By Frank Liwall, President and Founder of independent publishing company Royalty Network, and its label Krian Music Group.
I don't believe in devaluing music further. I do know that when an industry is thriving, there's opportunity to invest in and cultivate talent. So the question becomes, can we continue to invest in talent, when challenges like the Internet Radio Fairness Act are thrown in our face? Will there be enough industry leaders who have the creative know how and business sense to continue investing?
As a Music Publisher, what outrages me most is not only the still to come IRFA ruling, but the aggressive approach Pandora has taken in suing ASCAP. I'm quite certain that won't be the end of their vendetta against creativity (unless that creativity involves further enhancements to their program). They'll likely seek a similar filing against other PRO's, or better yet, may look to single out some Major publisher(s) and make an under the table deal which has long term ramifications for the industry and further undercuts the "power of one" which PRO's were set up for. If the IRFA ruling goes in the wrong direction (from my perspective), it will act as yet another stumbling block for an industry that finds it more difficult each day to focus on creativity, since the revenue avenues of exploitation move closer to "free" and carrying the overhead necessary to support our businesses becomes the greatest challenge.
While internet royalties are certainly not carrying our businesses today, and currently only account for a small percentage of our overall income, they did offer a blip of hope when looking at year over year revenue growth. Does anyone see labels investing in more talent today? NO! Are we creating fewer stars of tomorrow? YES! Why? Because when your job (or business) could be on the line with each speculative decision you make, you tend to make far fewer, and there's less money to put behind these new projects or future stars.
Sure, the internet offers "fairness" and a supposedly level playing field, but we operate in business that requires the means necessary to market, promote, and enhance raw talent. Does Pandora want to have a catalog of 40 million songs by artist we've never heard of? Will their advertising rates skyrocket from that? That's what they're headed for. Simply put, we operate in an industry of shrinking margins and with those margins the pool of talent we can invest in also shrinks. We need to know the industry offers us the potential to take those chances on the burgeoning stars that need our input, be it creative or financial. Without it, we're all soon to be dancing and partying to Pandora's "who's that" offerings of tomorrow.