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?

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Companies: ascap, bmi

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Comments on “BMI Records Record Revenue… While Whining To DOJ That It Can't Function Under Antitrust Agreement”

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47 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

"revenue has grown 40% in the last decade" -- This is again your characteristic dimensionless number. How much more has listening to BMI products increased?

And don’t give credit to “teh internets” merely for mechanics of carrying the content, another of your dodges.

Besides that, the increase yet again proves that you pirates are simply wrong about the demise of the “dinosaur” business model. When copyright is vigorously defended, it works fine. Just quit stealing pay the pittance to support the system which works fine despite attacks from the daily anomalies here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "revenue has grown 40% in the last decade" -- This is again your characteristic dimensionless number. How much more has listening to BMI products increased?

No, stealing copyright is what the record companies do (multi-license deals etc.) You’re possibly thinking of unauthorized duplication of items under copyright protection.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "revenue has grown 40% in the last decade" -- This is again your characteristic dimensionless number. How much more has listening to BMI products increased?

Under its ToS, the NY Times states that users hand over the copyright of anything they post to the paper and waive their moral rights (which exist in written works in Europe). What part of that isn’t stealing copyrights when no consideration is offered in return?
You’re possibly thinking of unauthorized duplication of items under copyright protection.
No, I think of that when I hear/read the term ‘copyright infringement’.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: "revenue has grown 40% in the last decade" -- This is again your characteristic dimensionless number. How much more has listening to BMI products increased?

daily anomalies

Anomaly: n, 1. Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected. synonyms: oddity, peculiarity, abnormality, irregularity, inconsistency, incongruity, aberration, quirk, rarity.

If something happens on a daily basis, it cannot be considered an anomaly.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "revenue has grown 40% in the last decade" -- This is again your characteristic dimensionless number. How much more has listening to BMI products increased?

No, I think the point is that being forced to adapt and work with businesses like Pandora and other services that make things easier, more convenient, and more affordable for users to obtain what they want is very sustainable despite BMI’s claims to the contrary. They complained that being forced into the future, that new technologies, would destroy them. They claimed that giving people what they want in a form that’s more convenient and affordable will destroy them. It didn’t. If anything it was those that innovated around them that helped sustain them. If only BMI didn’t waste so much fighting against Pandora they could have given more money to artists. But, instead, they chose to put their own private interests over that of the artists they are supposed to be helping, as expected.

Anonymous Coward says:

Something to celebrate:

Digital Rights Withdrawal: Allow publishers to give BMI the right to license works for certain uses, while permitting publishers to retain the exclusive right to license works for other defined, digital uses. This will enable BMI to offer easy, efficient access to our wide-ranging repertoire for many traditional music uses, while allowing publishers and music users the opportunity to negotiate their own free-market digital deals.

How can this be a bad thing Mike. Instead of suing band camp like the PRS, BMI wants to allow songwriters to manage their rights themselves where they can. This needs to be applauded, not skipped over.

Always only the bad half of a story at Techdirt.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Something to celebrate:

How can this be a bad thing Mike. Instead of suing band camp like the PRS, BMI wants to allow songwriters to manage their rights themselves where they can. This needs to be applauded, not skipped over.

Except, we saw how that worked in practice. It wasn’t a “free-market” situation, it created a collusion deal where the publishers and the PROs colluded to drive up prices through a fake negotiation:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140323/07554026662/judge-highlights-bogus-collusion-ascap-publishers-rejecting-their-attempt-to-jack-up-pandoras-rates.shtml

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140209/01061226149/details-come-out-about-how-ascap-colluded-with-labels-to-screw-pandora.shtml

The idea that this is a free market solution involving managing their own rights is a bullshit cover story to try to create uncertainty in the market and drive up prices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Something to celebrate:

I’d rather be left alone as a musician to manage my own band camp/ soundcloud page than have my collection agency taking money it should be paying me to sue someone to take a cut of the money I make all by myself on band camp and then not give me it.

