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Record labels and streaming services promise to innovate around artist royalties

Record labels and streaming services promise to innovate around artist royalties


Can a hackathon find a way to modernize the music business?

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The music industry has been ramping up its war of words with streaming services like Spotify and YouTube in recent months, even as those services represent an ever-growing percentage of their revenues. But today the two groups announced a new partnership, the Open Music Initiative (OMI), which will look for ways to modernize the business, simplifying the process of paying out royalties to rights holders.

The OMI is being spearheaded by The Berklee College of Music and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which will provide academic expertise and a neutral facilitator to help the music and tech industries collaborate, despite their often fractious relationship. OMI members will meet in Boston next month for a three-week innovation lab, a hackathon of sorts, to try and brainstorm some new tools.

Lots of lofty promises, few technical details

There aren't many details on exactly what kind of technology the group hopes to develop. Today's press release nodded to open-source software and the ledger systems being revolutionized by the blockchain as possible avenues for updating the business of assigning credit and cash to the publishers, composers, performers, and rights holders who can all share a claim on a single piece of recorded music.

"Unnecessary complexity and outdated processes ultimately cost songwriters and artists money and damage the credibility of the music industry," said Laurent Hubert, BMG's US president of creative and marketing. "We look forward to a really collaborative approach to resolve these issues and commend Berklee for leading the way."

Transparency around payments to artists

"We think transparency across the entire music economy is essential to rewarding artists, songwriters and everyone involved in the creation of music fairly and rapidly," said Spotify's global head of communications, Jonathan Price. "We’re really happy to be part of an effort that is exploring innovative ways to do that with new technologies."