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Why the music industry needs a "Single System of Truth"

Posted August 30, 2017

by N. Eig

I recently read Amos Biegun's post on the subject via LinkedIn, and it resonated so well that I wanted to share it with the community. 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/single-system-truth-amos-biegun

I recently participated in a panel at Midem in June, which discussed Building Transparent Rights Management Systems. It was clear that the music industry is evolving at lightning pace: Today digital revenue accounts for over half of the total recorded music revenue and the streaming of music accounts for more than half of these digital revenues. Streaming is also growing at an exponential rate. So, what’s wrong with that, one might ask? Well, the industry does not have a global rights management single “system of truth,” which is hampering its ability to keep up with licensing, protecting and managing its rights and associated content.

 What do I mean by “single system of truth”? Many initiatives have been undertaken to build global rights systems to handle recorded music and music publishing rights. The last such large-scale initiative was the Global Repertoire Database (GRD), which started in 2010 with an RFP process; this was officially scrapped in 2014. GRD was tasked with creating a global song rights database that would allow for all collection societies, content owners, and content users to feed off the same data set. Savings to the industry were estimated at 5-10% of global royalties. I personally believe that the success of such an initiative would have not only created savings for the industry, but it would also enable top-line growth through efficiencies and streamlining.

 Why did GRD and similar large-scale initiatives fail? In my opinion there are always multiple contributing factors. These tend to include: 

·         Projects that are too large to handle at the outset without clear stepping stones to success (others might call this a “big bang” approach)

·         Too many stake holders with competing or conflicting interests (control, loss of revenue, etc.)

 Addressing each of these in turn:

How many times are we presented with massive IT initiatives which, once deployed, will completely overhaul our industry or make our lives easier? These projects always share one key element: until the very last phase is successfully completed, no real benefit can be obtained. During my professional career and here at Vistex, we take a very different approach to large-scale projects. We look to build into these types of projects the appropriate milestones that will break the project into phases, where each phase adds value and allows for reassessment of the subsequent phases. Why wait until all of the work is done before switching on the lights?

 The stakeholder point is also common, but very manageable. Software in itself needs to be seen and approached as a tool and not a threat, and stakeholders interests need to be aligned or, at worst, managed very well. Stakeholders are the reason that projects get off the ground; they drive business and budgets and are the ones who sometimes risk their careers on successful outcomes. Many books have been written on effective stakeholder management and engagement, but not many projects apply this important element. The most challenging is when multiple organisations or companies all work together on a large project. This is where these conflicts are most prevalent. Take GRD for example…

 So what’s next for the music industry? It still needs to license, clear, collect and pay royalties on music rights quickly and efficiently, on a global basis, at a much lower cost base. So we’re back to the global rights database…and by the way, as soon as the music industry solves its problem on this matter, there are numerous industries waiting in line, sometimes to learn, other times because the problem is not as acute yet for them. Think of the film and TV industries and you can gauge how far-reaching these challenges are.

 Blockchain is seen as a solution, but I think its one piece of a large puzzle, albeit a key one. I don’t have the answer, but I am busy like others working on this, and will hopefully be in a position to be involved or contribute when the time is right. 

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