One problem with collection agencies is they won’t be held accountable in the digital age. They collect public performance fees from cafes but won’t take their playlists so the money collected from that cafe goes to the artists whose music was played under that licence. If PRS wins it’s lawsuit this is what will happen with soundcloud/bandcamp, quantifiable royalties will instead go into a pool and get given to Taylor Swift, small artists will have to pay a cut to royalties they won’t get back (much like the live performance fee in the US).

BMI want’s to be able to give artists the chance to manage this own their own, as they see fit.

You’re looking at a different agency, and a negotiation that’s been done. I don’t see how it relates.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Something to celebrate:

“BMI want’s to be able to give artists the chance to manage this own their own, as they see fit.”

No, they want to be able to collude on prices. and copy protection laws shouldn’t be about the ‘artists’ they should be about the ‘public’. Allowing for such collusion is harmful for the public. The very point of anti-trust laws is to prevent increased prices due to collusion. Sure, this may harm ‘artists’ (or publishers and copy protection holders) but the point of anti-trust laws is to ensure a more competitive market so the public benefits. Yes, in a sense that is a government distortion into a free market but, lets not forget, this government distortion is required because of another government distortion (copy protection laws). The least we can do is to minimize the negative social impact of those copy protection laws.

Anti-trust laws are exactly designed to prevent companies from operating ‘as they see fit’ (ie: collude and increase prices). This maybe bad for the company but it’s good for the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Something to celebrate:

“How can this be a bad thing Mike. Instead of suing band camp like the PRS, BMI wants to allow songwriters to manage their rights themselves where they can. This needs to be applauded, not skipped over.

Always only the bad half of a story at Techdirt.”

Again, anti-trust laws are not about the ‘song writer’ or the ‘artists’ or the copy protection holders or the collection agencies. They’re about the public. Yes, they come at a ‘cost’ to those wishing to otherwise collude and jack up prices but their exact purpose is to prevent companies from doing something that would harm the public.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

“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.”
Of this amount, slightly less than $15 million will be distributed amongst the most famous record companies that BMI represents. It is unknown how much of that $15 million will reach the artists and bands that have earned it and how much will get swallowed up by creative accounting. Just sayin’. ;(

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Don't let the facts get in the way of a sad story.

Actually they payed out $877 million.
And FYI collection agencies pay directly to songwriters.
The Harry Fox Agency collects mechanicals, and their cut is 6%

I’m curious what any of this has to do with the story?

The $877 million number is mentioned in the article.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Don't let the facts get in the way of a sad story.

Says the guy whose headline reads “BMI Records”

One fool to another eh mike?

What’s the problem with the headline? It’s entirely accurate, BMI has recorded record revenue.

So now are we going to have to suggest checking your reading comprehension in addition to your sarcasm meter?

Shill says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Don't let the facts get in the way of a sad story.

OK, so I have been put in charge of the hiring process for my shilling organization. I’ve been interviewing various applicants and have been having a very difficult time finding someone suitable for the position. Here are the interview requirements

1: Must be sober during the interview

2: Can’t be high on illegal drugs during the interview

3: If you are on any meds you can’t be off your meds during the interview

Job duties

1: Shilling for various organizations on social media and message boards such as Techdirt

Job requirements

1: Must be sober while shilling

2: Must not be high on illegal drugs while shilling

3: If you are on any meds you must be on your meds while shilling.

Recommended qualifications (not required)

1: High school diploma

2: You’re not a drug addict

3: You’re not an alcoholic

If you meet these qualifications please give me a call as I have been having a very hard time finding suitable candidates. Thanks.

Shill says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Don't let the facts get in the way of a sad story.

I’m not sure who hired you but remember the job requirements. See

Shill, Sep 12th, 2015 @ 4:22pm

Please keep them in mind before posting. If you want to be drunk, high, or off your meds you can do it on your own time. but before posting please make sure you are sober, not high, and on your meds.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Time to fire some people

If they can be making record profits, while still struggling mightily under the ‘burdensome regulations’, sounds like the ones running the agency need to be fired and replaced with more efficient people.

If despite heavy profits you’re still having a difficult time, either you suck at your job, or your job is terribly inefficient, meaning people either need to be fired, or things need to change.

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