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💣 IC Digest: AI's Not The Problem (But We Know What Is)
Plus, Indie Week, new and updated importers, Indie Label Market, upcoming industry events & what we're listening to
It’s our last Digest before Indie Week, a highlight of the music industry calendar. More on that below, but the main thing to know is we’ll be there — if you’re going too, let us know?
In the meantime, read on for the latest in the royalty scam wars (ft. Eurovision), our new and updated importers, other industry events from around the world, what you’re up to and what we’re listening to. Enjoy!
— Hunter, Infinite Catalog co-founder and world’s newest Eurovision fan
Royalty Scams Go Boom(y)
Major music industry talking points collided recently, when it was revealed that AI-powered creation platform Boomy was temporarily barred from releasing to Spotify on suspicion of delivering scam tracks, aka fake music uploaded with intent to stream-farm via bot-armies (good god what a sentence).
The problem here, though, is not AI — scammers could always upload 31 seconds of whatever. Paired with increasingly efficient distribution, however, it is supercharging the process.
With creator tool + distribution platforms like Boomy, scammers don’t need to create WAVs in one platform, then upload them via another, paying a nominal fee or time cost for one or both — they can do it from one site, “in seconds,” for free (Boomy charges no fees, instead keeping 20% - just add more bots, and you're square).
Of course we shouldn’t make the creation → distribution pipeline less efficient to slow the scammers (and everybody else), but we absolutely should fix the real problem: the pro-rata way that Spotify and most DSPs calculate royalties, enabling scams in the first place.
Pro-Rata Is Probably Stealing From You
You know things are coming to a boil when Eurovision - a sort of Pop Song Olympics in which heavily vetted performers vie for glory in front of 160 million viewers - becomes a platform to criticize pro-rata streaming rates.
During the finals this weekend Austria’s song did exactly that, referencing 0.003 as the paltry per-stream rate (we have it at $0.002648 lately, but close enough).
Obligatory explainer: pro-rata is how Spotify and other DSPs calculate royalties, dividing monthly subscription income by the total number of streams, and then multiplying that rate by the number of streams per track. (For a deeper dive into pro-rata, check out This Song Plants Trees (At Artists' Expense)).
Pro-rata has had a decade+ to prove itself, and mostly it’s meant:
People think their individual spins don't really matter because the amounts are so low (true, but they add up). “Why would I pay for streaming when the artists make practically nothing from it?” they’re thinking. And then they don’t pay in.
A serious chunk of the income that *does* get paid in gets siphoned off by scammers — an estimated BILLION+ in 2022 alone, a number sure to rise as creation → distribution efficiency improves.
That yearly billion+ isn’t coming out of Spotify’s pocket (they’re unaffected), nor the creation and/or distribution platforms (they’re actually profiting). It’s coming out of the pockets of legitimate catalogs and creators. And in a sense it's stealing from fans too, by re-routing their money away from it’s intended target, music.
Meanwhile there's a road-tested alternative: user-centric // fan-powered royalties, in which your streaming money goes only to what you listen to. Bots can't stream their way to anything more than what their account holders put in. There will always be other scams, but this would cut out most fraud literally overnight, putting that money back into the pockets of legitimate catalogs and creators.
Pro-rata is the real problem, and Spotify et al will be forced to change either by choice or by market forces. The only question is when.
💥 MBW has an even deeper, more visceral dive on the above — highest possible recommendation.
🧙♂️ Merlin (aka most indie labels and distributors) is moving to the “Fan-Powered Royalties” model (aka user-centric) on SoundCloud. The future is now!
🌊 When AI *is* the problem: an AI-assisted Frank Ocean impersonator made thousands selling fake songs.
🌧️ “Is the sound of rain worth as much as the sound of Ed Sheeran?” asks Warner CEO Robert Kyncl. Not the best music to make the point, but a fair question.
🧰 IC PRODUCT UPDATES
DITTO changed their export format, so we updated the IC importer accordingly. We also kept the old importer in case folks still have old files lying around - that's now called DITTO (Legacy pre-2023Q2).
🎵 A2IM Indie Week 2023 is almost upon us! We’ll be there doing the usual networking and catch ups but we’re also stoked to have Hunter on a panel on Tuesday June 13th:
2:15 PM - 3:00 PM
Time To Start Collecting: Neighboring Rights And How They Benefit Your Label
For anyone unfamiliar, A2IM Indie Week is a three-day international conference and networking event that’s aimed at maximizing the global impact of independent music, usually drawing a crowd of over 1200 participants from over 30 countries.
📆 UPCOMING INDUSTRY EVENTS
+ check out the newly public 🎟 Events Directory for more conferences, festivals, record fairs, webinars, etc!
May 20th ‣ Independent Label Market (London, UK)*
💿 We’re once again sponsoring the amazing Independent Label Market for its next London edition, which is this Saturday, May 20th. If you’re in town, come through and meet a ton of labels and buy their wax and wares!
May 23rd - 24th ‣ Africa Rising Music Conference (Johannesburg, South Africa)
May 24th ‣ Music Week Awards (London, UK)
May 24th - 26th ‣ Brighton Music Conference (Brighton, UK)
May 27th - 28th ‣ Your City Festival (Stoke-On-Trent, UK)
May 29th - June 4th ‣ Primavera Sound (Barcelona, Spain)
June 5th - 10th ‣ Canadian Music Week (Toronto, Canada)
June 5th - 11th ‣ Primavera Sound (Madrid, Spain)
June 11th - 13th ‣ Copyright Society Annual Meeting (Newport, RI, US)
June 12th - 15th ‣ A2IM IndieWeek (New York, US)*
June 15th ‣ Libera Awards (New York, US)*
June 13th - 17th ‣ NXNE (Toronto, Canada)
June 14th ‣ NMPA Annual Meeting (New York, US)
June 15th - 17th ‣ Sónar (Barcelona, Spain)
*we’ll be there // buying records! If you will be too, give us a shout
🙌 WHAT YOU'RE UP TO
ICYMI, our Community Updates last week featured new music from Sweet Pill, Natural Wonder Beauty Concept, Sen Morimoto and more:
Hunter: Moodymann - Moodymann
Adam: Fenne Lily - Big Picture
You can find a Spotify playlist here ft. our favorite tracks!