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Max Martin, UMG, Avid, DDEX, Session Announce the ‘World’s First End-to-End Music Credits Ecosystem’ 

Max Martin, UMG, Avid, DDEX, Session Announce the ‘World’s First End-to-End Music Credits Ecosystem’

Let’s give these artists some credit. 

Guest Post by: Paul Resnikoff

Photo: Session CEO Niclas Molinder (l) with ABBA member and Session co-founder Bjorn Ulvaeus (r) at SXSW.

Last week, a consortium of industry and artist associations banded together to underscore the importance of a “more robust and effective system of digital attribution and credits.” 

In a joint statement, the Artist Rights Alliance, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America ) and A2IM (American Association of Independent Music) urged the industry to double-down on proper artist crediting and metadata. 

“Attribution recognizes artistic achievement, helps creators connect, collaborate, and appreciate each other’s work, opens up new pathways for fans to trace artistic influences, and find new music, and aids accuracy in the digital royalty economy,” the joint statement urged. 

Now, there’s a concrete effort to more seriously address credits, missing metadata, and black box royalty problems. 

At SXSW, a separate consortium has proclaimed the ‘world’s first end-to-end music credits ecosystem’. 

The bold initiative, called Creator Credits, is being led by a heavyweight alliance that includes Max Martin’s MXM Music, Avid Technology, Universal Music Group and DDEX.  Session, led by co-founder (and ABBA member) Bjorn Ulvaeus and CEO Niclas Molinder (pictured above), is corralling the circle of power-players. 

In an announcement at the Hilton Hotel in Austin, TX, Molinder underscored the importance of starting the process of credits immediately.  That would explain the presence of Avid, which owns Pro Tools. 

“I’m convinced that the best way to involve the creators in the data collection is as early as possible in the creation process,” Ulvaeus said during the unveiling.  “Session’s technology performs a short handshake with music society systems to authenticate creators and associate their vital industry identifiers with their account. 

“When a creator walks into a Pro Tools powered studio, their presence will be automatically detected and their identifiers, along with their typical contributions, can be easily added to a song.” 

That approach is a far cry from the typical afterthought afforded to music metadata and royalty credits. 

Instead, Session (formerly named Auddly) is taking a very aggressive approach by starting the credits process during the creation phase itself.  “The proof-of-concept sees Avid embedding Session’s technology into Pro Tools to automatically detect the presence of creators in the studio and allowing the addition of creator credits, contributions and crucial industry identifiers (IPI, IPN and ISNI) to a recording before it leaves the studio,” the company explains. 

“Creator credits can easily be added to a song throughout the production process by automatically associating industry authenticated songwriters, musicians, producers and editors and their contributions.” 

In other words: the credits for a song can be added before the song is finished. 

“With Pro Tools software at the core of many of today’s music production environments around the world, the Avid team shares in the vision that all contributors to a piece of music or any audio work should be clearly identified, recognized and rewarded appropriately throughout the production and distribution process,” said Francois Quereuil, Director of Audio Product Management, AVID. 

“We are particularly excited to enter a technology collaboration with Session and work with key players in the music industry to provide a durable solution to the challenges associated with capturing and recognizing creators’ credits in an increasingly complex digital world.” 

But here’s the really exciting part: these credits aren’t just getting added to a local file. 

Instead, they’re being automatically pushed downstream to managers, labels, music publishers, PROs, distributors and streaming platforms.   That aggressive push is mandatory for proper downstream payments, especially given the spotty distribution of metadata across the fractured music industry ecosystem. 

The presence of Universal Music Group will also add some serious momentum to this initiative.  But Barak Moffitt, EVP of Content Strategy and Operations at UMG, says the two companies have been working together on metadata and credits for a few years.  “In addition to our own efforts, we have been working closely with Bjorn and Niclas for a couple years on the development of this platform as part of our commitment to a robust and effective crediting system for the benefit of the entire music ecosystem,” Moffitt relayed. 

DDEX, the supply chain data standards organization, has also been toiling away on music metadata standards for years — if not more than a decade.   Accordingly, the creator credits metadata will travel downstream to various music industry players in the ‘DDEX RIN’ standard format.  That will include critical industry identifiers for songwriters (IPI) and performing artists (IPN), as well as the emerging ISNI identifier. 

