Why Digital Music News Is Horribly Misinformed About Lyrics…

The following guest retort comes from Darryl Ballantyne, founder and CEO of LyricFind, one of the largest lyrics licensing companies in the world.   

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A recent article on David Lowery’s site (The Trichordist) and covered here on Digital Music News highlights issues of lyrics licensing and enforcement.  In an effort to make his points, David and Paul made broad statements that shortchange important facts.  Note that while the original article has now been heavily edited, a number of misconceptions were spread (and still exist) here on DMN and I wanted to take this opportunity to add a factual backdrop to the lyrics industry.

For those who are not aware, my company, LyricFind, has been leading the charge for licensed lyrics since 2004. We have licenses with over 3,000 music publishers, and power web sites and music services around the world. Our database is manually curated by a dedicated content team that listens to music all day to ensure accuracy – they are extremely diligent and passionate about their role.

A number of the sites included on the original ‘undesirable’ list are, in fact, licensed and these have since been corrected.  It’s important to note, though, the state of the lyrics business and the fact that the number of licensed sites is growing constantly.  In fact, at this time, LyricFind is licensing 71 lyric web sites – and that doesn’t include lyrics integrated into other services.

While there can always be more, enforcement has been happening against the unlicensed sites for many years.  The NMPA, first with the assistance of Ross Charap from Arent Fox, followed by Ken Anderson from Sheppard Mullin, and finally now in-house, have been pursuing lyric (and tab) sites for over seven years.

To date, they have sent out hundreds of takedown notices to many different sites, resulting in 38 sites shutting down and another 18 taking licenses (not to mention the secondary effect of sites licensing for fear of receiving takedowns).

There have been two high profile lawsuits against lyric sites – first, against LyricWiki (which settled by selling to Wikia) and also against LiveUniverse (which operated LyricsDownload.com, CompleteAlbumLyrics.com, and LyricsAndSongs.com), which resulted in a landmark $6.6M judgment in favour of the publishers. Those sites have since been shuttered, the domains (and other assets) seized, and have the founder, Brad Greenspan, on the run. Without the relentless work of those people (and the publishers behind them, notably Ralph Peer of Peermusic, who is perhaps the biggest fan of lyrics I know), none of the current monetization of lyrics would be possible.

And what, exactly, is that monetization? The Digital Music News article quotes a ‘major publishing executive,’ saying that there is ‘zero going back to lyrics writers and publishers’.

This is, perhaps, the most disappointing part of the conversation to me – LyricFind generates millions of dollars every year for music publishers for lyrics use, and it’s growing dramatically every year.

Outside of regular lyric sites, we license companies like Microsoft, Pandora, Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Clear Channel, SoundHound, Disney, Shazam, Rovi, WinAmp, TouchTunes, and even Universal Music Group itself.  And that list is growing – there are more major services ready to launch lyrics in the very near future, all generating significant revenue for publishers and songwriters.

In short, this is not a “losing battle”.  As David correctly stated, lyrics may be one area where the business is more valuable in the internet age – and we’re just getting started.
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6 Responses

  1. Tune Hunter

    I have teenage kids …iPhone snap-shut of radio display …lyrics ID transfer to YouTube’s VEEVOO make you the proud owner of anything in the air! Google’s lyrics ID is pimp #1 in this prostitution case.
    Lyrics ID services are second biggest promoter of piracy!
    Shazam, Soundhound and Gracenote trio is charge of dismantling the walls of the music supermarket.
    24/365 they carry all the goods from the store to the streets and homes of the freeloaders.
    Time for Central Music Bank and Discovery Moment Monetization.

  2. Tune Hunter

    … Pandora screenshot does the same. Time to wake up!

    … or is it the new business model and soon we will see Walmart keeping all goods on the parking lot?

    They will save big on payroll and maintenece of cash registers – the biggest breakthrough industrial development digital music.

    I am not impressed!

