Dissecting The Digital Dollar is a series of reports, guides and tools from the Music Managers Forum designed to help artists and managers better understand the streaming business, and the impact the shift to digital has had on the wider music industry. The reports were produced for the MMF by music business consultancy CMU Insights.
The growth of music streaming over the last decade has dramatically changed the business of recorded music. Instead of sharing in the proceeds of a physical or digital sale, music-makers and rights holders are now participating in new commercial models based on revenue share and micro-payments.
‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ explains how the streaming business works, how the music industry has licensed the digital platforms and how digital royalties flow through the system. To help you understand this complex licensing model, it also provides a beginner’s guide to music copyright, record and publishing contracts, and the collective licensing system.
When first published as a report by the UK’s Music Managers Forum in 2015, ‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ also raised a number of issues which were subsequently discussed at a series of roundtables in 2016 involving artists, songwriters, labels, publishers, lawyers, accountants and managers.
This Third Edition includes an updated version of the original report – including recent market trends and copyright reforms – as well as a summary of the roundtable discussions, and four Digital Dollar guides providing further insight on label deals, transparency, fan data and song royalty chains.
The newly updated Third Edition of the ‘Digital Dollar’ is out now – buy your copy from Amazon here.
TIM CLARK co-founder at ie: music
“The MMF’s ‘Dissecting The Digital’ project has been running a full five years and remains the most comprehensive overview of the streaming market and the place of artists and music-makers within it. As well as helping managers be informed to make better deals so their artists can benefit from fair shares of streaming income, it also outlines key areas where reforms are urgently needed. It is my most thumbed work of reference!”
LISA WARD evp artist strategy at Red Light Management
“The streaming ecosystem can often feel impenetrable in its complexity, but ‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ offers an easy-to-read step-by-step guide to navigate how licensing works and where revenues flow. The book also highlights many of the dysfunctions in this market that are long overdue reform, particularly the often arcane distribution of songwriter royalties”.
DAVE CRONEN music industry specialist at Academy of Contemporary Music
“Teaching students and new entrants to the industry about streaming and its continuing impact on the music business is a challenge. This is an ever-evolving area, filled with nuance, complexity and opinion! What ‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ does so well is to strip back those complexities and lift the lid on how money flows through the system. It’s a thought-provoking read and I strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in music’s future and a full understanding of a key income stream”.
ROBERT HORSFALL partner at Sound Advice LLP
“Thank you and well done to the MMF and CMU Insights for publishing these must read guides for managers and artists, and their business advisers. Their desire for transparency in the digital era sits alongside my desire for a simplification of industry contracts. True partnerships call for both, so as to engender trust and to enable the financial health of the creative community.
CLIFF FLUET partner at Lewis Silkin
“‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ is so much more than a beginners guide – it goes deep into the intricacies of digital music, rights and revenues, and is an indispensable guide to the music industry in the streaming era”.
ERIK NIELSEN artist manager and music business lecturer at BIMM
“‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ is an invaluable guide for professionals at any level in the music industry. It cuts through the fog to explain in plain English how the modern streaming and digital economy and ecosystem works, from the services themselves to labels and distributors, and the types of deals involved. Most importantly, it highlights traps, hidden costs, and other complex processes and challenges that even seasoned managers and artists can overlook – and need to be aware of!”
CARLOTTA DE NINNI ceo at The Creative Passport
“‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ is a must-read publication. It enlightens you on the complexities and the challenges of digital licensing. Everyone working – or wanting to work – in our beloved music industry should know it by heart”.
RICHARD LIGHTMAN producer, composer, musician and sound designer
“With the success of music streaming services, the music business has become a confusing and challenging place for artists, producers and their managers. ‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ opens up the mysteries of digital streaming royalties, how the income streams are apportioned and how to follow the money. This is a must have for any musician or music business operative especially. A real eye-opener!”
DAVE WIBBERLEY artist manager and head of management at LIPA
“As an artist manager, ‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ has given me a much better understanding of the complexities and inherent unfairness in much of the digital streaming business, particularly as it impacts upon songwriters and their royalties”.
In addition to the main ‘Digital Dollar’ book, MMF has also published a series of free ‘Digital Dollar’ guides to help managers navigate and understand the music business in the digital age. These guides cover topics raised during the various ‘Digital Dollar’ discussions with the MMF membership and can be downloaded for free below. There are also a number of online resources and tools to accompany these guides.
Music Managers Forum (MMF) has proposed a three-step plan for managing song rights data that aims to address failing music industry systems and practices that are resulting in songwriters and composers losing out on hundreds of millions of pounds in streaming revenues.
‘The $ong Royalties Guide’ lifts the lid on the complex way in which songwriters’ repertoire is licensed to digital music services, and how inefficient payment systems are drastically reducing the royalties that creators receive.
This is the result of a complex system of ‘royalty chains’, whereby global-facing digital music services are often licensed on a territorial basis and revenues flow between a succession of overseas collecting societies, publishers and other intermediaries. It means songwriters and composers frequently face a series of delays and deductions to their royalty payments, as well as a significant risk of their rights being misreported and unattributed. [Published May 2019]
‘The Fan Data Guide’ looks at all the fan data being gathered online, by the streaming platforms, but also all the other digital channels employed by artists and their business partners. It runs through the ten key kinds of fan data and where it is all being gathered, and then explains how an artist’s contracts and data protection law will both impact on who has the rights to access and use that information. [Published Jan 2019]
To accompany the ‘Fan Data Guide’ we have also put together a ‘Fan Data Directory’ that lists some key services and platforms.
‘The Deals Guide’ explains the workings, legalities and pros and cons of the various different kinds of label and distribution deals available to artists today. [Published Nov 2017]
To accompany ‘The Deals Guide’ we also developed the MMF Digital Deals Comparison Calculator, which makes it easier for managers to understand the key differences between different deal types in terms of the services that are provided and the way revenues are shared.
‘The Transparency Guide’ identifies all the information and data artists and managers require from their business partners to fully understand and succeed in the streaming business. [Published Nov 2017]
To accompany ‘The Transparency Guide’ we also developed the MMF Transparency Index that allows managers to compare just how transparent different business partners really are, and to share that information with the rest of the management community.
The first Digital Dollar report was published in October 2015 and the second in October 2016. You can still download these guides as PDFs for free.
‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar Part One’ was published in October 2015 and explains in one place how audio streaming services are licensed. It also includes a beginner’s guide to music copyright, recording and publishing contracts, and collective licensing, all of which impact on how the music industry’s digital deals are structured.
‘Dissecting The Digital Digital Part Two’ was published in October 2016 and was based on a series of roundtable discussions involving over 200 music professionals in four countries, including artists, songwriters, labels, publishers, accountants, lawyers and managers. The discussions considered seven key issues with the current streaming business model and the resulting report proposed a series of solutions.
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