This creator identification information, along with their contributions to the recording and song, are assembled with the ISRC (recording identifier) and ISWC (composition identifier) codes.  That will enable downstream music platforms to improve their matching, payouts and even value-added features. 

The initiative comes at a moment of serious frustration for the music industry. 

With the ink dried on the Music Modernization Act (MMA), the industry is now arguing over an estimated $1.2 billion in unattributed ‘black box’ mechanical royalties being held by the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited.  And that’s just one piece of a gigantic black box whose size is estimated to be in the multi-billions.

Kobalt Is Now A Next Generation Major Label In The Making 

Guest post by: Mark Mulligan

"Kobalt has been the poster child for the changing of the guard in the music business," writes MIDiA analyst Mark Mulligan. But it's on a path to become much more as "next-generation label... plotting a course to becoming a next generation-major." 

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By Mark Mulligan of MIDiA from his Music Industry blog 

News has emerged of Kobalt potentially looking to raise an additional $100 million of investment, following a 2017 round of $89 million and a 2015 $60-million round led by Google Ventures. Kobalt has been the poster child for the changing of the guard in the music business, helping set the industry agenda by pursuing a creators-first strategy while. 

Building an impressive roster of songwriters and artists at a scale that would have most indies salivating. But it does not have its sights set on being the leading player of the indie sector, instead playing for the big game: Kobalt is the next major label waiting to happen. 

So, what makes Kobalt so different? In some respects, nothing. Most of what Kobalt is doing has been done before, and there are others plotting a similar path right now (e.g. BMG, United Masters, Hitco). What matters is how it is executing, how well backed it is and the scale of its ambitions: 

Moving beyond masters: In the old model, artists signed away their rights in perpetuity to record labels, with nine out of ten of them permanently in debt to the label not yet having paid off their advances. The new model (i.e. label services) pursued by the likes of Kobalt, reframes the artist-label relationship, turning it one more akin to that of agency-client. In this rebalanced model artists retain long-term ownership of their copyrights and in return share responsibility of costs with their label. This approach, coupled with transparent royalty reporting, lower admin costs and continual tech innovation has enabled Kobalt to build a next-generation label business. 


Laser focus on frontline: In a label services business the entire focus is on frontline, as there isn’t any catalogue. An artist signed to such a label therefore knows that they have undivided attention. That’s the upside; the downside is that the label does not have the benefit of a highly-profitable bank of catalogue to act as the investment fund for frontline. This means that a label like Kobalt often cannot afford the same scale of marketing as a major one, which helps explain why Kobalt is looking for another $100 million. However, there is a crucial benefit of being compelled to spend carefully. 


Superstar niches: In the old model, labels would (and often still do) carpet-bomb TV, radio, print and digital with massive campaigns designed to create global, superstar brands. Now, labels can target more precisely and be selective about what channels they use. Kobalt’s business is based around making its roster superstars within their respective niches, finding a tightly-defined audience and the artists they engage with. The traditional superstar model sees an artist like a Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran or a Taylor Swift being a mass media brand with recognition across geographies and demographics. The new superstar can fly under the radar while simultaneously being hugely successful. Take the example of Kobalt’s Lauv, an artist tailor-made for the ‘Spotify-core’ generation that hardly registers as a global brand, yet has two billion audio streams, half a billion YouTube views and 26 million monthly listeners on Spotify. By contrast, heavily-backed Stormzy has just three million monthly Spotify listeners. 


Deep tech connections: The recent WMG / Spotify spat illustrates the tensions that can exist between labels and tech companies. Kobalt has long focused on building close relationships with tech companies, including but not limited to streaming services. This positioning comes easier to a company that arguably owes more to its technology roots than it does its music roots. The early backing of Google Ventures plays a role too, though with some negative connotations; some rights holders fear that this in fact reflects Google using Kobalt as a proxy for a broader ambition of disrupting the traditional copyright regime. 
A highly structured organisation: One of the key differences between many independent labels and the majors is that the latter have a much more structured organizational set up, with large teams of deep specialisation. This is the benefit of having large-scale revenues, but it is also a manifestation of ideology. Most independents focus their teams around the creative end of the equation, putting the music first and business second. Major labels, while still having music at their core, are publicly-traded companies first, with corporate structures and a legal obligation on management to maximise shareholder value. Kobalt has undoubtedly created an organisational structure to rival that of the majors. 

