In a recent report issued by Berklee College of Music and ReThink Music, several components of the music industry was dissected to see what problems artists face. One of the main problems was the inaccuracies of royalty payments. After studying the inner-workings of performance rights organizations, collection societies, publishing companies, etc, how money flowed through the “system” was considered a complete mess!

The 29-page report, “Fair Music: Transparency and Money Flows In The Music Industry,” recognizes one major problem which is the lack of technology. The industry’s failure to embrace “new” technologies has caused a foggy overlay to artist music visibility, reach and the money that comes along with that. The analysis reveals that royalty statements is a thing of the past, but somehow are still considered industry standard. It suggests that if royalty statements were digitized, then this could cut back on the confusion and errors.

One particularly illuminating case study focuses on the confusing and error-filled royalty statements provided to a Grammy-nominated band by its label, which arrived in a novella-sized paper binder that the band’s manager had digitized in order to make digestible. “For an artist to try to understand it, it’s a complete mess,” Bargfrede tells Billboard. “If there’s one key takeaway [from the report], it’s this inapplication of technology and data standards that are already out there, that could be adopted and readily used, so artists aren’t getting 120-page paper statements that they don’t understand.” That statement, the report points out, was one of four the band would have received that year.

Another point that stood out in the “Fair Music” report is of how artists being jacked of royalties because of the unorganized distribution system that’s in place.

“Fair Music” also highlights the “black box” of royalties that go unremitted to the artists that are generated through their work. One major cause is the lack of a standardized database for musical works that would make it easy for labels and collection societies to identify who is owed what. “Services and [performance rights organizations] that can’t distinguish a rightful royalty recipient… end up placing this money into escrow accounts and eventually distributing these unattributable monies to labels and publishers based on market share,” the report reads. “Such monies are usually not shared with artists or composers signed to those labels or publishers, since they can’t be attributed to any rightful creator.”

The “Fair Music” report definitely pointed out two issues that plague the collection and payout of artist royalties. Technology is here and there are various programs that could help the industry and performance rights organizations streamline the process and make it more effective. Of course, there will need to be high-tech security measures put in place to protect artists information from being hacked. But, that’s neither here nor there at this point.

To read more about the “Fair Music” report, visit


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