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Jessica Toyne

David Balfour began his career at Virgin Records in the late 90's, working on international marketing campaigns for acts including the Spice Girls, Daft Punk and Massive Attack. Moving into journalism, he wrote for titles such as Music Week and Music Business International, before helping start the UK-based music industry publication Record of the Day, for which he still writes a music industry analysis column. In his day job he works with indie labels and digital services as Head of Content Distribution for the Hamburg-based distribution and label services company finetunes, whilst also always keeping a keen journalistic eye on interesting developments in the wider music business.

Online video space is one of the most dynamic and potentially valuable sectors

With the online video space evolving rapidly, the SoundVault Community can be glad of the certainty the platform provides.

The online video space is one of the most dynamic and potentially valuable sectors for video producers and music creators using SoundVault. Could recent developments be threatening the viability of the ecosystem as we know it? How can SoundVault’s users protect their future interests in this space?

For both video producers and music creators, online services such as YouTube, Dailymotion, Vessel, Vimeo, provide access to huge potential audiences and also deliver significant opportunities to generate revenue. Whilst the mass-market online video space is only a decade old, services such as YouTube are now operating a well-developed business model which delivers tangible value to millions.

YouTube’s massive audience empowers Google to sell advertising around videos, whilst individual users keep to YouTube as a tried and tested destination for enjoying a wide variety of content. As a general rule, viewers are accepting of advertising on YouTube, understanding that it's the necessary oil which keeps such an enormous free-to-access platform viable.

The fact that viewers are mostly content to use video platforms which feature advertising means that in turn creators can get paid for the use of their work on these services. Whilst the business models of other online video services may differ from YouTube, it’s overwhelmingly a sector which runs on the premise that large numbers of viewers can generate advertising spend, which leads to rewards for creators and platforms alike. It’s by no means a perfect ecosystem, but it works reasonably well and creators have increasingly benefited from the space as it has matured.

Such has been the success of YouTube, in particular, that not only do many creators regularly get paid from the use of their works on the platform, others have even formed entire businesses around it. Music creators can benefit when video producers use their work – either by directly licensing their music to producers, or even when 'unlicensed' use of their recordings and songs takes place: thanks to YouTube's ContentID systems which scans for uses of music and matches it against monetisable source files from copyright owners.

The largely positive recent development of the online video space is now arguably under threat however from a new and very powerful player in the online video space: Facebook. Over the last year, Facebook has made an emphatic move towards putting video at the heart of its service, and ripples are being felt throughout the sector.

Whilst Facebook has always enabled users to share content from other platforms such as YouTube, it now puts great emphasis behind its own 'native' video content, encouraging users to upload direct, rather than share or embed content from other platforms. Furthermore, native content is routinely surfaced in Facebook's fickle newsfeed, much more prominently and reliably than content shared from other platforms.

The arrival of a major new video platform would arguably be no bad thing, if Facebook was simply extending the market as we know it. Facebook's current approach to video content is causing considerable concern for many creators however, for a number of reasons. For one, it's estimated that as much as three quarters of 'native' video content on Facebook has been ripped from another service before uploading, a practice which has come to be known as 'freebooting'. This is not being done by Facebook itself, but by page owners, websites and aggregators who 'borrow' content from own sources to drive their own traffic numbers.

Furthermore, the algorithmic preference towards native content means that 'legitimate' embedded content is far less likely to be viewed than native 'freebooted' content. This is sucking potential audiences away from rival platforms as users increasingly engage with videos on Facebook. Added to that, Facebook is counting a view when only three seconds of video is played, even with the sound turned off. This is enabling the company to claim some truly massive video audience figures, which are in turn impressing advertisers about the power of the platform and sucking advertising spend away from other sites. To make things worse for video content creators, they are unable to actively search for freebooted content on Facebook and, when they do manage to detect infringing content, are forced to file a copyright takedown notice which might take days for Facebook to process.

One might argue that being able to access Facebook's immense audience is great publicity for creators. But, the resulting loss of revenue from other platforms, combined with the impossibility of developing or monetising an audience which is viewing your content via other people's profiles, is leading to little short of panic for many creators. For a detailed view of the creator's concerns, we recommend you read this excellent blog by Hank Green on Medium.

