Historically, the relationship between technology and the music industry has been a complex one.
On one hand, the UK music scene is one of the most lucrative in the world, contributing over £4.5bn to the British economy in 2017. This was thanks, in-part, to the wider conversion towards music streaming. However, the rise of these platforms has also contributed to a rise in issues such as piracy, threatening the finances of struggling creatives across the globe. Sound engineers, singers and songwriters to name a few, have been affected by the infiltration of technology across the sector.
Ensuring songs that are played in commercial spaces are licensed, and musicians are paid fairly has been under huge scrutiny and is an ongoing issue impacting on the industry more widely. This is due to rigid, archaic infrastructures and longstanding outdated customs [MOU2] hindering the seamless adoption of technology.
The music industry has a strong track record of digital innovation over the years. However, some of these changes have played a part in the surge in music piracy and ‘stream-ripping’, which is the act of taking a file from a streaming site and making it into a free downloadable copy.
Despite recent technological advancements in the industry, which have led to positive change in attitude and boosting revenue streams, royalty distribution is an area that remains untouched.
Disrupt the music industry: Royalty distribution is ripe for disruption
Despite significant developments in the industry over the last decade, from changes in music accessibility to production and distribution, limitations still remain.
These limitations are particularly evident in regard to artists, and receiving the financial rewards that they deserve.
With the rise of streaming services, music royalty tracking has become increasingly challenging, impeding Performance Rights Societies Organisations (PROs) in their mission to provide artists with the correct financial support.
The current process sees PROs using manual data collection where possible, but in the most part, they rely on data estimations through profiling licence holders and comparing them to popular radio play. This method is not only outdated but also inaccurate, meaning that artists have long suffered from a general lack of transparency, and historically struggled to forecast their earnings.
The role technology has played in recent years
Over the years, the music industry landscape has been shaped by continual waves of technological modernisation, with the move away from listening to music via tapes, vinyl and CDs, towards streaming platforms.
After over ten years on the decline, our ever more today’s society rapid tech adoption has finally given the music industry a new lease of life. Now, musicians can create, spread and publicise their music quicker than ever before. Not only this, but modern streaming services have gifted consumers with access to songs at the touch of a button (or the utter of a word, in the case of voice recognition technology like Alexa).
Despite these industry progressions, royalty reporting has not developed at the same rate. It is only over the last few years that the inadequate distribution of royalties has come to the forefront, thanks in part to advancements in data collection.
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With time, these applications such as analytics software that detects music used in videos on social media, will continue to become more intuitive, creating a seamless process for all.
The future of the music industry
Similar to the rapid digital transformation of various sectors, the music industry has an ample opportunity to streamline their processes and improve the backend by harnessing the power of technology. Particularly, the potential to tackle the issue of royalty distribution through big data and artificial intelligence (AI).
By utilising AI and big data, PROs can monitor music being played in licensed public spaces such as bars, restaurants and hotels, and accurately distributed royalties for the artist.
Instead of manually processing data, which leaves room for human error, analytics software can constantly identify and track music and share the insights with the PRO creating fair compensation to artists, as well as peace of mind to consumers that their favourite musicians are getting paid for the work they produce.
In conjunction with big data, AI can learn from the data being consumed and learn consumer behaviour, providing PROs with invaluable insight into consumer trends.
Music labels can also benefit from advances in technology by leveraging data in order to better understand their target audiences. By using insights for intuitive marketing campaigns and business strategies, they can create fair compensation for artists, as well as giving consumers peace of mind that their favourite musicians are getting paid for the work that they produce.
The music industry is constantly evolving. Last year, developments in music technology proved to be having a positive impact on tracking and distribution, after artists received a total of £746m in royalties, a rise of 4% on the previous year.
By continuing to embrace technological advancements such as AI and Big Data, the music industry can rid of outdated internal processes and finally take full advantage of the positive impact of technology, that facilitates both artists and consumers alike.