Music rights can be a confusing and intimidating area to get involved with, as a TV company, but the challenges are worth wrestling with: music can play such a key role in great shows. A panel convened by music collecting society Sacem at MIPCOM this morning convened a panel of experts to explain “everything you always wanted to know about music rights (but were afraid to ask)”.
The speakers included Sahar Baghery, head of research and content strategy at Eurodata; Alexandre Mahout, head of music at EuropaCorp; Simon Mortimer, VP of business development and media at Universal Music Publishing; Cécile Rap-Veber, director of licensing and international collections at Sacem; and Guillaume Roussel, a composer. The panel was moderated by Ben Costantini, founder, connectors, instructor at Berklee College of Music.
Mahout talked about the myths around music licensing. “It can be very simple. Very often, a director says ‘this scene, what I would like to have is something blue’. This takes some time to figure out what it means. Obviously, then you’ve got 80% of the job, which is diplomacy,” he said.
“If I’m short on budget but I’m looking for a sync on a scene, if I propose something to the director, he may think I’ll choose the cheapest song, which is obviously not the case. It’s a matter of faith: a lot of time spent in the editing room, and a lot of time spent with the CFO… It’s a lot of negotiation.”
Mortimer gave a publisher’s perspective. “It’s two things. One is obviously what Alex was saying about getting rights of commercial music into your programming. Yes, the rates vary,” he explained – depending on the scale of rights sought and the size of the production.
He advised TV producers to seek the correct licences for music. “If you control your IP visually, if you are not doing it already, you should think about controlling your music rights. Obviously, it’s a negotiation with the composer.”
Rap-Veber said some difficulties can come with TV companies understanding the different rights: the composer rights, the publishing rights and then the collective licensing rights for the broadcast of a show on various services after that point.
“It’s true that when you want to work with the composer, and sometimes maybe you are not in a position to pay a big remuneration, then you can deal within the fact that thanks to a massive exploitation [as in widespread distribution of the show]then he will again be remunerated through his collective management society like Sacem.”
Roussel said as a composer he thinks this “circle” of payments is important, with composers being paid for the usage of their music over time, rather than simply for the original composition work.
EuropaCorp has its own publishing company within a TV production firm. “What is very important is that thanks to this publishing company, I have more means for the music production. When I am short of budget, I an manage on my own to get a little bit more money, because I know I will have future revenues,” said Mahout.
Mortimer explained how Universal works with producers. For a producer like EuropaCorp or BBC or RTL which has an in-house music department “we are very much there to make the machine globally for them with the societies and someone like Eurodata to get the data, and the revenues every time it’s played”.
Baghery talked about that data collection, logging plays of TV shows in 30 countries, in order to track usage – and thus help music publishers and collecting societies gather the payments.
She gave the example of the film 3 Days to Kill, first broadcast on TV in September 2014, attracting 3.5m viewers on pay-TV channels around the world since then – this figure only counted the “best broadcast” in each country. Second was Crossing Lines, a series first broadcast on TV in 2013 in the US with 5.4m viewers on NBC, and has since attracted 19.3m viewers worldwide – again, only the best broadcast in each country.
Rap-Veber said that collecting societies like Sacem are working hard to strike agreements with their equivalent societies around the world, to ensure payments from these airings flow back to composers in their home countries. Mortimer said that “if you’re trying to claim rights, it is all about tracking… it comes down to the dreaded cue sheets and the dreaded sales information. Everyone has to make sure that works.”
Roussel talked about the opportunity for composers to be a closer part of a production from its early stages. “It’s always artistically more fulfilling to at the same time as you are developing a story, developing a unique sound or music that the audience will attach to the story,” he said. “There is more and more budget, and we are more maybe able to develop this original music than before. Maybe thanks to the data-tracking and these things.”
“More and more music is the DNA, especially for scripted series,” said Baghery, citing the example of a show that was popular in Europe, but lost its original music in the translation to North America – and flopped. “The music is everything in these series.”
Who are the new players affecting the music-rights market? Rap-Veber talked subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) like Netflix: “We just want to make sure that for each exploitation, the rightsholders will be paid. It’s true that now you have thousands and thousands of different exploitations throughout the world, and through all these SVOD services you will be able to stream the content wherever you are. We are quite happy to see that,” she said. “We are here at MIPCOM to meet with all the new players who will maybe offer a new mode of consumption in the future.”
What about YouTube? Are the panel excited about the growing number of new shows debuting on YouTube, and requiring music sync deals just like traditional broadcast deals?
“I will be excited when YouTube wil be able to generate revenues on broadcasting, to be honest,” said Rap-Veber. “We have an agreement, you know. But we have 100% of the revenues and the revenues are zero!” Mortimer chimed in: “It’s slowly getting better. At least things have started,” he said. Back to Rap-Veber: “As rightsholders we are more confident in the subscription exploitation, at the moment, rather than what we call the ad-funded exploitation.”