Should SoundVault users be concerned about the impact of Facebook on the online video space? It's fair to say that everyone with an interest in this business sector should be concerned. There's a pretty wide consensus emerging that Facebook needs to change its policies to better support creators. The company is apparently already working on a video partnership strategy, which may lead to significant improvements for creators in coming months. If it doesn't do more to crack down on freebooting, perhaps via the use of a YouTube style ContentIS system, the chorus of complaints will only increase. The current situation status quo can certainly impact very negatively on creators reliant on income from YouTube, in particular.

For music creators, the licensing framework offered by SoundVault does however provide some peace of mind. Having fixed-priced licensing structures set through SoundVault enables creators to maintain certainty about how their content will be valued, regardless of pressures or shifts in the wider space. Whilst the pricing of music on SoundVault will always need to fit with market demands, it is carefully structured in order to meet the needs of both creators and producers. As such, creators who license their music via SoundVault find themselves in one of the most predictable and risk-free sectors of the market.

Whatever concerns might exist around the development of the wider space, those who use SoundVault to source, or to supply music can benefit from the knowledge that they're using a platform which offers certainty in an otherwise complex and shifting world.

Seasonal Opportunities

Advertising around seasonal and sporting events provides a wealth of opportunities for music syncs. David Balfour looks at how SoundVault users can spot opportunities, and use the platform’s unique tools to maximise their appeal to advertisers.

The advertising and sporting worlds thrive on seasonal events around which they can focus people's attention. These events also provide create great demand for fitting syncs, and great opportunities for those who can provide the right music at the right time.

In the world of advertising, nothing is bigger than Christmas: an event which starts to build around early September before starting to peak some time in November and running through to the end of the year. We're all familiar with the high profile of music in Christmas TV ads. The John Lewis Christmas advertising campaigns in the UK have become seasonal events in their own right, with music absolutely key to their impact. Other major brands have also recognised the importance of music for providing a warm glow to their seasonal message.

Whilst the music for 2015's major TV ad campaigns might certainly already be in place, it's worth thinking about how SoundVault members can spot similar major upcoming events and plan to benefit from them. Christmas is just the beginning – Valentine's Day, Easter, Summer holiday season and Halloween are all important seasonal events for people – and marketing opportunities for advertisers and other brands, who love a 'tentpole event' around which they can focus attention on their products over a period of time.

Sporting events also provide huge demand for music to be synchronised. In any given year there are major annual events such as the Super Bowl, the football season, the pro tennis circuit and many more, which create demand for syncs not just around footage of the events themselves, but in the huge amount of advertising – both on television and online - that is created around them. Added to these annual opportunities are those massive periodic events such as the Olympics, World Cups and in 2016, the UEFA Euro 2016 competition.

How can SoundVault users hope to make the best of these opportunities for showcasing their music? It's true to say that only major TV campaigns typically tend to favour 'off the shelf' music from established artists and record companies. The chances of landing one of these big campaigns are helped no end by the work of publishers, sync agents and managers who have close contact with interested parties. This certainly doesn't mean however that there aren't valuable opportunities existing here for SoundVault users – both in the arena of production music and in terms of finished commercial music when there are thousands of production and marketing agencies looking for quality and competitive pricing, especially for online advertising.

Advertisers frequently find themselves targeting major artists for a campaign and then getting a nasty shock when they receive a costing from the rightsholder involved. Those planning major national or global media campaigns might decide that those costs are warranted. For those operating at any other level however, the cost of licensing an artist such as Ed Sheeran or Calvin Harris, for example, is often likely to be too high in the context of their overall budget.

It's quite a common scenario for advertisers to realise that they can't afford the song they had originally targeted for their campaign. With much of their creative work already in place however, the often look for music in a similar style to the track which they had first targeted. When this happens, they frequently turn to resources such as SoundVault, and the SoundVault platform is designed for making the most of these kinds of opportunities.

The functionalities within the SoundVault platform provide creators with opportunities to tag and describe their music in a really detailed way. Whilst pre-described genre groups form the basis of this, users can also add a great depth of an additional metadata which can help connect them to potential clients. Users may wish to add seasonal tags to music that's particularly fitting to winter, or summer, Christmas or Spring break for example. Music which is well-suited to sport footage can be similarly tagged in various ways.

