BMI Records Record Revenue… While Whining To DOJ That It Can't Function Under Antitrust Agreement
from the something-doesn't-add-up-here dept
As we’ve been discussing, the two big music collection societies in the US, ASCAP and BMI, are desperately fighting to get the DOJ to alter (or end entirely) the “consent agreement” that they operate under. The consent agreement, in various forms, has been in place for decades, after the DOJ properly recognized that in licensing songwriters’ and publishers’ public performance rights, they had something of a monopoly. And monopolies can be dangerous when abused. Thus the consent decree to keep the organizations in line. However, both are really angry about this, in large part because they believe that without the consent decree, they could create a world in which they could force everyone to have to pay much higher fees (you can see some of how they tried to collude with publishers to jack up rates to Pandora).
So far, the attempt to get rid of the consent decree has not been going well. It has resulted in more investigations into the publishers for collusion for one thing. The DOJ has also apparently realized that the collection society’s treatment of songs with multiple copyright holders may be another anti-trust violation.
And, yet, ASCAP and BMI keep trying to convince everyone that they’re suffering under this “obsolete” consent decree, and they need to have it modified greatly. BMI, in comments to the DOJ, has claimed that it’s suffocating under the current system, which it says is “broken”:
The digital revolution in information processing and communications has completely transformed the way music performances are heard by the public and equally changed the way in which information about music performances is collected and processed. In particular, the rise of Internet streaming as a principal way the public hears performances of music has created market needs that are now not being met because of inefficient and anticompetitive restrictions in the BMI consent decree that serve no sound purpose today.
There is an urgent need for action now. BMI agrees with the Register of Copyrights? recent testimony characterizing music licensing as ?broken,? and certain aspects of the BMI consent decree have contributed to that breakdown. The decree creates rigidities and restrictions in the way BMI must operate that undermine BMI?s efficiency as a resource for both music users and music copyright owners in the digital world. The existing rate court mechanism has proven too slow, too expensive, and too legalistic to keep up with the speed of change in real-world markets today. The need is so dire that, rather than press for comprehensive reform at this point, in these public comments BMI urges the Department to prioritize particular changes that address these immediate needs.
Things must really suck for BMI and all the songwriters who get paid via BMI, right? Oh… wait. BMI has just announced a new record in revenue collection and pay out to artists.
BMI, whose full name is Broadcast Music Inc., collected $1.013 billion for the 12 months that ended in June, up almost 4 percent from the year before. That is slightly more than the $1.001 billion that its competitor Ascap took in last year.
In the number that will be scrutinized most closely by musicians ? royalties ? BMI paid slightly less than its rival. After deducting its operating expenses, BMI distributed $877 million to its thousands of members, including songwriters like Taylor Swift, Nile Rodgers and Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Last year, Ascap paid its members $883 million.
Why is it paying less than ASCAP? BMI doesn’t blame the broken consent decree, but rather “significant legal costs” made up mainly of its lawsuit against Pandora. In other words, something that BMI had control over. The article also notes this little fact:
Since 2005, BMI?s collections have increased about 40 percent.
So, uh, can we hear again about how “dire” the situation is and how BMI can’t function, even as its revenue has grown 40% in the last decade and it’s setting all kinds of new records? Did BMI think the DOJ would just ignore that bit?