Where’s my split?

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.

Not sure my colleagues heard this correctly. 

To some, it does sound more like where’s my spliff? I would hasten to add that none has ever or will ever pass my lips. Although mistaken in the first week of University for someone who might have a supply due only to the fact that I had the longest hair and biggest beard, I am talking today about splits!

Already part of common parlance with producers and songwriters, the term ‘splits’ is a useful one as it indicates that there is an agreement to share on potential revenues. Writing a song is often a collaborative process. It is hard sometimes to determine how the pie is cut up when a song is created. If you add to that the concept of a professional meritocracy which demands a weighted payment to more established writers, it can be complicated. The same applies to co-producers working on material.

The question is should this process be the primary mechanism for all revenue sharing? Certainly, it seems to work with the new generation of distributors like distrokid which allows the artists to share out the revenues as splits. I know of artists who have no other involvement with the traditional parts of the music industry who simply rely on this to manage their entire digital world

Ownership is key, so you have to be sure who does actually have the right to say, “this is mine/ours/theirs” to start off the process. If copyright is jointly held then the splits agreed are on the basis of negotiation. 

It is perhaps timely that as I write this piece, the parliamentary report on the inequitable distribution of revenues from streaming platforms and the unhealthy dominance of the major labels are released. Can do no better than to give you a quote from the chair of the DCMS committee, Julian Knight :

“While streaming has brought significant profits to the recorded music industry, the talent behind it – performers, songwriters, and composers – are losing out.

“Only a complete reset of streaming that enshrines in law their rights to a fair share of the earnings will do.

“However, the issues we’ve examined reflect much deeper and more fundamental problems within the structuring of the recorded music industry itself.”

Ain’t that the case?

So let’s start where I think this should finish.  Creator(s) of the content should retain their copyright and look to agree on splits with those that work with them to develop and sell this content. Do this – and we are well on the way to securing the first part of the solution i.e. protecting the artist with the security of ownership and then having the ability to secure a more equitable return with those who work with them.  A ‘RevShare’ deal will set out these splits to determine quantum and period. Long-term agreements should be a thing of the past. 

The second part, getting a better deal from the DSPs, should be less tricky if in effect they have to agree on a relationship with the artists on their share of revenue generated through their platforms. Rather than a cosy up with the 3 major labels, there will need to be a clearer definition as to what the artist – as rights holder – is entitled to, every time their music is streamed. I recognise that actually this is not so easy and the weighted payment system that seems to favour global artists over new talent is not simple to unpick. However, we must try to.

The loss of live music for such a long period has robbed many acts not only of money but also a platform to promote their talent leaving the streaming platforms as the primary marketing tool.

So back to the question of splits. A good term and feels as though it fits the new generation of artists who often eschew traditional parts of our industry. Arguably the day of the record label as we knew it is over and we are in a more service culture. That service culture is to support artists develop a sustainable career and taking a SHOUT4 RevShare deal by example can easily determine the splits payable to the team that make it happen. (BTW you can also offer splits on a wider catalogue if that helps sweeten the incentive to radically reduce upfront costs. Many ways to cut a cake)

Incidentally, RevShare deals can include those who provide label services to the artist. Shock horror, don’t labels have value beyond being listed as label services? Well where there may have been value in a label’s name/brand, there is little evidence that this matters at all now. A fan on TikTok has no interest in the label’s name, only the artist they like. 
So we will return to this next time when we consider the possible demise of the record label. For the moment, channelling my inner Mike Oldfield. ‘‘To France.” A bientot

Ric Yerbury

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.

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