Taking this process one stage further, creators can tag music which fits a style commonly used by advertisers. It's no secret for example, that UK advertisers currently favour acoustic-type music with a delicate vocal for many campaigns – Soundvault users can tag fitting music accordingly. Another tool which SoundVault users have at their disposal is the ability to tag music which is similar in style or influenced by music genres and other artists. This is by no means intended as a route to 'passing off' music as another's work, but it’s a valuable way to connect the dots of similar styles and help advertisers find tracks which are exactly fitting to the creative briefs.

It’s useful for SoundVault users targeting the ad markets to gain an impression of what kind of music is currently en vogue with advertisers. Online resources such as TV Ad Music and TV Advert Songs are helpful for this. Additionally, SoundVault users would be well advised to spend time on YouTube, DailyMotion and other similar platforms to gain an understanding of the types of music which are being synced there.

Whilst the high profile TV ad will always perhaps be the most-prized sync, there is a wealth of opportunities at other levels of the market. The online platforms in particular have often proved troublesome for creators who wish to sync a given song for their video, and then become mired in a complex copyright framework which often requires approval from – and payment to – multiple parties.

The availability of pre-cleared tracks on SoundVault is where creators can be certain that the tracks they find never have a troublesome copyright ownership situation. With the wealth of tags, keywords and metadata also available to put music into detailed contexts, SoundVault represents a really powerful and appealing tool in this space.

When top academics call for greater transparency in music licensing, SoundVault and its users have reasons to be cheerful.

The esteemed Berklee College of Music's Rethink Music's recently released a groundbreaking report entitled Fair Music: Transparency and Payment Flows in the Music Industry.

This report is the result of a detailed year-long study into the contemporary music industry, one which takes both a wide and thorough view on the realities of the modern business. Focusing primarily on copyrights and how they are managed and monetised, the report provides a fascinating snapshot of the systems which artists, writers, record companies, publishers and collecting societies find themselves working under in 2015.

It will come as little surprise to those already familiar with music industry licensing practices that the report discovered a fragmented, inefficient and sometimes barely-transparent licensing framework. The report pointed to an industry which it felt is generally lagging far behind what would be hoped in a modern digital business landscape. It found that the rights themselves are hugely fragmented: performance, mechanical, sound recording, publishing and synchronisation rights often falling into different silos, each of which often need to be licensed individually. The report correctly recognised that this fragmented licensing scenario is the rather unavoidable result of how the industry has developed over time. Rethink Music also pointed however towards a number of systemic failures which make the management of those rights far more complex and difficult than it ought to be.

Rethink Music suggested that whilst the licensing framework is inherently challenging, the systems built around it often makes things worse, both for creators of music and those who want to license it. The lack of a centralised rights database was perhaps the No 1 complaint of the report. How can it be right, the authors suggested, that those who wish to license music cannot access any central database of who owns what? Any one with experience of trying to license music will recognise this situation – yet to those from outside of the music industry it often appears utterly incomprehensible that such a system should persist. As well as bemoaning the lack of effective databases of sound recordings and songs, Rethink Music suggested that even where blanket licensing solutions are available – via collection societies – these structures can also be inefficient and untransparent. For those seeking to license music, the established compulsory licensing model is becoming more and more fragmented, with key bundles of rights increasingly being withdrawn from the societies. None of which make the paths for acquiring suitable music quickly and efficiently easy – even for those who want to pay for music use.

Whilst the licensing structures of the music industry undoubtedly pose challenges for those seeking to clear music, the report found that they also leave a lot to be desired for the actual creators too. Rethink Music found that creators are also confronted by complex, inefficient systems and sometimes deliberate untransparency, all of which means that money which they should be receiving for the use of their works fails to reach them. Larger record companies came in for a fair amount of criticism here, especially those which use analogue reporting techniques in a digital age. Statutory licensing frameworks were also found to be wanting. The report commened that legislative requirements for statutory licensing often fall far below the standards required for a modern digital market – when US broadcasters, for example, are not routintely required to report music used with crucial data such as unique reference codes. Systemic failures like this result in large amounts of unattributable income which never reaches creators. Furthermore, the report complained that reciprocal agreements between collecting societies can result in further lost income, or a repeated shaving of administrative costs from the amounts which could, in theory, be returned direct to creators.

