Welcome to the weekly article looking at the current music industry, its challenges and overall why and how SHOUT4's RevShare model works so well for the independent music industry. Written by SHOUT4 Chairman, Ric Yerbury.
We can not be entirely sure what the often elegiac and mischievous Leonard Cohen had in mind with that line, but I was happy to borrow a bit out of the ‘Tower Of Song’. To be honest I would love to find reasons to include other favourite lines from that song including
“Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey. I ache in the places where I used to play”
and my absolute favourite verse
Now I should get back to the point in hand, which is about the imbalances in the music industry (yes I know and many other places as well) and potentially why this might be and ultimately is there anything we do about it
We are not so naive as to not recognise that greed will remain a significant part of our society and so in business of course it remains. It does not follow that we agree with Michael Douglas in the film Wall Street that ‘Greed is good”, it is however a factor. This tends to drive a lot of decision making whether understood or implied. I certainly understand the need to provide a return for investors and reward to those that deliver it. However, there does seem over the years to have been a disproportionate distribution of wealth within the music industry with the total bias towards the main music companies alongside now the principal marketplace, a.k.a the streaming platforms from Spotify, Youtube et al. The artist often seems to be at the bottom of that list.
It is also clear that, again as with society in general, there are significant barriers to overcome for the artists from more challenging backgrounds. After over 40 years of working with new and emerging artists, I can tell you one thing, that there is a depressing sense of entitlement sometimes exhibited among some of the new talent coming from what has been a largely white middle class privileged backgrounds. I should know, that is my background. Takes one to know one so to speak. For so many from less privileged backgrounds the music industry remains largely inaccessible
At this point I am sure someone is going to say how about the likes of Rihanna who this week was reported to be a billionaire. Surely this proves the artists are getting their just rewards? Umm. Well they are few and far between that do and you have more chance of counting the grains of sand on Bournemouth beach as getting to that level of success. It does raise a key point though and back to those channels in the bedrooms of the poor. My interpretation of this is simple. Look at the level of almost venal wealth the music company can generate with that one star in a million that they might become. The price and the risk, if this is what you seek, is that you need to sign up to a deal that is so one sided that it will be many many years before you are even ever out of debt. Nevertheless, this can be particularly alluring to those that have the least. The gap between the dream offered and reality is extreme and the risk to their future often goes unrecognised.
Once again we can say that the system is broken and needs changing but it will need more than stating the obvious to get real change in deal structures, financial balance in commercial terms and ultimately a focus on sharing revenues (equitably) and not rights. Rights belong to the artist.
It is an enormous pleasure and privilege for all of us at SHOUT4 to have become an Associate partner to the Power Up campaign in conjunction with the PRS Foundation. The challenges I have referred to are none greater than with those facing new talent among Black artists and Black music professionals. The level of creativity and energy coming from this community is compelling. But, but, it needs real solid support to mature and grow into the power that it is already demonstrating. We are delighted to be able to give free access to our platform to the Year 1 Participants and to be on hand to provide support and advice. I personally can not wait to see how these participants take hold of our much loved RevShare model and platform and start making the type of deals that will both protect and reward in a proportionate manner as they grow their careers.
Our commitment to education is total. We firmly believe that together with the artists and professionals of the future we can allow the SHOUT4 RevShare model to be moulded within a much needed revolution on how we should collectively do business together in music.
It is probably time for me to let you have the whole of that verse. I have a soft spot for the artists who come from a poetry background as with Cohen, Kae Tempest and the genius that is George The Poet. They nail it effortlessly
“Now, you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor
And there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong
You see, you hear these funny voices in the Tower of Song”Songwriters: Leonard Cohen
Tower Of Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Ric has a background in music as an artist, manager, label owner and promoter. He has combined this with a career away from music as CEO within SMEs and PLCs. As the architect of SHOUT4's Revshare model he is a strong advocate for artists retaining rights and providing legal and financial solutions to the DIY market which reflect the way the world is now and not the past.