revision or tampering, and one that enables trading with a cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. Participants would engage in a new and efficient protocol that promises more transparency in transactions and a tamper proof medium of exchange. Less middlemen would be involved all around, which is reassuring for an industry riddled with issues of trust over intermediation.
In a perfect world, the Blockchain would also become the single stop to publish all information about the making of a song. The suggestion too is that Blockchain would devolve control to the original parties in the exchange. For instance, notaries could be replaced, as every transaction would be time stamped automatically and given a unique ID. A cryptocurrency would also facilitate international settlements between collections societies by eliminating the exchange rate risk.
Building the technology is a logical first step, but shopping for its acceptance is not far behind. The data transparency issue is thorny. Blockchain needs multiple participants sharing data in a single space avoiding third-party checks on the accuracy of the terms of trade therein. The Global Repertoire Database, supported by the EU countries, failed to materialize two years go because it could not overcome the skepticism of publishers, songwriters, and many national collection societies, including USA’s ASCAP and BMI. If successful, Blockchain would supersede the need for a GRD type solution, but the historical record so far is not encouraging.
Even if it were possible to reach a trusted consensus in the Blockchain without the need of a third-party organization or authority, the technology appears to have technical limitations as well. There is, in effect, a real trade-off between the performance of the system and the amount of data it can process in real time.
Currently, if Blockchain were powered with Bitcoin, Bitcoin transactions could not keep pace even with credit card clearances. A 2015 Lloyd’s report makes the point that in its current configuration Bitcoin is far from Visa’s peak volume of 47,000 clearances a second (the report puts Bitcoin at seven transactions per second). In fact, the computing power needed for the Blockchain with Bitcoin would delay transaction processing. In part this is because every participant must replicate all contents of the chain as it adds on the next link.
With music, a commodity bundled with many rights and so many potential licensing outcomes, the size of the metadata needed for a transaction would be large. In fact, a Bitcoin powered database would be useless if there was a time lag in a transaction display because it could lead to double spending. This would clearly be a disincentive for a trade that deals in a low value product of mass consumption.
A Blockchain could move forward perhaps with another cryptocurrency, a development that would be welcome. In the meantime, Blockchain could serve as a repository of the chronology of all metadata, i.e. a decentralized data store, with the ability to operate at low cost, something like the GRD but with a special new codec.
Nevertheless, for an industry increasingly preoccupied with the right input format of its metadata, the question arises as to when and where will the input of the data happen. A DIY band that is self-published might be disciplined enough to pay attention as they record what contribution is apportioned to this or that member of the group. But most musicians separate the act of creation from the record keeping of the business data, so it is unlikely that the messiness of the original data is going to magically disappear with Blockchain, (even with unique personal identifiers and an established cryptography).
There are several music business startups that have set out to build a Blockchain and capitalize on it. One of them is PeerTracks. It plans to use the technology to craft a type of artist equity trading system within a streaming and music retail platform that will generate fan engagement and peer-to-peer talent discovery too. It would pay streaming revenue directly to the artists on a per-user-share basis using so-called ‘artist tokens’. Every artist would have their own name and likeness circulating in tokens and each artist would decide on the number of tokens in circulation, thus creating a cryptocurrency of artist tokens to replace ordinary money. Valuations would be commensurate with the popularity of the artist in a closed echosystem. The question as to how this echosystem would interface with the rest of the monetary transactions in the economy is still unclear.
Another startup, Ujo, is building a system designed to address two major problems in global royalty distribution and licensing. Ujo proposed a new, shared infrastructure for the creative industries that aims to return more value to content creators and their customers. Built in collaboration with artist Imogen Heap, Ujo’s model is different as it focuses on creating an open-source rights database and payment infrastructure. Like Peertracks, Ujo wants to revolutionize how money is distributed to artists and rights holders, but does not seek to create an alternative medium of exchange such as the ‘artists tokens’ of PeerTracks. Presumably, it awaits establishment of new and more efficient cryptocurrency than Bitcoin.
Another talked about projects is the Dot Blockchain Music Project, or Dot BC project, founded by PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers. According to Rogers, this project aims to “create a new music codec (.bc) containing a minimum viable data set that would create a globally distributed database of music rights to an open source architecture and user interface.” Once a .bc file is delivered to a digital service or player, it would be decoded in compliance to the .bc rules, authorizing or rejecting the playback of the content. A payment would then be made to the owner or rights holder for the usage of that music. The key is the act of creating the .bc files that would build and then add to a global decentralized database of rights.