  3. finally

    New Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit launches with early morning arrests in Birmingham

    The City of London Police has today marked the launch of a new intellectual property crime unit by arresting two men in Birmingham on suspicion of importing thousands of counterfeit DVD box sets and selling them online as legitimate products. The early morning operations run by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) followed an early referral from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). Detectives seized DVDs with an estimated sale value of £40,000, with titles including Game of Thrones, CSI and Vampire Diaries. The suspects, aged 29 and 28, were taken to a local police station for questioning. The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has been set up to protect UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content. Businesses are currently losing hundreds of millions of pounds to organised crime each year. The unit is being initially funded – £2.56m over two years – by the Intellectual Property Office, which is part of the Department for Business Innovation Skills, with the operationally independent 19-strong team based at the City of London Police Economic Crime Directorate. Here it will be drawing on the expertise already in place that is leading the national law enforcement response to economic crime and running funded police units tackling insurance fraud, corruption and bribery and card payment fraud. In the next two years PIPCU will working with a wide range of national and international partners from public authorities and private industry to build a comprehensive UK policing response to the threat of online intellectual property crime. Investigating and prosecuting serious offenders and seizing criminal assets will form an important part of PIPCU’s strategy, along with the disruption of both online facilitators and non-technical enablers, including supply chains and manufacturing outlets. The unit will also be focused on influencing online behaviour by site owners, service providers and consumers through education, prevention and enforcement activity, and providing offenders where appropriate with opportunities to accept restorative justice. City of London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard said: “The world of crime is constantly evolving and the formation of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is further evidence that police, Government and industry are committed to protecting the UK from both established and emerging threats, many of which are now operating from online platforms. “Intellectual property crime is already costing our economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year and placing thousands of jobs under threat, and left unchecked and free to feed on new technology could destroy some of our most creative and productive industries. “Launching PIPCU we are making a statement of intent and sending out a clear warning to organised crime that the UK has just become a more hostile place for those who seek to make criminal capital on the back of others’ honest endeavours.” Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger said: “Criminals are continually finding new ways to exploit, produce fakes and abuse the intellectual property rights of British businesses, despite the progress made combating IP crime. It not only damages the UK economy, but substandard goods and services can pose real threats to consumers too. Intelligent, co-ordinated and effective enforcement is key to tackling those who exploit the hard work of others. “Stopping the growth of online piracy and counterfeit goods in the UK is one of my main priorities. The new IP crime unit, funded by the IPO and launched today by the City of London Police, will make a real difference in the fight against online IP crime. “Working with the City of London Police, which has recognised expertise in tackling economic crime, demonstrates this Government’s commitment to supporting business, protecting consumers and delivering economic growth. I look forward to seeing the results that this unit will deliver over the next two years.” Around seven million people a month visit sites offering illegal content in the UK. Globally, it is projected that digitally pirated music, films and software will account for losses of around $80bn – this is expected to rise to $240bn by 2015. Ruth Orchard, Director General of the Anti Counterfeiting Group said: “The market for counterfeit goods on the internet has grown exponentially over the past decade, and fakes which were previously available on auction sites and other online marketplaces are now also traded via social media and even entirely fake websites. “This makes the launch of PIPCU very well-timed and provides a significant boost to our fight against this global criminality, with the unit helping to join up available resources worldwide, as well as here at home, and building a new centre of excellence in this increasingly challenging situation. ACG’s brand owner members are already supporting PIPCU, for example by referring cases to the unit ready for its launch today, and we look forward to working closely on this with City of London Police in the years to come.” Susie Winter, Director General of the Alliance for Intellectual Property said: “The Alliance for Intellectual Property welcomes today’s launch of a dedicated unit to tackle online IP crime. This is an important recognition of the size and scale of criminal activity that threatens the jobs of nearly two million people in the UK’s vibrant and world leading creative industries, our globally sought-after brands and rips off consumers and harms the UK’s economic fortunes. Our members look forward to working with Commissioner Leppard and his team.”