FAIR PLAY | Part Three
Data has reshaped the conditions of economic exchange in the 21st Century.
The UK Intellectual Property Office commissioned research from Ulster University in 2019. Their Music 2025 The Music Data Dilemma: issues facing the music industry in improving data management report adopted a holistic view. Inspired by SST (Social Shaping of Technology) with an emphasis on the contingent, complex and intricate relationships involved in innovation. The research evidenced strong and growing consensus that “transparent and efficient data infrastructure is key to building a more sustainable music industry.” (39)
As algorithmic driven play data infiltrates consumer streaming platforms the current public performance royalty distribution methods of APRA and PPCA are problematic.
APRA AMCOS declared a strategic priority for 2020 for ‘service, transparency and equitable return for members.’ However, their opaque royalty distribution pool methodology, and use of analogous datasets, discriminates against culturally diverse and niche Australian artists’ songs and recordings.
Powerful play data from the commercial music streaming platforms, Background Music Suppliers, has the capability to reconfigure how Australian artists are paid for the use of the songs and recordings in public performance.
Data records the when and where of every song played. Request by request. Song by song. Recording by recording. Dollar by dollar.
How much is your song worth ?
Last year OneMusic Australia collected about 150 million dollars in public performance royalties from venues that played recorded music.
Every venue in Australia that plays recorded music is charged a tariff based on their venue type and capacity. The more commonly used tariffs for venues that play music all week are the Foreground and Background music tariffs.
Nightlife Music alone supplies over 5000 venues operating under these tarrifs in Australia. A conservative estimate would be that these venues on average pay OneMusic approximately $3000 per annum. So, Nightlife Music clients’ venues alone are contributing about 15 million dollars (roughly 10%) to OneMusic’s annual public performance revenue pool.
850 million songs were played across Nightlife Music platforms in 2019. Each song play (excluding Nightclub and/or Recorded Music for Dance Use licencees) was worth approximately 1.76 cents.
Here is some sample data for songs played across the Nightlife Music network in 2019 calendar year and estimates of how much each song collected :
TIA GOSTELOW (Lovely Records)
Strangers was played 57,454 times and earned$1,011
Phone Me was played 54,327 times and earned $956
Hunger was played 42,752 times and earned $752
MO’JU, previously known as MOJO JUJU (Australia Broadcasting)
Sugarcoated was played 55,966 times and earned $985
BAKER BOY (Island Records)
Cool As Hell was played 121,607 times and earned $2,140
EMILY WURRUMARA (Wantok Musik)
Lady Blue was played 37,461 and earned $659
When Australian music is played as the soundtrack in Australian licensed small businesses — the artists’ songs and sound recordings deserve to be paid.
Licensees have an expectation artists WILL be paid and paid accurately.
FAIR PLAY would mean Australian songwriters, and their sound recordings, would receive accurate data, reporting and royalty payments for these public performances.
While the status quo of public performance royalty distribution is retained — accurate payments, using real data, are not happening.
Public Performance Royalty Distribution
Seeking information on how artists make money from their music when played in public reads like a mystery novel — it involves broken, leaky pipes, distribution ‘pools’ and mysterious black boxes of money.
Multiple studies show up to 90% of revenue being distributed to 10% of rights holders and “between 20–50% of all performing rights data being inaccurate.” (Mogis 2020)
If you are a member of APRA or PPCA and are intrigued as to how your $150,493,843  public performance royalties collected as at June 2019 were distributed — refer to the APRA Distribution Rules on the ACCC website here, last updated March 2013. The APRA Distribution Practices are here, last updated September 2019. The PPCA Distribution Rules as at July 2019 are here.
The Electronic Music Conference tackled this complex area and how Australian/NZ nightclub licensees’ revenue is distributed to DJs and owners of songs and sound recordings. You can download this resource here.
Further detective work is required to establish exactly what the current practices for distribution of public performance revenue to Australian artists and labels from music streaming in public performance is.
15.3 of APRA’s Distribution Rules state that public performance revenue ‘for which no programme returns, or similar documentation are available’ is at the board’s discretion to apportion that money to where they think it was performed.