ReThink Music's report wasn't wholly pessimistic about the future of the industry however. The Berklee academics found that most of the systemic problems they pointed to could in theory be improved via the intelligent application of new technologies. For SoundVault, this finding was music to our ears. Designing technology to create better systems for music licensing is what our mission is all about. SoundVault offers true transparency both for those seeking to license and for creators themselves, offering a genuine solution to some of the problems highlighted above. When esteemed academics call for the creation of systems like the one we've built and continue to develope, it further strengthens our enthusiasm and determination for SoundVault. We won't pretend that we're offering a cure-all for the diverse and complex problems facing the music industry. Hopefully however, SuondVault can offer technology solutions which connect all the key players in the music rights flow, as well as ensuring that they are paid with complete fairness and transparency.

Are writers and composers getting a fair share of the emerging digital music business? Technology offers many challenges, but thankfully it can also deliver solutions.

There's a growing feeling of discontent amongst writers and composers about the balance of value that they feel they’re receiving in the fast-developing, digital music business.

Royalty shares received by writers and publishers have traditionally been clearly defined – at least in terms of what they can expect to receive from record sales or radio and TV plays. With many of those rates being mostly set at statutory levels by collecting societies, the amounts that writers and composers would receive from defined usage types were, if not ideal, at least predictable.

As the digital music industry has taken off however, many composers and writers feel that the balance of payments is heading in a bad direction. With record companies leading the charge on licensing new digital services such as iTunes, YouTube or Spotify, as examples, if often feels like the clearing of publishing rights is something of an add-on, something to be thought of after the 'main' recorded music rights have been cleared. Meanwhile, digital services like the dominant US digital radio platform Pandora have further fought to reduce the amount of money they are obliged to pay writers, and have been prepared to engage in lengthy court battles in order to try and minimise the royalties to be paid out.

Those who work in production music and sync may have felt somewhat insulated from such commercial pressures to date, but the likelihood is that they too will feel the pinch of these wider commercial tensions. On the plus side, direct deals with music supervisors and producers outside of blanket licensing frameworks thankfully mean that those offering up music for sync manage to retain a decent amount of transparency and control over the value of their music when it is used. Similarly, blanket licenses held by UK broadcasters in particular, have meant that costs for television and radio producers have been largely predictable, and values are not subject to intense negotiation in these media.

As digital media rise in prominence however, traditional licensing frameworks are becoming ever-less less distinct. Important new platforms such as YouTube have logically sought to negotiate down their payment obligations whenever possible. The collecting societies which have been placed in the position of negotiating with these big tech companies have, many feel, have sometimes been too quick to strike deals with these new platforms at the expense of waiting to engage in a proper defence of the value of the music rights in the new digital environment.

Any time that a composer of music for synchronisation is lucky enough to produce something which crosses over to become a hit in its own right, they then come directly into contact with the arguably more difficult conditions of the wider digital music markets. If their track takes flight on digital retail platforms, or on internet radio, they too will feel the pinch of a situation where so many parties in the value chain: record companies, tech companies and publishers– all want to extract maximum value for their own bottom lines. Many feel that the labels in particular are taking far too much of this revenue pie. If however, writers and publishers are to be granted a larger share, that share has to come from somewhere – and most tech companies seem determined to assert they cannot be the ones to pay more. This could lead to increasing tensions between record companies and publishers, as intense scrutiny gets placed on the value that each brings to the creation and success of music.

The feeling amongst the writer and publisher community is often that they're not being landed with a fair deal. Thankfully however, new platforms such as SoundVault are re-introducing transparency and direct control into music licensing. Whilst technology can often feel like a threat for those who on the more creative side of the business, tech can also act as a genuine tool of empowerment for creators too. By providing a clearly priced, licensing structure, with guaranteed available music rights and assets, SoundVault is able to remove a lot of pain and uncertainty from the digital supply chain – both for media producers and for the creators themselves. In a world where the legacy licensing frameworks for music rights increasingly look anachronistic and sometimes even unfit for purpose, technology can bring back significant transparency and control to the creators of music.

