‘We must make life fair for creators, or we will lose the next Paul McCartney.’

MBW Views is a series of op/eds from eminent music industry people… with something to say. The following comes from Björn Ulvaeus, President of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and member of iconic pop group, ABBA.

Next week I will be joining the global collective management community as it convenes for the CISAC General Assembly in Mexico City.

The event, our first physical gathering post-Covid, will be hosted by music society SACM. We will be taking a hard look at the work our global network is doing to help millions of creators make a living.

Every day composers, painters, scriptwriters, directors, photographers and songwriters see their talent wasted because their work is not properly valued, because of negligible royalties, buyouts imposed on them by platforms, or because of poor data systems.

These are the people CISAC works for: creators who struggle to make a living, and too often have to give up the creative life. Among them, probably, is the next Paul McCartney – and the question is, will the streaming world we are building today nurture him to success? Or will it tread on his dreams?

When I agreed to become CISAC’s President, I had two ambitions — to be the voice of my fellow creators on the global stage; and to help the network of CMOs to improve their services to members.

This is an incredibly challenging mission, but I believe we are making progress. On the advocacy side, our message is heard. In meetings this year, I have witnessed the respect that CISAC and its members command at the highest levels of government.

It’s important to know where that respect comes from – it is because CISAC and its societies are the only bodies that exclusively look after the creator. Companies come and go, catalogues get acquired,  professionals you have relationships with move on, but there is always one constant — it is the CMOs. It is they whose sole and overarching task it is to be a loyal and transparent partner for the creator at all times.

Today CISAC is working to address unprecedented issues now facing creators in the streaming world.

First, we must accelerate the work to fix the metadata problem, so that works can be properly identified and their creators’ fairly paid. There is a real momentum on this now. CISAC’s upgraded  ISWC is more widely adopted and engaged in by publishers and DSPs; and new collaboration projects  have come from societies, for example JASRAC’s recent ventures in Asia.

“Can we have another Paul McCartney? I hope we can – but it will only happen if we make the streaming world a fairer place for creators today.”

Second, the debate on fairness in the streaming world is gathering pace. We need to keep looking at why music and creative works are systemically devalued. For example, the lack of recognition of the songwriter; the power of digital platforms; the erosion of subscription prices over many years; untransparent algorithms that influence our choices; and the split of the digital pie that is skewed against the songwriter.

And finally, there is the vast impact of AI. I like AI-powered tools and I use them, and I am convinced they will help creators improve their works. However, AI comes with its own set of problems — not least the copyright status of AI-created works. I believe this must be addressed at the highest level,  including through a forum such as the United Nations.

These are priorities that are crucial for the future well-being of creators. How well we manage them will, I believe, shape our future cultural landscape.

Can we have another Paul McCartney? I hope we can – but it will only happen if we make the streaming world a fairer place for creators today.

So much needs to be fixed. Let’s all get on and do it.Music Business Worldwide

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