Delays and non-payment of artist and songwriter royalties are a common refrain of artists and songwriters. Whether it is by design or not, is immaterial. The Dot BC project needs the cooperation of major corporations and collecting societies, for without that innovators would arguably stop in their tracks. The demand for music data is evident, but the incentive to supply it is less clear. A number of incumbents benefit from the status quo, but can we look to certain innovative music services as facilitators of change?
Companies like Kobalt, Stem, and Songtrust offer great tools to help musicians, managers, labels and publishers better manage their dataflow. They could take advantage of a shared metadata network by offering users the best in class tools to work with. Also, platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud have motivation to find a reliable and long-term solution to the transparency problem in order to avoid future lawsuits. Spotify seems to be leading the charge, having recently committed to “fix the global problem of bad publishing data once and for all”. They also have the scale and technical resources to ensure the availability and operation of the network.
Because the Blockchain does not possess cognitive empathy and does not understand nuance, it is unlikely that conflict resolution will obviate person-to-person dialogue. There will be need for trusted arbiters. Today this function is performed by PROs and other services that administer copyrights. It is likely that such organizations will continue doing data auditing and conflict resolution for their clients, rather than be superseded by new technologies.
Widespread adoption of Blockchain platforms within the music industry could prompt a new wave of change, yet remain compatible with contemporary models of digital music consumption and distribution. From the consumers’ perspective, very little would change except that a Blockchain would ensure that copyright theft and piracy would become almost impossible. However, the main advantage occurs in the way that artists are able to manage their intellectual property, ensuring that the way their content is used and paid for is controlled.
For music labels and licensing bodies, there is an opportunity to be on the leading edge of change by working with artists and distributors to establish new standards and ways of working that reach right across the industry. A Blockchain platform employing identity management and smart contracts could lock in rules for how revenue flows from consumer to artist every time a piece of content is played or streamed, thus reducing the costs associated with collecting and managing statistics, maintaining copyright databases and distributing royalty payments. It could also enable new business over micropayments being considered elsewhere in the media industry.
Also, the adoption of unique ID resolution could enable two or more parties to discover and share a common identifier for a song. The identifier can be random so long as it can also be discovered by alternate IDs such as ISRC or other internal fields or keywords. This stores songs in the Blockchain forever via a unique ID. So if even one note of a song were to be changed, a new ID would be created so remixes, dub plates, and flips would be instantly recognizable. Money won’t land in one big pot as a flat-charge to be paid out pro-rata, but distributed instantly and proportionately to each rights holder.
One of the key features inherent in Blockchain is the ability to put data into a public ledger that has a level of privacy. However, there are limits to the information that artists and businesses want to enter into any Blockchain. Some things best remain private and many transactions should never be made public. In some cases, there could be private sales of valuable assets where certain parties would not want that information entered into any public ledger.
Another concern that is often voiced is the uploading of incorrect and/or incomplete data especially as it pertains to publishing rights. According to some experts Shazam or Gracenote technology might help detect errors at the input stage, but it is difficult to imagine automatic correctives only.
Finally, Blockchain is not an authority unless given that recognition by humans. Yet Blockchain belongs to no one, and is only a public ledger or record of information pertaining to a transaction or asset. It can be polluted. It cannot be held accountable because it has no one to be accountable to, and no one is truly responsible for it. Since it is designed to exist in a decentralized format, the perceived value is that anyone can enter information into a Blockchain and by making it public, almost anyone can use it to validate a transaction.
Still, Blockchain technology is slowly making its mark in general business. Examples include a payment system and digital currency, facilitating crowdsales, or implementing prediction markets and governance tools. It offers many captivating possibilities of eliminating the middleman in order to increase efficiency and transparency.
Worldwide, the financial services market is the largest sector of industry by market capitalization. If Blockchain technology could replace just a fraction of that by enabling these peer-to-peer transactions in other sectors then it clearly has the potential to create huge efficiencies. Many banks across the world are conducting research on how this technology could benefit them. These types of transactions are also very relevant to companies like Airbnb or Uber. One of the more popular ideas is the idea that the Blockchain could offer a decentralized Uber service, a way to have riders order and pay a driver over the Blockchain, all without using a middleman like Uber that takes a cut to connect rider and driver.
The music trade, like other industries, will likely make more use of the technology in time. An early adopter is Imogen Heap, who released her song Tiny Human on Ujo Music in October last year. Imogen Heap attached a smart contract to the song, a programmable agreement that a computer can read to facilitate, verify, and enforce terms, simplifying a trade. Heap also used Blockchain architecture to manage intellectual property rights and arrange payment splits. Although still in its foundational stage, her so-called Mycelia project is spearheading new ways of doing business. The Dot BC project, which released its Blockchain alpha test this August, may not be far behind.
By Alexander Stewart
source: Music Business Journal