VIEW FROM THE PODIUM
by John Welsman, President
One of the joys of being President of the SCGC is being able to work with quite an amazing group of Board members. We’ve got some SCGC veterans, along with mid-career and newer members bringing their knowledge and energy to the body that guides our organization.
The committees are where the real work of the Guild is done. One of the most exciting is the Digital Distribution Committee – otherwise known as the DigComm – a veritable powerhouse of synapse-firing energy. The committee was constituted to deal head on with any and all aspects of the AV streaming reality we’re facing, that of greatly diluted royalties compared with those from terrestrial broadcast.
I believe an informed membership is a strong membership, so I want to tell you about the DigComm and the areas we’re focused on. In the coming months, the DigComm will be dedicated to:
• Continuing to research and move forward the Canadian Creators Mechanism (ISP levy) proposal as a potential add on
to Private Copying
• Exploring potential Cancon/discoverability measures as related to AV streaming services
• Better understanding and exploring potential improvements to the current domestic performing rights and reproduction rights royalties regimes as related to AV streaming services through internal Committee discussion as well as discussions with SOCAN. In particular: data transparency, accuracy, and parity in the distribution rules governing terrestrial and streaming
• Better understanding the current performing rights royalty regimes in key foreign territories as related to AV streaming services
• Better understanding and exploring potential improvements to other current music-related royalty regimes (such as mechanical, digital mechanical, broadcast mechanical, neighbouring rights, etc.) as related to AV streaming services
• Better understanding and exploring the pros/cons of current and future alternatives to current royalty regimes such as blockchain technology. What can it do and what can’t it do? Can it be adopted by the CMOs of the world?
• Better understanding the implications of AI music composition as a potential disruptor to the screen composing industry
• Better understanding the The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and determining if that’s the forum where we need to have discussions regarding the FAANG group of companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) and the Safe Harbour exceptions they continue to enjoy throughout most of the world
• Developing an outward communications strategy to help the general public understand and empathize with music creators’
perspectives and the implications for the future. We’ll work through the research first, then focus on a narrative that appeals to people in all streams of life.
• Synchronizing with MCNA/CIAM to follow foreign territories as related to AV streaming services, including the USA and the Music Modernization Act. We need an analysis of MMA along with what’s been happening recently in the EU with Article 13. We need to learn how they got there, take the best of both systems and bring it to our government to model and emulate.
One of our most important partners in this undertaking is SOCAN and we’ve already begun a dialogue. SOCAN is better positioned than anyone else to share information with us that will help us in our mission.
We all hope that there will be technological solutions for the challenges we face. But as one of our committee members observed, there are endlessly new ways to address the problems we’re facing technologically, and it’s a risky business no matter what route we choose to go. The landscape is changing SO fast. To use the hockey analogy, we can do our research, have a smart game plan to follow, try to predict where the puck’s going to be, and still be wrong.
As those most directly affected by the AV streaming royalty challenge, our AV composer voices must be heard. It’s simply not an option to sit back and leave it to others to find solutions for us. Once the DigComm has researched the above topics, it will be time to mobilize and advocate for the changes we need, whether it’s at SOCAN, with our government, or through other means internationally.
We have to address this disruption in the ecosystem. Fairness in the marketplace is an argument we can make, one I firmly believe will resonate with media consumers.
Modern Music Consumption and the New Way to Make Passive Income on Film Music
By Brock Hewitt
The music industry has changed drastically due to the advent of streaming platforms such as Spotify & Apple Music. These platforms have impacted the way that people consume music; instead of buying physical albums, most music is consumed via subscription services in which the listener pays a monthly fee to have access to the world’s music catalogue. Many view this as a threat to the music industry and to artists as a whole, and in some ways it may be, but there are also some major opportunities that I don’t think we as film composers take into account. We should learn to adapt, understanding how to operate within this new world of music rather than rejecting these advancements in technology as a whole. As SOCAN and other performance rights organizations continue to diminish in value we should look to new opportunities for passive income as film composers. Good film music can standalone from the film it is associated with and when we begin to look at ourselves as artists, as well as film composers, we can take advantage of the revenue that streaming platforms have to offer by uploading our music catalogues to them.
Currently the average “mechanical” royalty for Spotify, Apple Music and the majority of other streaming platforms is somewhere between $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream. Initially this might not seem like anything substantial, but if you are a growing artist on these platforms the passive income amounting from this can be really great. For example, if you have 1,000,000 streams per track, that can earn you revenue of around $6000 or more per track. If you have 50,000,000 streams per track, that can earn you $300,000 or more per track. I know you might think that getting to 1,000,000 streams may be hard, but the reality is it’s completely possible as an independent artist. Even with 20,000 to 100,000 streams per track on Spotify/Apple Music, if you are consistently releasing music, this can earn you quite a bit of passive income. Just look at how many indie contemporary piano players/soundtrack artists have tens of millions of streams on these platforms. The potential is there, so we just need to figure out how to navigate these new waters for our benefit. The glory of being an indie artist on these platforms is that there is no record company acting as an intermediary between you and your streaming revenue. By far the best service for getting your music onto all streaming sites is Distrokid, where you pay a yearly subscription fee for around $19.99. This allows you to upload unlimited music under one artist name, with options for multiple artist names as well, depending on your needs. There are other sites such as Tunecore that are pioneers in the field of music distribution but are a little more expensive, usually charging $10.99 per initial single to $35.99 per initial album. After you pay that yearly fee, the distributor will collect all of the revenue for you from streaming sites; they even collect your YouTube monetization and any revenue from your music being used on Facebook and Instagram, (which is a new feature). Monetization is everything nowadays – you even see Soundcloud recently hopping on board to pay its pro artists. The game is changing. These distribution companies are acting as distributors for your music, as well as collecting your mechanicals and monetization from various social media platforms. Essentially they are also acting as performance rights organizations because streaming sites are the new radio. This gives us huge potential to make passive income through new platforms as film composers.
