Can music micro-licensing save the recording industry?

music licensingBIZMOLOGY — So say you’re making an independent movie starring all your friends, or scoring a wedding video, or creating marketing materials for your internship. You really, really want that one song by that one artist who had that one album ten years ago.

Unless you are a large corporation with time, money, and a licensing process, you are out of luck. Your options are: Use the song anyway, hoping not to get caught (not a good idea at your internship), or find something that doesn’t require licensing, which will have all the impact free music found on the Internet can be expected to have.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) want to change all that. The two associations are looking into music micro-licensing platforms that will make it easier to capture revenue from small customers, according to Billboard Magazine. There are, according to music industry insiders, potentially millions of dollars of licensing fees currently untapped because otherwise well-meaning customers are shut out from the process.

Musicians and music publishers that embrace music micro-licensing will make it easier for small customers to purchase songs and clips, bringing in revenue that is otherwise left on the table.

RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman laid it out like this:

“So many uses of music go unlicensed, and it’s a lost opportunity in so many ways,” he said. “It’s obviously lost revenue. The fact is that so many businesses and individuals use music to enhance their products, their services, their events shows music’s value. We aren’t talking about music-centric businesses — those are taken care of. We’re talking about the app developer who wants to use a clip of music in the background. Or the wedding videographer who wants to include music in his videos. Or the company that wants to use music in presentations at corporate retreats.”

I’m not a musician nor am I in the music business, so I turned to our resident expert, Lee Simmons, D&B Marketing Writer and Austin-based songwriter, on the impact music micro-licensing will have on the industry.

“It seems like a logical step in the right direction in the sense that it gives the customer the music he needs, while supporting the artist’s endeavors. On the contrary, well-established artists might be wary of a la carte licensing like this because it could potentially dilute their control over where and how their music gets used. For instance, I’d be hard-pressed to think Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders — a vocal animal-rights supporter — would approve the licensing of a song by a small meat processor in rural Montana. But for the smaller artist just trying to make ends meet, this kind of opportunity opens the doors to new revenue streams.”

The $14 billion music production industry has been hard-pressed by changes in the way people buy music as well as by new expectations of how music is used, licensed, and adapted for commercial use. Music micro-licensing is a step in the right direction. Make the right thing (licensing) easy, and more people will step up and pay.

Patrice Sarath

Patrice Sarath is a writer and editor for First Research, covering the health care, insurance, and construction industries.

Read more articles by Patrice Sarath.

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