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MMF Statement on Recent Streaming Events: Kobalt, Taylor Swift, Spotify and Bono

21 November 2014

What a 10 days it’s been for those interested in the streaming debate.  The independent label-services and publishing company Kobalt released encouraging figures as to the economic growth of streaming; Taylor Swift withdrew her catalogue from Spotify while, perhaps contradictorily, leaving it on streaming service YouTube; Bono commented on transparency issues with regard to how big music corporates license streaming services and Spotify published details of a further big increase in users and subscribers.

For the MMF, these developments provide an opportunity to underline what we stand for and give to our members, together with anyone else for that matter, a considered viewpoint as to how we interpret what is going on in what often seems a confused and difficult space.

The MMF has always been and continues to be a big supporter of streaming services.  Few markets are perfect and yes the ‘low rate issue’ has conflicted many, but above all, streaming services are a fabulous tool that connects artists and creators with fans.  No longer restricted by physical barriers, streaming gives a voice to those that want to be heard and a platform from which to build multi revenue businesses that cross borders.  There are no guarantees of success but the opportunity is there for all that want to give it a shot.

Whilst encouraging to see the Kobalt data on improving economics for streaming, we are disappointed to see Taylor Swift remove her catalogue from Spotify.  Her label talked about not being disrespectful to her fans who purchased the album but we do wonder about the 15 million Taylor Swift fans who are not listening to her music this week on Spotify or those near 20 million fans who have had her music ripped from their playlists.   Whatever one thinks of the Spotify free, or more accurately termed ad supported service, we wouldn’t be surprised if this was more about, headlines, badge collecting and economics.

Like his band’s recent release strategy or not, Bono hit the nail on the head with regard to one part of the economic debate that often goes untold.  Non Disclosure Agreements hide how the major music corporations license streaming services and we have grave concerns that the deals contain stipulations that both significantly reduce the amount artists ultimately get attributed and damage the growth of the streaming economy.  The real fight is more likely between opacity and transparency, and we call on all major music corporations to take note and react in the best interest of their artists and shareholders.

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