APRA’s Distribution Practices as at March 2020 refer to “distribution by analogy” where licence fees collected are ‘added to one or more existing distribution pools that is/are most similar in terms of its/their music content.’ (p 8 and 30)
At 4.5 ( c ) of APRA AMCOS 2019 Code of Conduct compliance report they stated that their distribution practices were updated to “define a new distribution pool for background music to be distributed to a data set comprising of data copied from [consumer] streaming services’ usage reports.” (11) Adding that, only works with over 1,000 streams are included in the analogous data distributions for background music uses.
And yet . . .
A 2019 peer-reviewed report cautioned against the use of pools of music data to assess music patterns and preferences. As the data is extracted from algorithmic features “should not be expected to match actual listening behaviours.” (Part et al. 2019, 235)
Scant detail for distribution policies for royalties collected from public performance from ‘background music’ is published for members — this is the text available from page 43 of APRA’s Distribution Practices document (last updated March 2020) and duplicated verbatim on page 23 of PPCA’s Distribution Policy:
38. BACKGROUND MUSIC
Distribution by Analogy
Workplace Music Child Care Councils Karaoke Function, Convention and Conference Centres Hotels, Pubs, Taverns, Bars and Casinos Dance and Performance Instructors and Schools Community Halls Community Music Groups Live Adult Entertainment Venues Dining Registered and Licensed Clubs Places of Interest, Activity and Amusement Retailers and Service Providers Cruise Ships Public Vehicles and Vehicles for Hire Eisteddfodau and Competitions
Licence fees are received from a large number of businesses (generally small business) for the use of music through devices such as radios, juke boxes, background music systems, TV sets, and websites and online connected devices on their premises.
As it would be virtually impossible for these licensees to provide APRA with details of all the music they play, and it would be economically unfeasible for APRA to process such large volumes of data, APRA includes such licence fees in its distributions by adding the amounts to radio and television pools, an analogous data set based on digital music usage, across music video programming and to live and online sources in proportions corresponding to the applicable tariff(s).
And yet . . .
If APRA and PPCA chose to access readily available public performance play data and were willing to REFORM their distribution systems — transparency, equitable solutions and increased revenue for Australian artists songs and recordings is totally possible and economically feasible!
DATA Driven EQUITY SOLUTIONS
Analogous play data from algorithmic driven consumer music streaming platforms supresses diversity.
In 2020, background music suppliers’ technology and passion for music in public performance are filling a vital gap in the market. In much the same way that licensed consumer streaming platforms closed the gap on illegal downloading and MP3 sharing, background music suppliers like Nightlife Music, are growing the market for legitimate commercial music streaming platforms and the possibilities the data generated provides.
The play data from background music suppliers presents an opportunity to economically scaffold the rebuilding of the Australian music industry and redress the travesty that has plagued the music industry…the treatment of artists.
Licensees want to play Australian music. Music that is culturally relevant, recognisable, logical and appropriate for their customers. They want music without the randomness of algorithmic lists, without the gaps and awkward silences.
APRA’s 2018 Year in Review enthusiastically reported on gender diversity initiatives (p14–16) and APRA’s 2019 Year in Review reported an increase of 10% to 1,581 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members.
In contrast to their aspirations for equity, the executive decision by APRA and PPCA to apply ‘distribution by analogy’ from algorithmic data is unethical and reinforces algorithmic bias. 
Information science researchers write of Big Data’s Disparate Impact and how data used from algorithms for convenience in decision making can “affect the fortunes of whole classes of people in consistently unfavourable ways.” (Barocas and Selbst 2016, 673)
Algorithmic listening is endogenous ie each user play data reflects on itself.
Aggregated data from consumer streaming platforms is not useful for calculating equitable distribution of royalties and privileges the mainstream. This current practice successfully renders a homogeneity to whom benefits from the public performance distribution pool revenue.
Consumer streaming play data is ‘unreadable’ for public performance.
OneMusic simply do not know what songs are played on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube when those platforms are used by public performance licensees. Therefore royalty distributions cannot be applied directly to the licencees music choices. This practice extends to where an active choice of Australian artists of specific genres, styles, genders, sexualities or diverse cultural backgrounds and expression are chosen by a user of a background music supplier’s music streaming platform.
Using technology and data information systems has a positive impact on social change. Data would (re)distribute the public performance distribution pool more equitably.
Urgent adoption of data driven solutions would deliver tangible economic results to the subjects of APRA and PPCA’s aspirational equity targets.
First Nations First
#blacklivesmatter #indigenouslivesmatter #firstNationsFirst #alwayswasalwayswillbe
APRA, a government sanctioned monopoly, controls the exclusive right to license the intellectual property rights of their 1,581 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members’ songs and sound recordings.