The rapid growth of online video services brings a wealth of opportunities for music syncs and a growing need for pre-licensed content.

Long gone are the days when sync opportunities existed principally in film and TV. The growth and proliferation of web video services in recent years has provided a plethora of new avenues for showcasing production and commercial music. Never before has it been so easy to create or access platforms for syncing music online. Increasingly, these services are also coming to offer significant revenue-making opportunities too.

YouTube has made most of the running to date. The Google-owned platform has developed from its early days where it acted as a home for funny cat videos and questionable uploads of copyrighted material. Whilst both topics still exist on the platform, YouTube's introduction of its ‘ContentID’ technology, which scans for copyright-infringing material on behalf of rightsholders, has meant that the amount of unauthorised uploads has been massively reduced. Furthermore ContentID means that only licensed music can now generally be used on YouTube.

YouTube has also worked hard to develop its relationship with Creators, who make original content specifically for the platform. It is these channels and Creators who now enjoy the lion's share of YouTube views and revenues. As original content as developed, a combination of licensing deals with sound recording owners and with many publishers and collecting societies, has also meant that YouTube increasingly pays out significant royalties for the use of music and songs within original content. Whilst user generated content (UGC) generates significant money for music creators, the greatest opportunities are in active and bespoke licensing of tracks by successful channels and brands operating on the network.

Whilst YouTube has paved the way in developing the infrastructure for online video, its place as undisputed king of the medium is coming increasingly under threat. Many YouTube Creators have come to feel that Google was taking too big a cut of the advertising generated around their content, and have sought to find alternative potential outlets. Capitalising on that desire is new service Vessel, created by members of the team behind the online video service Hulu. Whilst Hulu has focused on webscasting content from big traditional broadcasters, Vessel has its eyes set on the YouTube Creators who were making it known that they'd be happy to see some competition for the Google-owned platform. Vessel is describing itself as the “first window for the web” and is tempting creators with promises of dramatically-improved revenue shares as compared to Google. How so? The differentiator is the fact that Vessel hosts content from its creators on an exclusive basis for 72 hours, helping boost a $2.99 cost to consumer subscription service which should, in theory, provide a much more powerful revenue generator than YouTube's strictly ad-funded model.

It's early days for Vessel, though the company has completed two significant funding rounds, as well as installing an executive team with considerable experience in the online video space. Vessel certainly looks set to create a strong new brand in online video, and Universal Music significantly recently signed a deal with the service. It seems likely that Vessel will provide some lucrative new revenue streams for online video, with hopefully significant revenue for the creators and owners of the music rights used on the platform.

YouTube is reacting to Vessel's growth by promising top creators better revenue splits in future. It has also tipped a possible subscription tier, though details about this – how much it would charge or what content would be held within it - are currently thin on the ground. It's important to realise however that the current growth of video platforms is anything but a two horse race. Dailymotion is another UGC platform which is based in France, and whilst it may not enjoy the same kind of UK or US profile as YouTube, is nevertheless a very significant hoster and distributor of on-demand video online. There are plenty of other interesting platforms out there: the Amazon-owned – which is focused on gaming – regularly attracts huge online audiences, whilst other sites such as Vimeo and Genero both do interesting work in linking video creators and music producers in a more curated-feeling space where image and music quality is a clear priority.

The enormous growth of UGC video platforms has led many new and inexperienced creators to try out uploading videos online. One aspect of this which has proved frustrating for many of them however, is the process of finding and getting rights for music to use against their video footage. Lack of knowledge over licensing frameworks has led to creators believing they can use any music they own a copy of, leading to frequent takedowns of uploaded videos, copyright strikes against users accounts and in the worst case scenario even legal action.

Providing pre-cleared music for online video creators has become both an urgently-needed service for creators, as well as a great opportunity for those in the production music space. There is a growing trend for services such as YouTube or Vimeo, to offer libraries of pre-cleared music content on both a free and paid basis. Such libraries offer absolute clarity for creators about what they are allowed to do with it. Part of the growing appeal of production libraries like SoundVault is certainty that the music is pre-cleared for use. As the number and importance of these video platforms grows, so does the need for video Creators to find and license music to sync with their images.

