Strange question? Well, not really because more and more these days I seem to be contacted by artists who create their own works but don't see themselves as composers and by composers who simply don't see the wider value in the work they create. The recent fuss in the States about the latest CRB (Copyright Royalty Board) decision to give a 44% 'pay rise' to songwriters and publishers which led to some serious discord amongst the big 5 digital music services really simply highlights the fact that while publishers understand the value of the works they represent, most composers seem pretty complacent and most unsigned composers seem to be simply unaware of the situation. Of those big 5 digital music services, Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora all lodged appeals against the CRBs decision - even to the point of taking legal action to protect their income and deny rights owners a fair deal. Apple, on the other hand, declined to challenge the decision nor be a part of any legal action. There has been plenty of fallout from this, with Adam Parness, Spotify's Global Head of Publishing, recently quitting his post apparently in protest over his company's stance - nice to see someone has a conscience!
On the other hand, last year Apple appointed Elena Segal to the post of Global Director of Music Publishing and she certainly seems to be having an impact, quietly putting together a team who I suspect will play a major role in the rebranding of the old iTunes store that is looming on the horizon - as mentioned on my website a long time ago! Don't panic, though, because it simply looks like the iTunes store brand will go, not the retail download side of the business which will come under an updated package alongside the rest of the media innovations Apple are starting to roll out. In other words, there are some big, big changes afoot and, call me cynical, but I think that Apple know this and are positioning themselves to take advantage. Like I said, it really is vital that we start to understand who we really are, what we are worth and where our income really lies, especially in a business that is set to change dramatically in the very near future.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that there is a whole new music business sub-culture developing around unsigned artists and it seems to me that part of the driving force behind this is the increasing scepticism of emerging new talent towards the established industry - in other words, unsigned by choice, not by default. If I was new to this industry (and God knows I'm not!) I would be viewing the behaviour of the majors and the big players in the digital market with a good deal of, quite justified, suspicion. On the other hand, it ain't easy being independent but there are companies out there who are focussed on the independent, unsigned artists and composers because they are run by people who are themselves unsigned aritsts and composers! As you all know, I am currently involved with two such companies, both with different approaches to very specific market sectors - GoToHear.com who focus on bulding communities and properly rewarding artists, their associated composers and their fans in the more public facing side of the business and The Unsigned Library who are focussed on generating revenue for composers in the wonderful world of sync and broadcast licensing.
At the end of the day, it really does pay to know who you are, what you're really worth and where you stand in the global scheme of things - you don't have to be signed to major to exploit your value but you do need to know how to play the game.