Earned Fandom 

Kobalt is a next-generation label and it is plotting a course to becoming a next generation-major. That success will not be reflected in having the rosters of household names that characterise the traditional major model, but instead an ever-changing portfolio of niche superstars. The question is whether the current majors can respond effectively; they have already made big changes, including label services, JV deals, higher royalty rates, etc. 

Perhaps the most fundamental move they need to make, however, is to understand what a superstar artist looks like in the era of fragmented fandom. The way in which streaming services deliver music based on use behaviours and preferences inherently means that artists have narrower reach because they are not being pushed to audiences that are relevant. This shifts us from the era of macro hits to micro hits ie songs that feel like number one hits to the individual listener because they so closely match their tastes. This is what hits mean when delivered on an engagement basis rather than a reach basis. Quality over quantity. 

Majors can still make their artists look huge on traditional platforms, which still command large, if rapidly aging audiences. But what matters most is engagement, not reach. It is a choice between bought fandom and earned fandom. In the old model you could build a career on bought fandom. Now if you do not earn your fandom, your career will burn bright but fast, and then be gone.

SOUNDCLOUD IS NOW A DISTRIBUTOR: PLATFORM LAUNCHES TOOL FOR USERS TO UPLOAD MUSIC TO SPOTIFY, APPLE MUSIC ETC. 

Guest Post By Tim Ingham/ Music Business World February 19, 2019

The upgrade to the platform’s SoundCloud Premier monetization toolset allows users to “seamlessly” distribute their music to the likes of Amazon Music, Apple Music, Instagram, Spotify, Tencent, YouTube Music and more – all from within their SoundCloud account. 

Subscribers to either of SoundCloud’s upload offerings (SoundCloud Pro and Pro Unlimited) can gain access to SoundCloud Premier at no extra cost.

Premier’s core selling point is that it allows artists to monetize their music on SoundCloud, earning a revenue share which the company says “meets or beats every [other] streaming service”. 

In terms of the new distribution tool, SoundCloud says it’s not taking any cut from the earnings artists obtain on other platforms, while it promises “streamlined payments from everywhere – directly from SoundCloud”. 

“Only SoundCloud empowers creators with a unified platform to instantly upload and share, connect with fans in real-time and get paid for their work everywhere –both on SoundCloud and across other leading music services,” said Kerry Trainor, Chief Executive Officer, SoundCloud. 

“Creators can now spend less time and money jumping between different tools, and more time making music, connecting with fans and growing their careers first on SoundCloud.”

The move comes a few months after Spotify announced that it was also effectively becoming a multi-platform distributor. Daniel Ek’s company acquired a minority stake in third-party firm Distrokid in October last year, before launching a beta tool which made it possible for users to upload tracks to other services via the Spotify For Artists dashboard. 

Prior to rolling out its open beta distribution tool, SoundCloud worked with a number of artists including Leaf, mobilegirl, Jevon and Thutmose in a closed beta environment to test and get feedback on the new feature. 

“I believe SoundCloud’s new distribution tool is the way of the future for independent artists and music in general,” said rising rap artist, Leaf. “It makes distribution an easy one-step process, giving you a very simple way to monetize your plays and the freedom to reach new heights with your fan base.” 

Hip-hop producer and musician, Jevon, said, “SoundCloud’s distribution tool is a great way for unsigned artists to get their music out there for the world to hear. Everyone knows how easy it is to upload a song to SoundCloud, and now it’s just as simple to upload and distribute everywhere.” 

Over the course of the next few months, says SoundCloud, creators will see new functionality added to the monetization toolset – which is available for SoundCloud Pro or Pro Unlimited subscribers who own all applicable rights to their original music, and who are over 18 years old. 

To use the toolset, these artists must also have no copyright strikes against their music on SoundCloud at the time of enrollment. 

At last count, SoundCloud’s music catalog included over 200 million tracks from 20 million creators heard in 190 countries