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How Amazon’s Twitch.tv Cheats Music Creators

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Categories: Articles, Copyright, Infringement, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Performance, Record Labels, Royalties, Streaming, Videos, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.

Music creators (songwriters and performing artists) and rights’ owners (music publishers and record labels) are not collecting a new and substantial source of income – and most of them are not aware they are not collecting it. Enter Twitch, the website exploiting creators and owners without paying for a single cent of music usage.

What is Twitch

Twitch, a subsidiary of Amazon, is a live-streaming video platform that has “over two million broadcasters and 15 million daily active users.” Anyone can become a Twitch “broadcaster,” meaning users set up their own channels and live-stream various content, which includes, but is not limited to, video-game play, card games, pranks, craft tutorials and more.

The broadcasts start out as live streams and are saved on the channel for re-broadcasts and on-demand watching. Watching videos and channels on Twitch is free and publicly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Anyone can become a Twitch broadcaster for free and earn money directly from viewers. Broadcasters that contract with Twitch to become a partner or affiliate will earn money from Twitch directly, as well as from viewers. All revenue streams are described in the next two sections.

Income Earned by Twitch and Twitch Partners/Affiliates

  1. Ad Revenue: Twitch serves ads on all video content, which includes video-on-demand and pre-rolls, and collects ad revenue from showing these ads.
  2. Subscriptions: Viewers can subscribe to a particular broadcaster’s channel at pricing tiers of $4.99, $9.99, and $24.99, with these charges recurring monthly.These subscriptions allow viewers to support broadcasters and use special emotes (chat icons like emojis) that are accessible only to subscribers of a particular broadcaster’s channel.
  3. Bits: Viewers can contribute “bits” to a broadcaster during a stream. Bits are a digital currency within Twitch bought by users for real money, and contributing these bits to a broadcaster is basically like adding money to that broadcaster’s tip jar.
  4. Amazon Prime: Because Twitch is owned by Amazon, Prime members can use “tokens” from their Prime membership to subscribe to broadcaster channels on Twitch. Tokens renew every month, so a Prime member can re-subscribe to a broadcaster’s channel on a monthly basis using Prime tokens.

Twitch and the broadcaster split all income from subscriptions, bits, and Prime tokens, usually on at least a 50/50 basis.

Income Earned Directly by Broadcasters

  1. Donations:Viewers can contribute money directly to a broadcaster through third party services like StreamLabs, Muxy or StreamElements without buying bits.
  2. Media Share: Viewers can make “media share requests” through StreamLabsand StreamElements, meaning viewers can request a broadcaster to play a certain song, YouTube video, or other media within a live stream (hereinafter “Media Share(s)”). Prices for Media Shares are set by the broadcaster, and some broadcasters will start their pricing at $5 per request.

A Twitch Broadcaster’s Earnings

Twitch’s most popular broadcaster is 26-year old Tyler Blevins, known on Twitch as “Ninja.” Ninja reportedly earns over $500,000 per month on Twitch revenue alone, not counting his recent sponsorship deals by Red Bull and Uber. A recent Forbes article reported Ninja’s earnings calculation: “160,000 subscribers at a higher $3.50 rate per sub means he’s pulling in $560,000 a month from that revenue stream alone. Not counting Twitch bits. Not counting donations. Not counting 4 million YouTube subscribers.”

Ninja and most other broadcasters also use music in their streams. None of this music is licensed and none of this money is going to the music creators or rights’ owners.

Music Licenses Required

Platforms with user-generated audiovisual content require performance licenses for the compositions from performance rights organizations ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR. Music users must obtain synchronization and master use licenses from the music publishers and record labels, respectively, along with paying negotiated fees to “synchronize” the audio with the visual elements. Also, rights’ owners may share in ad revenue in addition to or in lieu of those fees.

It should also be considered whether a broadcaster who repeatedly uses a particular song as a theme song or channel staple (like when Ninja does a victory dance at every game win to the song, “Pon Pon Pon”, performed by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) is implying an association with or (false) endorsement by an artist, similar to when political candidates use certain songs in their campaigns.

How Music Rights are Being Violated

First, there is no evidence that Twitch has valid performance licenses in place from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or GMR (although they may be working on it). Therefore, Twitch is not paying for the repeated performances of music to audiences of millions.

Second, it is not known that any broadcaster using music on Twitch obtains synchronization or master use licenses, or pays any fees for the use of music. Also, neither Twitch nor the broadcasters are sharing ad revenue with rights’ owners.

Third, Twitch does not have its own content ID system like YouTube to track and claim uses of music. Twitch leverages Audible Magic to track audio uses after a live stream is over and will mute infringing content in the on-demand re-broadcasts, but not all content is recognized and removed. Also, there is no system to flag these infringing uses or mute them during a live stream.

