By Kristin Thomson
It’s pop quiz time!
Commercial soft rock radio stations around the country frequently play Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” – a song written by Dolly Parton. Who receives public performance royalties for this consistent terrestrial airplay of the song?
A. Dolly Parton and Dolly’s publisher
B. The estate of Whitney Houston, the performer
C. The record label that released Whitney’s recording (Arista)
D. All of the above: (1) Dolly, (2) Dolly’s publisher, (3) Whitney’s estate and (4) Arista
Do you know the answer? It’s A: Dolly Parton and her publisher. The key part of the question above is that this relates to terrestrial broadcasts. In the US, only songwriters and publishers receive royalties for terrestrial airplay.
This is just one of the questions on Future of Music Coalition’s Music and Money Quizzes, a set of online questionnaires that uses practical, real-world examples to test musicians’ knowledge of the copyright laws and business practices that determine how the money flows back to creators and performers.
FMC launched these four quizzes in July 2013 and, over the past 18 months, over 2,800 respondents have completed at least one. The topline scores are:
Today (November 21, 2014), we are publishing a report that assesses the characteristics of the quiz questions that users found difficult to answer. It also describes what these incorrect answers tell us about knowledge gaps in the music community, and how musician advocates and service organizations can reduce confusion through continued education.
As described in the report, the incorrect answers generally suggest three things.
First, there remains a piecemeal understanding about the difference between musical compositions and sound recordings. Respondents either did not know that a recorded piece of music has two copyrights, or they simply got confused about the details. As a result, respondents misunderstood which royalties flow to which creators, and the different intermediaries and conduits that handle royalty payments.
Second, there are differences between a retail sale, a download, a performance and a stream that are frequently imperceptible to the user, but essential to acknowledge to understand how the money flows. Despite the increasing futility in drawing a clear line between these various interactions with music, copyright law and licensing conventions often do. Recognizing these differences are often the key to understanding who gets paid, by whom, and how much.
Third, some incorrect answers suggest that respondents are not fully aware of changes in the digital landscape that have altered licensing frameworks and the way that money flows back to creators. This finding is understandable as the landscape is shifting dramatically and rapidly, but professional musicians could be leaving money on the table simply because they are unaware of all of the revenue streams for which they are eligible. Read the report to learn more.
There are two ways that we can address these knowledge gaps. First, we can continue to explain, distill, translate and build musician-friendly tools to help reduce the confusion and nurture an informed creative class. FMC has produced a range of educational materials over the years, and is happy to work with any advocates on projects or seminars that can tackle these areas of confusion.
We also urge those who write, or speak, or report on these issues to properly acknowledge the complexity. For instance, blog entries or news articles will often speak of Spotify and Pandora as comparable streaming services when, in fact, they operate under completely different licensing schemes that pay rightsholders through different conduits. The quiz makes it quite clear that we all need to be diligent and thorough in our writing and reporting about these complex issues – even if it takes repeating the basics – to ensure that musicians, advocates and music fans have the correct, fundamental understanding of today’s music landscape.
FMC hopes to launch a fresh set of quizzes in 2015, with new questions that address these knowledge gaps. The quizzes are part of FMC’s longstanding effort to educate musicians about the changing music ecosystem, and give them the tools and support they need to not only participate in the present, but also advocate for sustainable systems in the future.