APRA AMCOS and ARIA/PPCA are founded on principles of public benefit. As institutions they hold significant cultural power and with this comes a level of political responsibility. It is power that cannot be ignored, and a responsibility is born to pay artists fairly.
The use of data will increase the economic and social impact of APRA’s diversity and equity objectives and PPCA’s recording initiatives with the Australian Government.
Urgent work of REFORM is required to change the public performance royalty distribution methodology that privileges the status quo and divest in the economic self-determination (Land 2015) of First Nations artists.
“Making money can be one thing. Building bridges can be the other one.”
Ultimately, reform will require the members of APRA and PPCA to hold these organisations accountable. To demand the use of available play data from the public performance of their songs and sound recordings — it is time get Australian artists paid.
This can be done.
In the post-COVID rebuild of the Australian music industry the time is NOW.
Let’s do this.
Aguiar, Luis, and Bertin Martens. 2016. “Digital music consumption on the Internet: Evidence from clickstream data.” Information Economics and Policy 34: 27.
Anatolitis, Esther. 2020. “The Role of the Institution.” In The Relationship is the Project edited by Cara Kirkwood and Jax Jacki Brown Jade Lillie with Kate Larsen. Brow Books.
Barocas, Solon, and Andrew D. Selbst. 2016. “Big data’s disparate impact.” California Law Review 104 (3): 732. https://doi.org/10.15779/Z38BG31.
Harari, Yuval Noah. 2018. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. London UK: Penguin Random House
Kamara II, Kalilu. 2018. “Music Artists’ Strategies to Generate Revenue Through Technology.” Doctor of Business Administration Doctoral Study, College of Management and Technology, Walden University.
Land, Clare. 2015. Decolonizing solidarity dilemmas and directions for supporters of indigenous struggles. Edited by Corporation Ebooks. London: Zed Books Ltd.
Lyons, Frank Professor et al. 2019 Music 2025 The Music Data Dilemma: isssues facing the music industry in improving data management. Intelletual Property Office UK, Ulstr University, UK
Mogis, Jay D. 2020. “Transparency, technology and trust: Music metrics and cultural distortion.”, Creative Works, Queensland University of Technology.
Park, Minsu, Jennifer Thom, Sarah Mennicken, Henriette Cramer, and Michael Macy. 2019. “Global music streaming data reveal diurnal and seasonal patterns of affective preference.” Nature Human Behaviour 3. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0508-z.
Rethink Music Initiative. 2015. Fair Music: Transparency and payment flows in the music industry, Recommendations to increase transparancy, reduce friction and promote fairness in the music industry. Berklee ICE, Boston, USA.
Rubel, Alan, Adam Pham and Clinton Castro. 2019. “Agency Laundering and Algorithmic Decision Systems.” iConference 2019, Switzerland.
Whorton, Amanda M. 2017. “The complexities of music licensing and the need for a revised legal regime.” Wake Forest Law Review 52 (1): 267–291.
 Declared on the APRA AMCOS and PPCA June 2019 Financial Statements totals.
 For clarity to readers of Fair Play Part One, this practice of ‘distribution by analogy’ is applied to the additional PUBLIC PERFORMANCE royalties owed to artists songs and recordings — this differs to the distribution of mechanical royalties paid from data provided to APRA for the initial ingestion of songs and recordings in to the BPMs libraries. (p 30–31 Distribution Practices)
There is currently no First Nations peak music body for music to ensure self-determination and representation in advocacy to APRA AMCOS, ARIA and PPCA.
Leanne de Souza is a Non-Executive Director of Nightlife Music, (her husband Tim de Souza, is a co-founder and programmer), a trustee of the Queensland Performing Arts Trust (QPAC) and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Writers Festival.
Her recent work included the role of Curatorial Advisor (Music) for the Museum of Brisbane’s “High Rotation 30 Years of Brisbane Music” exhibition, and as a researcher for the Brisbane City Council “30 Years of Riverstage.”
Leanne was the 14th most influential person in the music industry for 2019. (Source: The Music, 7 March 2019), a life-member of Q Music, a Legacy Member donor to the Association of Artist Managers and an advocate for gender equity, cultural diversity and inclusion in the Australian music industry.
I pay my respects and acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera/Yugera Peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands where I work, study and live.