‘Facebook must strike a deal with music publishers as soon as possible’


The careers of unsigned artists are being caught in the crossfire of an increasingly aggressive copyright assault on Facebook by music publishers.

Performers began to publicly complain about covers of popular tracks being pulled down from Facebook in October, following a spate of copyright infringement notifications from music rights-holders.

Things have gone from bad to worse for them since then.

The most vigorous publisher in terms of takedown demands, MBW is told, is Universal Music Publishing Group.

The company’s anti-piracy boss David Benjamin has sent a legion of individual copyright notices to Facebook this year – for which he was recently called a ‘hero’ by songwriter and musicians’ rights activist David Lowery.

But not everyone is quite as impressed – particularly those emerging artists for whom the fallout is causing major headaches.

Samantha Harvey is a British singer/songwriter who has attracted 1.97 million ‘Likes’ on her official Facebook page.

By any measure, that’s a pretty extraordinary following for an artist without a label.

According to her management company at 84 World, Harvey is the most ‘Liked’ unsigned artist in the UK – a claim that seems to hold up to scrutiny.

Consider that Stormzy, one of the most celebrated independent artists in Britain today, has less than a third of this number at 523,730.

“My heart’s breaking a little bit inside. Facebook is where I started – it’s my passion.”

Samantha Harvey

Further context: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, the Columbia-signed BRITs Critics’ Choice winner, has 91,369 ‘Likes’ on his growing UK Facebook page, while the artist behind the current UK No.1 single, Clean Bandit, has 805,578.

Harvey has gained popularity on Facebook via a series of cover versions, in addition to Live chats with her fans and duets with fellow acts such as Conor Maynard.

But in recent months, Harvey’s found herself under siege.

In a video update to fans originally posted on December 10, Harvey explained that Facebook had started removing her cover performances on copyright grounds. This, she said, was “on the instruction of publishing companies”.

The simple reason for that instruction: Facebook continues to fail to pay any advertising revenues to rights-owners of music consumed on its platform.

Explained Harvey: “There isn’t a [licensing] deal in place at the moment like there is on YouTube which allows people like me and thousands of others on Facebook to record covers of artists we absolutely love.”

Harvey’s initial response to this heat was to begin posting 30-second video performances of songs, but she says publishers soon started cracking down on these videos too.

At one point, Harvey was even temporarily blocked from accessing her page by Facebook – and warned that continued uploading of covers would see it deleted.

“it is vital that the music publishers and Facebook strike a deal as soon as possible.”

Max Parker, 84 World

“My heart’s breaking a little bit inside,” she told her fans. “[Facebook] is where I started and it’s my passion, but they’re not allowing me to upload any covers anymore.”

Harvey’s co-manager at 84 World is London-based Max Parker.

He tells MBW that 45% of Harvey’s cover videos have now been removed from Facebook as a result of publisher notifications.

The exec expresses frustration that his artist is no longer able to use covers to build her profile on the site – a strategy her team hoped would put her in an ideal position to release original material in the future.

“For us now, and I’m sure many others, it is vital that the music publishers and Facebook strike a deal as soon as possible,” says Parker, pointing out that Harvey’s average cover video on Facebook attracted more than a million views.

Samantha Harvey’s response to this cull has perhaps been even more interesting than the cull itself.

Since the takedown notifications began to pour in, the artist has been busy encouraging her Facebook fans to migrate to YouTube – where her official channel now has more than 275,000 subscribers and nearly 25m views.

“Hopefully Facebook sorts it out like YouTube have – and does a good deal.”

Samantha Harvey

To boost this effort, she’s been posting YouTube links in the comment section of her (non-musical) Facebook updates, and it appears to be working.

Harvey recently thanked her fans for making the jump to YouTube where, she says, “my subscribers are going crazy”.

Earlier this month, she traveled to Berlin for a three day songwriting camp at Soho House jointly backed by BMG and… YouTube.

The question for the music business, then: whilst it’s fully understandable why music publishers would want to batter Facebook into paying fair licensing fees, are their actions harming the progress of tomorrow’s potential stars?

More to the point, are the same publishers comfortable if these stars are instead forced to start building audiences on YouTube?

Facebook appears to be tooling up for negotiations: in recent months, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has been hiring for both a music-related product manager and a global head of music licensing.

As Harvey told her fans the other week: “Hopefully Facebook sorts it out like YouTube have – and does a good deal.”

The definition of ‘good’ in this scenario, of course, all depends where you sit in the foodchain.Music Business Worldwide

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  • ade ibiza

    so you are telling me that if u2 post up a cover version it’ll get a takedown ?

    if kanye posts up a video of him covering queen at glasto that will get a takedown ?

    take this argument to its logical conclusion please….

  • “The careers of unsigned artists are being caught in the crossfire of an > increasingly aggressive copyright assault < on Facebook by music publishers."

    It's disingenuous to talk about publishers picking on Samantha Harvey, when Facebook is the problem. Statements like "increasingly aggressive copyright assault" are inflammatory. Isn't that what copyright is supposed to do? And shouldn't copyright holders be upset considering the abuse heaped on them from all sides?

    "Facebook continues to fail to pay any advertising revenues to rights-owners of music consumed on its platform."

    There's your lead line.

    • musicbizworldwide

      Appreciate the comment Will, but 100% NOT saying publishers are picking on Samantha. Thus ‘crossfire’. Publishers have every right to fight – they’re not being paid anything for copyright and Facebook and it’s wrong. The issue is timing; the longer the aggressive takedown strategy continues (ie. the longer a deal isn’t agreed with Facebook), the more cover artists are going to see their profiles eroded. It’s a tricky situation where everyone has fair justification for their outcry (except, in our humble opinion, Facebook itself!).

      • creatorsfriend

        Surely this starts from creators recognising other creators rights. If a creator posts a cover on an unlicensed platform then they should only do so if they know their fellow creators will be remunerated. And Samantha is now doing that by pointing her followers to You Tube.
        Oh! the irony. Fully licensed You Tube is now the good guy (well better guy). The industry that berates them about the (first) value gap is now welcoming their payments? This same industry that is ignoring creators demands to recognise the (second) value gap between rights owners receive and what creators are paid.
        How many years did it take industry organisations to do something about licensing Soundcloud? 5? More?
        Where are they now in the Facebook scenario? The industry should be recognising the third value gap with unlicensed sites like Facebook and unite to request payment. But if rights owners don’t recognise the second value gap how can they deliver action to close the third?
        Yes Facebook has a value to artists but it the same argument that enabled MTV to grow a billion dollar business and that stops US radio paying for master use. Music has a value to Facebook. They need to recognise that value and negotiate deals. to do that the rights owners need to take part and themselves to pay through fairly.

      • While I don’t mean to sound uncaring, we need to be far more concerned about artists who create original work. How much incredible work never saw the light of day because of our nearly two decade failure to protect copyrighted work?

        The reality. Facebook will end up being yet another low paying online music aggregator like Youtube, advertising stream ripping software.

      • RS

        It should be remembered that streaming is a kind of loophole for cover artists — if they were releasing downloads, for instance, the cover artists would need to pay to the writer a mechanical royalty of around 8 UK pennies per download, irrespective of how much the artist was charging for the download. That ensures the writer is adequately compensated for the cover artist’s use of the IP.

        It should also be remembered that general agreements are in place between the PRS and venues to collect money for works performed at the venue by cover artists (and others), so taht the writers are compensated.

        Online cover artists are simply building their careers on the hard work of songwriters who are not being fairly compensated for the cover artist’s use of their work. Payment is next to nothing on streaming services, even on those services that pay, as we all know well.

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