Record and CD sales have been on a spiral decline since the early 2000s, having been replaced by Digital music sales. “However in 2014, Digital music sales, once believed to be the record industry’s savior after years of Napster-induced piracy, dropped for the first time since the iTunes store launched in 2003, according to new year-end data from Nielsen SoundScan,” Rolling Stones magazine reports. Track sales decreased 6 percent, despite massive hits such as Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (almost 6.5 million) and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” (6.1 million), while overall album sales, including CDs, were down 8 percent. Streaming services including YouTube and Spotify picked up some of the slack, increasing 32 percent, to more than 118 billion total streams, which, according to SoundScan, is the revenue equivalent of 59 million in sales in 2014.
Earlier this year LIME announced that it had signed “a unique partnership agreement with one of the world’s leading music streaming operators, Deezer, to deliver “yet another innovative offering to Caribbean subscribers” including in Saint Lucia. Deezer reportedly has the largest digital music library in the Caribbean and Latin America, (over 35 million songs) and its streaming service is now available in more than 35 local markets.
It is available on LIME subscribers’ smartphones and other devices. The Deezer standalone service called Deezer Premium+ allows customers access to music tracks and albums, as well as 30 radio channels. While this spells good news for music lovers, it poses new challenges for artists and songwriters from the region and their Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) including the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization for Music Rights (ECCO) Inc.
“For our members the challenge will be obviously to move with the times and ensure they have their music digitized stored so that performances of their works can be tracked using new “finger-printing” technologies and once that is done they must then get their creative works on to the host of streaming services now available,” Steve Etienne, the General Manager of ECCO stated. “So there are opportunities there outside of traditional radio airplay and “live” performances for which our members can benefit by ensuring their works are available digitally and, once tracked, royalties will flow from this growing method of consuming music. ECCO is working with fellow CMOs in the Caribbean and the UK to license these streaming services to the benefit of its members,” the GM reported.
However, there is some misunderstanding by some subscribers over the service being offered. Case in point: one hotel in Saint Lucia which now uses the Deezer service has informed ECCO that it will no longer require a license since all “music rights” have been cleared by Deezer as written in the service agreement that Deezer offers .
This is inaccurate on several counts advised Mr. Etienne. “First of all the individual rights bundled together under copyright cannot be assigned to more than one party at a time. Therefore all the rights assigned to ECCO by its individual members and through reciprocal agreements with the US , UK and other CMOs across the world are held by ECCO for the entire OECS and cannot be given to a third party such as Deezer. Rather, Deezer requires a license to make the music available (in other words, to distribute it) but they and other Digital service providers are not licensed for the public performance of that music.
“Secondly the source of the music acquired by a hotelier is a matter of choice by the hotelier and is of no concern to ECCO. What ECCO is responsible for is the licensing of all public use of music that occurs at the hotel, be it sourced from any of a multitude of streaming services, the output from a radio station, background music via a record or CD player, live performances or cable TV service.
“We intend to assist the hoteliers and other music users in understanding the new paradigm before they become problematic and our members lose out as a result of protracted negotiations and/or litigation.
“It is important to inform music users and the general public that all streaming services require a licence to communicate copyright works to the public via the internet and ECCO is responsible for granting a licence for the OECS ‘space’. It must be noted that Deezer is yet to be licensed by ECCO” explained Etienne.
Even with an increase in the number of radio stations on island, ECCO members have seen a drop in royalty payments as more radio stations has also meant a lower percentage of ECCO members’ works being performed.
Just last year an international coalition of creators joined forces to call for fairer rules and greater transparency in the distribution of royalties by digital music services. The proposals were presented in a new report on ‘Fair Compensation for Music Creators in the Digital Age,’ released by the International Council of Creators of Music (CIAM).
“We want our members to avail themselves of all the information and we want licence holders and potential licence holders as well to also be informed and realize that they are just as much a part of building a real music industry, a major sub-sector of the creative industries that benefit the GDP of countries in the OECS in much the same way tourism does,” Etienne stated.