Some further developments worth watching out for: Facebook is now one of the most significant providers of videos online. Videos which are uploaded direct to Facebook (rather than being linked from other sources like YouTube) are now averaging more than 3bn views a day. Whilst the monetisation framework for Facebook videos remains undeveloped, it's likely significant opportunities will develop. Also last week, audio streaming Spotify started dropping hints that it also plans to enter the video space very soon. Details on this launch are scarce, but it does seem like a serious bid by Spotify to increase the appeal of its largely mobile-focused service by offering new video-based elements to users.

One thing's certain: as the pace of development in the online video space increases, opportunities for sound creators are also growing at a pace.

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the SoundVault blog

As SoundVault grows its community of composers and media producers, we're excited to be be joining you all on the journey with a regular blog which aims to reflect and enhance that community, as well as providing useful real-world insights. We'll be taking a look at developments and news which are relevant to composers and media producers, and hopefully informing, stimulating ideas and perhaps a little debate too.

There could hardly be a more interesting time to be involved with music and media. Our core interest here is of course production music and the world around it, but the reality of being a producer or musician in 2015 is that we must always take the widest view possible – looking beyond our more comfortable niches to a fast-changing and disruptive media landscape.

Digital change and opportunities continue to blow apart the old ways of doing things. Often the focus around digital is negative – we're all aware of the damage done to the music industry by digital piracy – and the challenges posed to media companies by user-generated content, easy sharing and declining physical.

There's no doubt however that digital change can also however be an empowering force for good. We believe that SoundVault is one of those powerful examples of a business where technology can support and nurture the creation process, rather than undermining it. This is true both for music creators who supply their works to SoundVault and for the film, television, game and other producers seeking music which will perfectly match their own creative works. SoundVault is an example where digital innovation can provide not just a new platform and commercial marketplace, but hopefully a new community and spirit of transparency and co-operation too.

In the 20 years that I've personally been involved with and writing about the music and media industries, I've seen a large amount of fundamental and disruptive change. Whilst many things in these media industries have been completely blown apart, certain other things things have never shifted – most especially the desire that people have to hear great music which reflects their emotions and soundtrack their daily lives. Whilst the technology and business framework may shift, the emotional connection to music remains constant, human and powerful.

We're hoping in this blog to reflect and investigate the diverse world which exists around composers and music producers. This will lead us to analyse developments from new video platforms like Vessel, Dailymotion, Twitch and YouTube. As these platforms continue both to disrupt old models and provide new opportunities – we'll be looking at the opportunities and possible threats they bring to our community.

We'll certainly be diving into the complex world of music publishing here. Whilst SoundVault applies a transparent and easy-to-understand approach to the way in which it values music rights, the same can't be said of other sectors of the industry. The world of music publishers and performing rights societies is one which directly impacts on composers and producers in many ways – it's also a world which is facing some deep, fundamental and impending change. As technology continues to bring more transparency, so emerges an increasing urgent tug of war between producers such as record companies, and other copyright owners such as composers and music publishers. Underlying this tug of war is a battle for a share of the inherent value in music rights, a battle which is extremely relevant to the SoundVault community.

As we seek to support SoundVault users in your daily work, we'll also be talking to key people and bring their ideas to this blog. We'll bring you interviews with composers, music supervisors and curators from the world of TV and film, advertising games and beyond. We'll be trying to get a feel for what works in certain creative contexts and to provide case studies of those beautiful examples where placing the right music in the right place has led to a virtuous circle for all involved. We'll be checking news and developments from the big global music and media conferences, as well as keeping an eye on opportunities created around events like the Rio Olympics, or seasonal events such as Halloween and Christmas. And we'll be keeping an eye on the hardware, software and post production worlds too, there's going to be plenty to talk about.

We're excited to be joining SoundVault and its wider community. We hope to that you will enjoy and benefit from reading our blog. We're always open to ideas for features or analysis – feel free to reach out to us if you feel there's a subject we should cover here.