When it comes to radio, the music industry is still primarily based on reporting. This means that mistakes and inaccuracies happens all the time. My vision is to have to a transparent music industry where music usage is based on monitoring, instead of reporting, so that in the future every artist will get compensated accurately and fairly.
Back in 2015 and 2016, I was the manager for a Danish producer duo called Few Wolves. We signed a deal with a major label, and the first single:”Smile”, was released.
Unfortunately, it did not perform as we had hoped, but we continued with a new single, ”Never Know”, which did not perform as we had hoped either. As none of the songs were added on Danish national radio or the key Spotify playlists upon release, we quickly felt like a downgraded priority with the label.
At some point during 2016, I found out that both songs were being played heavily on a significant Polish radio station, a territory where we had done zero marketing efforts. When I discovered this, I felt I had invented the wheel. I quickly went to the A&R and happily told him about my detective work.
However, I was badly disappointed as he did not have any interest in trying to push the band to the Polish major label office. It made no sense to me, but I quickly learned that major label offices in many cases work this way. Long story short, our A&R was hired to expand their market share in Denmark, and not in Poland.
This particular situation was the trigger for me to create WARM - a platform, where anyone can track and detect any radio airplays, anywhere in the world. Today, WARM is a fast-growing online platform for independent artists, managers, labels etc. who use it for everything from checking royalty statements, discovering emerging markets and optimizing marketing efforts.
Fast forward to May 2018. I noticed that we never received any royalties for the Polish radio airplays, even though both KODA and GRAMEX, the Danish collection societies, had listed that this particular Polish radio station, did actually report “100%” via the Polish collection societies STOART and ZAIKS.
Today, 3 months later, I receive an email via GRAMEX from STOART in Poland, that they somehow have managed to find the radio airplays after all. Currently, it looks like we will be receiving our payment for the 2016 radio plays in early 2019. However, this would not have happened if I had not discovered the radio plays myself and made a big effort to collect them.
I also learned that the major label releasing the songs, never made a studio list of the song “Never Know”, which means that even if we imagined that the system worked as it is supposed to, we would still not be receiving any payments, as GRAMEX did not have the information on the creators of the song.
Spotify streams look like this:
Few Wolves – Never Know 210.000 streams
Few Wolves – Smile 365.000 streams
Spotify geographic top 3 looking like this:
Copenhagen 10.000 listeners
Oslo 1.000 listeners
London 800 listeners
My point here is that by looking at our Spotify data we would NEVER understand that Poland and especially Warsaw was an emerging market for us, actually by far our biggest and most emerging market.
I feel this is a pretty good case, showing what’s wrong with the music ecosystem today, and the conclusion should be that, you need to take control of your own data, if you want to make sure you get paid as an artist.
Here are my key points from my experience with this case:
1. You have to make sure your record label has made and sent the studio lists correctly to the local collection society, regardless of the size of the record label.
2. It is a big mistake to only look at your Spotify data to understand your emerging markets. Always look at different sources of data, f.ex radio, downloads, SoMe, Soundcloud or other streaming services. My love for radio as a trusted data source is big, as I feel you get a much better overview of the overall performance of your music here.
3. Even though streaming is booming, it’s not necessarily the biggest income source for you. I’m estimating our total income of the combined amount of Spotify streams is about 800-1000€ over the last 3 years, to be split between 2 producers and a manager. I’m still awaiting the payments from both KODA and GRAMEX, so we have yet to figure out how much we will get via them.
4. If you are an emerging artist, you should consider focusing on your emerging markets, and not necessarily the biggest markets. Less can be more. :)
So, who is to blame for all this?
I don’t know, and I certainly don’t think anyone is trying to cheat us purposely, not the radio station, nor the Polish or Danish collection societies, but something is definitely wrong in the food chain, and way too many artists and companies relies on systems which are completely broken, and not made to compensate to the long tail of the industry.