Live streaming isn’t new to electronic music. (Cue Boiler Room, Cercle, Worldwide FM etc) With the rest of the music world having raced to live streaming due to COVID-19 shutdowns, the challenges with the online licensing framework (that have always been there) are now firmly under the spotlight.
Numerous Public Rights Organisations (PROs) that represent publishers and songwriters have adjusted public performance licenses for live streaming – but the PROs that represent the public performance of the recordings rights don’t have blanket license options in place with the key platforms for live streaming. (Facebook, YouTube etc)
In April, Mixcloud announced MixCloud LIVE which provides a license compliant platform for both publishing and master licensing needs. In recent weeks, Facebook have gone a step further than muting and takedowns and are now issuing bans to DJs and promoters who broadcast unlicensed music in live streams. In March, Twitch announced a partnership with Soundcloud. United We Stream have partnered with a European TV broadcaster which covers their streams under a blanket license.
COVID-19 has presented the music industry with it’s “Napster moment” again, in more ways than one. For the millions of streamers around the world, there is an awareness of the need to share income generated from streams with the rights holder of the music being played. But only a limited number of individuals and organisations have the ability and capacity to secure licensing deals with individual labels to make sure their content isn’t taken down – or worse – that they’re banned from platforms. The current licensing system is seemingly creating barriers to those that want and need to get licenses in place. This is especially complex on the recordings side – which is particularly important for DJs in live streams. And as we see more brands filtering into live streams, the licensing situation becomes even more complex.
Despite all the focus over many years about the need for equality in the music industry, it seems that when it comes to licensing for live streams that only the few – not the many – have the means to obtain licenses for their streams.
The system is broken. So how do we fix it, fast?