Music industry circling the wagons…

Published 05/21/2014

By Jeff King

There’s no doubt that the music industry has been undergoing a dramatic transformation over at least the past 15 years. In fact, the pace of change seems to be accelerating as technological developments arise ever more quickly.

The Twitter-Facebook-YouTube-Tumblr-Instagram-iTunes universe was but a vague thought in the early 2000s. YouTube, for instance, didn’t even exist 10 years ago, but is now arguably the most accessed location for new music discovery, primed by social media recommendations and connections. Today, it’s hard to imagine the music industry without powerful tools like this.

Most industries, when faced with such disruptive technology, and undergoing such a dramatic shift, “circle the wagons” and develop whatever reasonable common views that they can in order to deal with the challenges that they face. For example, automobile manufacturers compete fiercely with each other, but all work together to advocate their positions to government regulators throughout the world to deal with safety and fuel economy regulations.

In contrast, the music industry has sometimes been inclined to circle the wagons and shoot at each other. Creators, performers, publishers, labels, platforms, fans, music consumers, artist managers, strategists, tech visionaries and the like all have very defined, specific and differing views. Issues as far-ranging as the economic value of the creator versus the performer, the role of technology in the industry, and the impact of piracy have been major points of contention and dispute.

Some of these differing views are held with great fervour.  As an industry, we provide very much a mixed bag of opinions, strategies and beliefs. The outcome is that opportunities to act decisively and move forward on key discussions of important issues – as a united music industry – are sometimes missed.

Global associations such as CISAC (International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies), the ICMP (International Confederation of Music Publishers), and the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) can provide some global direction. Some worldwide fields, such as high-quality data and metadata obligations, should be prime areas for stakeholders throughout the industry to co-operate, and move the conversation and the business forward.

But fundamentally, the discussions happen nationally or regionally. In that regard, SOCAN is leading the way for constructive collaboration. For example, within Canada, SOCAN is an eager participant in the ACCORD group of “like-minded organizations.” These nine participating organizations (so far) bring together many in the music-creator community to discuss major issues and perspectives.

SOCAN is also working closely with ASCAP and BMI on MusicMark, a business-driven solution to many of the challenges facing an increasingly borderless industry. Where these august American organizations once would have been unlikely to collaborate in a significant way, SOCAN has worked to bring all of us together for the greater good of the music industry. And SOCAN’s licensing agreements with YouTube and Google Play bridge our differing perspectives for the common good of the digital music providers, the music creators, and the music consumers.

Only through this kind of collaboration can the music industry move forward – together. We’ve said that the middle C in SOCAN (and the SOCAN logo) represents Creators, Canada, Collective, Connected. Clearly, it also stands for Collaboration.

About Jeff King

Jeff King is SOCAN’s Chief Operating Officer and he’s been with the organization since 2001 in a variety of roles. His career is showcased by a strong record of management performance, staff and business development. A natural leader, Jeff is a strategic thinker and planner. But that is really just part of his story. He grew up in Southern Ontario and is an avid music, travel and movie fan. He is also a history and business buff. This combination of interests results in him not only doing a job he actually enjoys but does not even feel like work. Of course, if he stopped getting paid he would likely stop showing up.

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