Major record labels last summer got hammered with accusations that they weren’t being transparent about the money they were earning from streaming and other digital sources. Less than a year later, the world’s second-biggest record company has done something that could address those criticisms.
Sony Music Entertainment has begun rolling out an app that will allow its artists to see where their royalties and revenue are coming from, in real time, according to a report in Sweden’s Di Weekend. It also provides information about which radio stations are airing their music, which countries their music is most popular in and who it’s most popular with, separated by things like age, gender and geographic location.
The app is currently only available to artists in Sweden, but it will be rolled out worldwide later this year.
“Transparency has been the key word when we developed this,” Sony Music Entertainment Vice President of Digital Business Michelle Kadir told the Swedish paper.
The record industry had acquired a reputation for being nontransparent well before consumers moved from buying to streaming. But as that shift has accelerated over the past year and royalty accounting became more complicated, the complaints from artists and their advocates began to grow louder.
Last July, a report published by the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship found that artists could be missing out on anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of the digital royalties they were owed. Later that month, David Byrne wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that argued that the payments and splits on royalties generated on services, including Spotify, YouTube and elsewhere, are needlessly obscure.
And in October, the Music Managers Forum, a trade organization that represents artist managers, published the results of a member survey that revealed that a majority of respondents had no idea where their artists’ digital royalties were, did not know what they were due from streaming services or whether they were getting it.
“We just can’t get to the bottom of the figures,” MMF President Jon Webster told International Business Times last year.
Sony and its team got this app together quickly. It hired Kadir to head up this effort in May of last year.
It is not the first major industry player to move in this direction. Last year, Universal Music Publishing Group, the world’s largest music publisher, unveiled a portal meant to give its songwriters a clearer picture of when and where their songs were being used.
While Kadir couched her motivations in terms of helping artists, there is also a business incentive to provide more transparency. Kobalt, a music publisher and royalty administrator that offers transparency of the kind boasted by both Sony and UMPG, has gathered an enormous share of the market in the last couple years.