All of the money earned by Twitch and its partner/affiliate broadcasters for subscriptions, bits, and Prime membership is retained entirely by Twitch and its partners/affiliates, and money earned from donations and Media Share song requests is kept entirely by the broadcasters. None of these funds are allocated to music creators and rights’ owners whose music is being used in these broadcasts.

Current State of Affairs

On June 22, 2018, the Twitch community received a shock when a group of its most popular broadcasters were banned from Twitch for playing a leaked version of a new song by rapper Juice Wrld that was initiated via Media Share song requests. Interscope Records issued DMCA takedown notices, and per Twitch policy, each infringer was banned for 24-hours.

This incident has shed a light on the use of uncleared music by Twitch broadcasters, but many have either continued with playing uncleared content or will not include certain music in the broadcasts. Ninja has turned off music content so he can then repost videos to YouTube in order to avoid YouTube claims by rights’ owners and keep his YouTube ad revenue. Ninja has publicly stated, “I’ve already reached out about getting rights to music … you can still get screwed over for playing music that doesn’t belong to you. … It’s such a nightmare, that it’s just not worth it.”

Interscope later supposedly stated the DMCA takedowns were an accident and Juice Wrld apologized to the Twitch broadcasters, saying “I will do what I can to prevent it from happening again.”

The National Music Publisher’s Association (NMPA) is rumored to be in negotiations with Twitch for licensing, but has not confirmed or commented as to the details.

Furthermore, Twitch isn’t the only site on the market. There are other, similar sites such as Mixer (owned by Microsoft), Facebook Gaming, YouTube Gaming, and Caffeine. There are also other music-centric sites, like Smule, using music in audiovisual content purportedly without permission or payment. More of these websites, as well as phone apps, with user-generated content, continue to emerge and the rate at which more new platforms are introduced is unlikely to slow due to the prevalence of streaming.

The Real Problems

First, rights’ owners are not enforcing their rights and making sure they receive payment for uses of their content. As stated at the beginning of this article, many creators and rights’ owners do not even know about these infringements. Those rights owners’ that are aware, like Interscope, have allowed the rumors of “accidental” takedowns to be the last word on the subject instead of taking a stand to protect their rights.

Second, Juice Wrld is an example of at least one artist condoning the Twitch broadcasters’ unauthorized use of his work instead of getting paid. Artists and songwriters can and should benefit from these uses, and condoning the infringing behavior allows for more of it, as well as a further loss of income to the creators and rights’ owners.

Third, streamers are often ignorant of how to obtain permission. Noah Downs, a video game lawyer at McDonald, Sutton & DuVal in Richmond, VA observes, “Some broadcasters reach out to artists directly, thinking that if the artist tweets ‘Sure, use my music!’ then it must be okay to use. It does not matter if a broadcaster has that kind of permission from the artist – generally the decision is up to the label.”

Fourth, many streamers feel entitled to play music without permission under the belief they are actually helping artists by giving them exposure. Famous artists and songs do not need free promotion from Twitch broadcasters – they are already famous. While exposure might be helpful for new artists to gain fans, it still doesn’t need to be for free.  For example, music service Pretzel Rocks and music company Monstercat have agreements with artists allowing music to be played legally on Twitch broadcasts with compensation being paid to the artists and songwriters.

In an ironic twist, Twitch viewers and broadcasters frequently use and repurpose clips of other Twitch broadcasters’ content without permission. The broadcasters complain about this practice and will submit content claims when their content is used without permission, but they fail to realize that they are doing the same thing to music creators and rights’ owners. Downs agrees, stating, “In many ways, broadcasters and musical artists are the same, and both deserve to be paid fairly.”

The bottom line is that allcreators and rights’ owners need to be properly compensated for uses of their work. Rather than ignoring or condoning infringing behavior, creators and rights’ owners need to keep up with new uses of music and take a stand to protect the value of their music and their livelihoods.

It’s time creators stopped feeling entitled to steal from and deprive each other of the fruits of their labor. It’s time people realized that using music without permission or payment not only cheats the creator or performer, but also impacts everyone that works for them or with them. It’s time the culture of all creators shifts to one of respecting one’s own work enough to get paid for it and respecting the work of others enough to get the proper permissions and pay the proper compensation. It’s time that everyone gets serious about valuing music.

 

*This article does not constitute legal advice.

Click here to contact Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. if she can assist you in your career with this issue or other music industry issues. (Ms. Jacobson does not shop, litigate, or accept unsolicited material.)

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Erin M. Jacobson featured on Forbes.com

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Categories: Articles, Business, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am honored announce I am published on Forbes.com.  My first article for Forbes discusses Frank Ocean’s decision to go independent after his split from Def Jam.

Below is the text of the article and stay tuned as more will be published!

Checkmate:  Frank Ocean Goes Independent

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

Originally published at Forbes.com.  Also reposted at Hypebot.com.