So, how do we gain an audience on Spotify or other platforms of the like? It’s easier than it seems. The key to Spotify is getting into playlists. Any user in the world can create a playlist on Spotify, so the goal should be to find playlists that you think your music would fit well in, and then contact the playlist curators to see if your music might be of interest to them. There are independent curators like you and me, and then there are Spotify’s playlist curators that create the Spotify editorial playlists. Spotify’s editorial team of course is harder to get in touch with but by taking advantage of Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin, these people are still just a few messages away from hearing you music. When Spotify’s algorithm starts to realize that your song is picking up some steam, say in the smaller playlists, it might place the song in its users’ “discover weekly” (which are usually algorithmic selections of music that depend on the interests of the user). It will also place the song in other similar algorithmic playlists. Through Spotify for Artists (the backend account that helps artists customize what their Spotify page looks like) we can now actually submit our upcoming releases to Spotify’s editorial team for playlist placement consideration. All of this is free to do. Spotify for Artists also just announced a beta where you can upload your music for free without going through other distributors, so that is also an interesting opportunity to look into.
YouTube is also a huge potential revenue stream for us as film composers. Through distribution services like Distrokid, Tunecore, etc., you can feel safe that when anyone uploads your music to YouTube you will be getting paid. On Tunecore, for example, you can pay a one time fee around $70 for a YouTube service to monitor your entire music catalogue, and if any of your music is used in a YouTube video, your monetization revenue is collected. There are plenty of massive music channels on YouTube that are film music driven – epic music, ambient music, instrumental music and more. One way to grow your audience is to reach out to these channels to see if they will feature some of your music, then with your distribution company collecting the monetization on the backend this can amount to great passive income for you as an artist. If you get your music on popular YouTube channels, lots of people will be seeing your music and the majority of these music driven channels will post all of your other streaming and social media links so that people can go listen to your music on other platforms. On YouTube, generally only one party can collect monetization from a specific video, so if someone uploads your music without your permission your distribution company will collect the monetization from that video. The YouTuber won’t be getting paid, but you will. You can also whitelist videos if you want through Tunecore and most other distributors. This gives YouTube channels permission to use your music, and allows them to collect the monetization revenue from their video. The beauty of it is that it is totally up to you to collect monetization or not. You do not need to worry about people using your music anymore without your permission. The more the merrier because if you use a distribution service like Tunecore or Distrokid, etc., you will get paid.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are also massive ways to grow an audience, especially Instagram. On Instagram you can follow, like, engage and directly message virtually anyone in the world. This is a huge way to add value to the online community and to advertise your new music releases with links to Spotify and Apple Music so that your followers can go listen. Instagram has really changed the game for indie artists because by simply uploading your content, you can become an influencer in a space, (for example instrumental film music,) and drive traffic to streaming platforms. Instagram truly is the new business card because it is essentially a demo reel of content revolving around your craft. Building a personal brand on Instagram is an integral part to gaining a following and an audience to present your new releases to. It is the modern way to market yourself and show your music to the world like never before.
In the end, there are many new and innovative ways to be gaining a solid passive income from your music; this article hasn’t even scratched the surface. As film composers, just because our music is released for a film or TV show doesn’t mean that it can’t be used in other settings and released on other platforms. If we can negotiate our deals properly so that we have the right to distribute our own soundtracks when possible, we can take control of what we do with our soundtrack albums. We can start to grow an audience that loves instrumental film music, and this will allow us to earn solid monthly passive income that can really benefit us in the long run. Royalties from streaming and monetization revenue is the modern version of that extra cash that performance royalty revenue used to be. Why only create music for a film when we can repurpose this same music for streaming and social media platforms?
Home base: Toronto, LA
Instruments played: Piano, Bass, Drums
DAW of choice and favourite feature: Pro Tools tab to transient
Favourite score and/or composer, and why: Talented Mr. Ripley is one of my all-time favourites. It perfectly captures the story!
Most recent accomplishment: Arranging music for Stars with Symphony Nova Scotia and NAC
(Other Fun Facts)
Hobbies and pastimes: Spending time with my dog Hugo and cooking
Best piece of advice: Be brave, be imaginative, listen to your gut.
Alternate career path, and why? Chef. I love having people over and sharing beautiful meals with my friends.
Compiled by Janal Bechthold & Elizabeth Hannan