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Livestream: the insane brain teaser of rights
June 17, 2020

Livestream: the insane brain teaser of rights

Depending on where you are, lockdown is slowly being waved at different speeds. And this is having a big impact on the music industry. Now that we developed tools and tricks to try and compensate for the losses due to event cancellations and interrupted music releases’ promotion, what will stick, what will disappear as quickly as it came up?

We decided to take a closer look at livestream and potential impacts on our work methods as music labels, record companies and publishers. We will talk about the rights implication, and will go over the future of online performances and music creation during the next few weeks. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your vision!

The current situation: how to deal with livestream?

First off, let’s set the scene. Around the end of March, the main part of the world had to go under a full lockdown to resist the pandemic. On the side of music industry, streaming audiences dropped (find our article Music streaming revenues here), live music shows got cancelled or postponed until next year and no travelling was allowed. So, instinctively, the majority of artists went online to perform or to keep their connection with their communities.

Numbers on livestream took some time to get released, but we’ve got a few new informations about a month ago. All in all, the livestream industry grew 45% between March and April. Livestream platforms originally thought for gaming saw their audiences go higher than ever, the clear winner being Twitch. The category “Music & Performing Arts” went from 92 000 hours of watching on March 8 to 574 000 hours on March 22. The platform has officially grown 101% year over year (representing 1.645 billion hours watched per month). Well, now this might change due to copyrights infringements.

One of the main operations online, hard to miss, was Travis Scott’s concert on Fortnite. I mention this one in particular because the interesting thing about the performance, apart from the great visual effects and size of the audience online, is the fact that they managed to get revenues out of it. Realizing deals and selling related merchandising allowed the team to capitalize on the online event. But, as you already know, this is one case, and it is definitely not enough to replace live revenues.

Music livestream went up on the gaming platform Twitch

Structural issues of the current livestream model

The core issue I’d like to address here is the rights linked to livestream. Let’s save ourselves some time, it’s a huge mess. I will give you one good overview of the situation summed up by the musictech expert Cherie Hu, talking about legal frames of livestream concerts. Being at a crossroads of every type of license with livestream (performance, sync, masters etc.) means specific management and none of the main infrastructures have the means to deal with that kind of complexity.

For now, the livestream economy is (sort of) rising to crazy high numbers, and used by a lot of independent artists on a daily basis. Which means that rights management might still be overlooked in some cases. But bigger artists and their teams at music labels and publishers took the opportunity and used these platforms, meaning licensing is about be absolutely necessary.

Billboard gathered a few testimonies from music professionals about licensing rights on livestream. Between sync, mechanical and streaming licenses, professionals are overwhelmed by the numerous online performances happening every day. Navigating in rights management, including the delay between performances and actual redistribution to rights holders can’t be a reliable short-term solution for artists and their teams.

What do we do about livestream?

A few initiatives have been put in motion to reinvent models in place today. On a French level, SACEM (Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music) announced the payment for online performances. We told you all about it in our Weekly Roundup here. On a European level, the Next Stage Challenge, a virtual hackathon has been put together by several countries to build and accelerate new ways to livestream and compensate live events. Several initiatives are coming up considering the need to find sustainable business models compensating live.

As for performers themselves, a few of them started online shows behind a paywall. The main challenge might just be here (again): reinstate the fact that music is a content that justifies payment. Virtual live experience might just be the thing that will stick after lockdown, now is the time to define a model allowing labels, publishers and artists to develop strategies and performances and live off of their activities.

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