Frank Ocean has chosen the road less travelled for major label artists. He recently split with Def Jam, independently released his latest album, Blonde to chart success, and has refused to submit the album for Grammy voting consideration. While a major label deal was once the holy grail of industry success, what does it mean for artists in today’s industry?

Def Jam released Ocean from his deal in September 2016, a relationship described as “a bad marriage” by Spin magazine who also reported that Ocean’s release from his deal was negotiated. A condition of the split allowed Def Jam to distribute Ocean’s album Endless, while then freeing Ocean to release Blonde under his own imprint. In a recent interview for the New York Times, Ocean described his deal with Def Jam as “a seven-year chess game” and used his own money to buy himself out of his contract and reclaim his master recordings.

Ocean’s “seven-year chess game” refers to the seven-album deal structure typical for major labels. Major labels will sign an artist to a seven-album deal, meaning that the artist is obligated (often subject to pick-up options exercisable only by the label) to release seven albums with the label. This concept can be deceiving to those who don’t understand the structure because the length of the contract is tied to the number of albums released rather than a term of years. Fifty years ago the industry moved at a pace where an artist could release at least one album per year and then be done with the contract in seven years. However, artists today often take more than one year to write and record a new album, often not getting back in the studio until being on the road for almost a year after a prior album’s release. The reality of this schedule means that it often takes two years or more before a follow-up release and thus locks the artist into the contract for as long as it takes to complete the seven albums.

What is more unique about this situation is that Ocean not only bought himself out of the contract, but bought out the rights to his recordings as well. Major label (and most independent label) recording agreements stipulate that the label will own the artist’s recordings, as the label is usually fronting the money to make the recordings. Recording agreements don’t automatically come with the right to buy back masters; that clause is usually included via a good music attorney that knows to negotiate for it. However, many artists that have buy-back rights included in the contract don’t get to exercise those rights due to lack of funds. Ocean was in a privileged position in that he was able to accumulate enough of his own money to meet what was probably a hefty price for his freedom.

Ocean’s move towards independence echoes the increasing trend within the industry to control one’s own destiny and retain ownership of one’s work, a view shared by the majority of my artist clients. Today’s artists relish being independent, but the challenge is remembering that a music career is not only creative, it is also a business and needs to be run as such. Ocean seems to have that mentality. “I know exactly what the numbers are,” Ocean states. “I need to know how many records I’ve sold, how many album equivalents from streaming, which territories are playing my music more than others, because it helps me in conversations about where we’re gonna be playing shows, or where I might open a retail location, like a pop-up store or something.” This level of attention to detail is essential for independent artists looking to build a lasting career.

Ocean’s fame earned while he was backed by a major label puts him in an advantageous position because he has already accumulated a fanbase whose continued support will earn him a lucrative living as an independent artist. Artists in this position no longer need major labels because they have enough fame, opportunities, customer loyalty, and cash flow to finance their future efforts. It is much more difficult for artists still building their followings to achieve the same level of success outright, but many independent artists now look more towards making a living off of their music rather than superstardom. In today’s market, ownership and control of one’s work coupled with keeping a majority of the profits entice artists more than a major label’s deep pockets. As Ocean said:

It started to weigh on me that I was responsible for the moves that had made me successful, but I wasn’t reaping the lion’s share of the profits, and that was problematic for me.”

*This article does not constitute legal advice.

Erin M. Jacobson is a music attorney whose clients include Grammy and Emmy Award winners, legacy clients and catalogues, songwriters, music publishers, record labels, and independent artists and companies. She is based in Los Angeles where she handles a wide variety of music agreements and negotiations, in addition to owning and overseeing all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection.

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5 Music Companies That Will Disappear Within 5 Years

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Categories: Business, Digital Distribution, Music Industry, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Paul Reskinoff predicts that Pandora, one major label, Spotify, Live Nation, and MySpace will all be just a memory within the next five years.  Why?  According to Reskinoff, Pandora does not have a sustainable business model and its founder Tim Westergren has been liquidating his available shares.  The major label model continues to crumble in the digital age; Spotify and Live Nation have been continually losing money, and MySpace has lost its relevance.  Keep a watch on these companies to see if Reskinoff’s predictions become realities.

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Interview with Carl Caprioglio of The Oglio Entertainment Group, Inc.

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Categories: Business, Crowd Funding, Management, Music, Music Industry, Music Industry Interviews, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today’s interview is with Carl Caprioglio of The Oglio Entertainment Group, Inc., a great independent record label that is a lot more than just a record label.

