Embracing the digital world

Nowadays, music is everywhere. Think about it: ten years ago, listening to your favourite band or discovering new music was a costly – and therefore exceptional – exercise for some music lovers.

Now, thanks to online services like iTunes and Spotify, buying CDs in shops is for many of us a thing of the past – and our lives are filled with endless possibilities to access the music we love in the comfort of our own homes, at a fraction of the erstwhile cost.

Few people would dispute that we’re on to a good thing today. But where does this (r)evolution  leave musicians  – should they be left to pick up the shortfall of the flailing CD market?

Of course not.

The answer is it’s not an either/or debate: widespread access to music can exist alongside the fair remuneration of authors.  As the world gets ever-more digital, collective rights management by author societies will have an increasingly important role, ensuring balance between modernisation and the protection of creators’ livelihoods.

The recent financial update by PRS for Music – the organisation representing some 85, 000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK – bears witness to this.  There’s been a 45.3% rise in royalties collected from licensed digital services since 2010, showing that author societies are keeping up with, and adapting to, market changes and – most importantly – that the digital revolution isn’t causing artists to miss out on money owed to them.

These results echo a broader study carried out by CISAC – the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – which revealed that collections from the digital sector rose some 22% in 2010. CISAC represents 232 author societies from 121 countries.

And the good news doesn’t end there.

As the Internet merges the geographical boundaries of musicians’ fan bases, international acclaim and recognition become the norm. The PRS survey confirms that authors’ societies are sensitive to this and have adapted to the change: royalties collected from the use of UK music overseas rose 10.6% in 2011, now representing the largest source of revenue for UK- based creators. This also shows the strength of coordination and cooperation between collecting societies in different countries.

For Olivier Hinnewinkel, CISAC Director General, the overall rise of royalty collections across countries year-on-year – be it from online, broadcast, live and public performance or use abroad – demonstrates the growing importance of the work they do in the modern world:

‘Here is the proof that collective management is the solution for today and tomorrow, generating wealth for creators while withstanding economic changes and supporting digital music markets.’

Across the world, the way we enjoy music is changing. Authors’ societies are adapting to make sure the musicians who create it derive as much benefit as we do.