‘We need to strengthen authors rights, think global and nurture our unity.’

Bjorn Ulvaeus, President of CISAC

The following op/ed comes from Björn Ulvaeus, President of CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), and taken from his foreword for the organization’s 2021 Annual Report. Published today (June 3), the report calls for stronger rights for creators and details CISAC‘s work with its members over the past year to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. CISAC counts 231 member authors’ societies, representing over 4m creators worldwide.

Twelve months ago, I took on the role of President of CISAC. I did so because I believe profoundly in bringing fairness to the rights and remuneration of creators.

I also felt that my own successful song-writing career with ABBA, founded on copyright and authors rights, could really help CISAC and its members in their mission to support creators across the globe. One year on, I’m even more fired up about this task than I was when I took it on. 

My first year has, of course, been defined by the pandemic. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on creators, especially on live and public performance revenues. Royalty collections have plummeted, and it is the less visible creators, so often hidden in the shadow of the more prominent performers, who are usually the most vulnerable.

The crisis has also dramatically changed creators’ mix of revenue options, creating a rush to all possible forms of digital remuneration. This presents great opportunities, but also huge challenges.

On one hand, today’s songwriter or screenwriter has access to a limitless global audience, and more ways than ever to monetise their work. There has also been amazing resilience as creators (helped by CMOs) have branched into new income streams such as live streamed and hybrid concerts.

But there is also an enormous problem: streaming is nowhere near paying creators enough to allow them to build a career. That is why strengthening authors’ rights in the digital world has to be at the heart of the discussion on the road to recovery.

CISAC is uniquely positioned to lead in this discussion. It is the most diverse cultural entity of its kind and it has an unrivalled expertise and authority. These qualities enable it to unite and represent the global collective management community.

“Streaming is nowhere near paying creators enough to allow them to build a career. That is why strengthening authors’ rights in the digital world has to be at the heart of the discussion on the road to recovery.”

Bjorn Ulvaeus, CISAC

As we are all looking forward to seeing the world getting back to normal – and I for sure will not miss all the zoom meetings – let me share with you what I would like to see as guiding principles for the year ahead.

Put the creator first. The creative industries are important. But let us get more specific: even more valuable is the “Song Economy”. For it is the songs – as well as the screenplays, films, paintings, scripts and all the works made by CMO’s member creators – that come before all. These are the foundation and the fuel behind the creative industries, the economic value they generate and the jobs they create.

Think global. CMOs today compete more than ever in an international market – but this does not diminish the importance of global coordination: on the contrary, fragmentation has made it all the more vital to have a strong global community, working to iron out inefficiencies, harmonise global systems and unite big and small societies.

Nurture our unity. CMOs have a proud 100-year history, but, even more important is safeguarding their enduring role in the future. I passionately believe that means standing together and focusing on our common interests. Above all, it means looking after small societies as much as the big ones.

Today the ecosystem around us – and this has been illuminated by COVID-19 – is, in too many ways, unfair and inefficient. Many societies are doing great work to change this. Others should now follow their example, with CISAC at their side: putting the creator first; collaborating globally; and nurturing the quality that most empowers us all – our unity.Music Business Worldwide

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