Oglio 20th Anniversary LogoNow in its 20th year, Oglio achieved worldwide recognition as a successful niche marketer of entertainment products. Oglio releases have received acclaim and significant sales success including a Billboard Top 50 hit benefiting the Make A Wish Foundation, and projects with Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Cyndi Lauper, Robby Krieger (Doors), Ray Manzarek (Doors), Nerf Herder, Parry Gripp, Kool Keith, Ultramagnetic MCs, Rob Schneider, Jackie Martling (Howard Stern Show), Andy Dick, Craig Gass, and George Lopez. Oglio’s growth has been significant enough to earn a position on Inc. Magazine’s 1998 listing of the 500 fastest growing companies in America. In 2013, Oglio extended into the management space with the launch of “Manage It Comedy” – a service designed to help the working comic manage their business. Manage It Comedy helps comedians release their merchandise to market, build a web presence and use social media to market themselves.

1.     Describe a typical day at the office.

One of the great things about being in the entertainment business is that there is not typical day. That said, I do have a bit of a routine that starts with attacking my email in box and checking all the regular social media sites for my artists’ activities. Once I have a handle on the mayhem that has ensued since the last time I checked those places, I write up my daily priorities on one of my office white boards and get to work. My office is in Torrance, a bit of a drive from the media centers of Los Angeles, so I try to set up a lunch meeting or two each week. My workday ends with more email and project development from home after dinner.

2.     What is your favorite part of your job?

To quote the great Hannibal Smith from the A-Team – “I love it when a plan comes together.” Whether it is a record that goes from concept to release or a licensing deal or a new direction for my business, the most satisfying part of my job is that feeling of that success when it comes to fruition. It really isn’t tied to money (although that helps) but it is more about that great rush of satisfaction.

3.     What are some projects that you are currently working on that you can discuss?  

On the record side we have two new releases – one from the metal bash-up band Beatallica that combines the sounds of Metallica and The Beatles and the other from comedian Craig Gass of Howard Stern Show fame. They are wildly different projects but both are personal favorites.

Recently my attention has been moving toward artist management. Over the years a few of the artists on my label have asked me about managing them, but I liked the label side and didn’t pursue it at the time. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the interaction with the artists and bringing that interaction to another level seems like a natural move. I can provide the bigger picture help they need and still handle the label side if needed. It seems like a logical move and I use much of the same skillset that have developed over the last 20 years in business.

4.     What do you think are the most important issues facing labels and artists at this time?

Top of the list has to be the idea that music should be free and that both artists and labels can make up the income by selling t-shirts or touring. As a label owner and a friend to artists, I’ve had many discussions about how “fans” find a justification for stealing music. Despite the perception that labels and artists were caught off guard, we could see this train coming, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do much about it. For me I simply underestimated people’s willingness to steal and the ease of which they justify their actions.

5.     What do you think is the most profitable area of the music industry for independent artists today?

For your typical independent artist, I’m going to go with the new broad definition of “merch.” Merch (short for “merchandise”) now encompasses music, t-shirts, hats, hoodies, iPhone cases, tote bags, jewelry, USB drives and anything else you can put on your merch table or sell on your website. At one time the music part of the merch table was controlled by the labels but now that control is back with the artist in most cases. My favorite merch items are USB drives in fun shapes that artists can load up with not only their music but also videos, art and even a recording of the show from that very night. One of my artists, MC Lars, sells a small metal USB robot loaded with the music, videos and art from his album “This Gigantic Robot Kills” and it is a best seller for him on the road.

6.     What other avenues are still profitable for artists?

I see PledgeMusic and Kickstarter as great avenues for artists with a fan base that can be mobilized. I have seen PledgeMusic and Kickstarter album campaigns that have raised substantially more than the actual recording costs. The extra revenue goes right into the pockets of the artists and the artists then have the ability to sell their music for 100% profit from the release date forward. This is a very powerful tool available to artists that have a following.

7.     What types of deals are mostly being offered now among the independent labels?

In 1999, Oglio started offering “profit split” deals to artists that brought us recordings ready to be released. At the time it was a very unusual proposal but we felt that the partnership feel made for a more positive and collaborative working relationship. We treated our artists like business associates and we set our plans based on our mutual goals. Those deals worked well for both sides and Oglio was able to work with some legendary artists that would not have normally been interested in an independent label. I see those joint venture deals becoming more and more popular as artists have more control and labels look for ways to mitigate the risk involved in recording costs.

8.     What is an independent label looking for when considering signing a new artist?  Is there any criteria an artist needs to have to even be considered for a deal?

At Oglio it starts with the music. We have to feel strongly about the music itself and also its commercial potential. Every artist feels that their music is fantastic but the point where we often disagree is what we can offer as a label and still make a profit on the project. If the artist doesn’t have a fan base, touring history and traction, it just might be too soon for a label to get involved. We often turn down artists with the suggestion to self release and play live shows while they gain the momentum we would need to get involved.

Thanks so much to Carl for some very insightful comments.  To learn more about Oglio, visit www.oglio.com.