Despite the widespread availability of detailed music consumption figures, royalties attributable to public usages have long been distributed based upon extrapolated data. And without precise play counts from the many bars, restaurants, stadiums, stores, and malls that operate around the globe, it’s difficult to tell what’s actually playing – a potentially glaring unknown when stream totals require only seconds to identify.
Perhaps international superstars like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey are in fact garnering the lion’s share of public plays today. Or, perhaps a slew of 90s grunge bands are being massively undercounted in specific countries, cities, or establishments.
There are also perplexing cross-territorial questions: artists based outside Europe, for instance, could be in heavy rotation in France and have no idea under the current system.
So what’s the solution to this quandary? Bucking a long legacy of rough reporting estimates is Audoo, a company working to optimize performance royalties with a simple device called the “Audio Meter.” Designed to monitor and identify (via digital-fingerprinting technology) all public plays, the Audio Meter is already being used in establishments from restaurants to shopping malls, according to the London-headquartered company. Audoo has been collaborating with DMN to further expand Audio Meter adoption and more accurately count public plays.
“Installing an Audio Meter in venues is just a matter of plug, play, set, and forget,” Matthew Fackrell, Audoo’s SVP and GM for the Asia-Pacific region, told Digital Music News. “Our Asia-Pacific rollout, which started in Australia and New Zealand across gyms, retail, dance studios, cafes, restaurants, and bars, has been really positively received.
“We’ve obtained the largest set of public performance data ever created, now surpassing millions of reports every quarter and bringing to life our mission of revolutionizing performance royalties through accurate play totals,” continued Fackrell. “We’re also making best-practice reporting easy for individual venues, which ultimately benefits performance rights and collective management organizations.”
With time, the Audio Meter could establish exact figures as the foundation of public play accounting. And along the way, more than a few musicians may learn that their work is entertaining a sizable number of fans in far-flung parts of the world – a possibility that’s not without historical precedent.
The documentary Searching for Sugar Man introduced viewers to Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter who famously flew under the radar for decades starting in the 1970s. Unbeknownst to the Detroit native, his work had for years been making waves in South Africa. It’s estimated that Rodriguez has sold more albums in the nation than Elvis, but before the film, the artist had been unaware of his significant listenership figures.
These days, the odds of encountering a situation of a similar scope are exceedingly low. But the fact remains that lesser-known acts frequently go unnoticed – and potentially miss out on public play compensation. Without precise play counting, it’s impossible to know.
More broadly, for indie artists, smaller IP owners, and others without strong representation, global PRO connections, or proper metadata, the implications of undercounted plays extend well beyond royalties. Utilizing the insights associated with accurate performance data, musicians and rightsholders can better plan tours, promotional initiatives, and different career endeavors yet.
A musician with a UK top 10 song to his credit, Audoo founder and CEO Ryan Edwards has personally experienced the frustration of undercounted plays.
And this firsthand understanding prompted him to create Audoo and help the industry put its payment problems in the rearview.
“Experiencing this frustration as a musician,” Edwards told DMN, “I delved into the wider ecosystem, looking to find a solution within public performance distribution with music royalties. The Audoo mission is simple: to have all songwriters and artists receive more accurate compensation with the most optimized data and transparent reporting.”
PROs are taking note. July of 2022 saw Audoo ink a song-detection agreement with Australian PRO APRA AMCOS, under which OneMusic-licensed businesses in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Auckland were equipped with Audio Meters. Evidence suggests that the pact will deliver potentially game-changing stats and payments while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a wider expansion.
Aside from clear-cut advantages on the data and compensation fronts, PROs as well as participating businesses and establishments are also benefiting from the Audio Meter’s simplicity and ease of use, Audoo told DMN.
The Audio Meter takes just minutes to set up in any standard outlet and, by eliminating manual-reporting requirements, removes human error (including inadvertent omissions) from the equation. For business owners, the Audio Meter is likewise an important step on the multifaceted road to guaranteeing that royalties end up with those who actually created their patrons’ preferred music.
And with the tool’s growing prevalence, future consumption data appears positioned to become increasingly precise and accurate – ushering in potential upsides for both indies and key players.
As highlighted, for smaller rightsholders and acts without massive global followings, the perks of knowing about (and being compensated for) each public song usage go without saying. Tech-centered approaches to monitoring radio have in the past pinpointed indie plays that had fallen through the cracks.
But the industry’s biggest names and most popular tracks also stand to gain from a pivot to hard numbers and concrete data, including when it comes to understanding core listening trends and assuring that all the usages of today’s top songs are being counted.
Ultimately, making empirical stats the foundation of public play calculations is a matter of bringing fairness and accuracy to the forefront of the industry in the long run, regardless of where the cards fall in the short term.
In an era where physical sales are tracked down to the unit and stream totals reveal exact personal-consumption habits in real time, proper performance tracking may be sorely overdue. That’s a memo being received by PROs and CMOs across multiple continents, with major upgrades and partnerships likely to emerge over the next few quarters.
“The Audoo mission has attracted support from a number of industry peers who believe it will change the landscape in this sector,” Edwards told us. “There are some influential investors too, including music and business icon Björn Ulvaeus, who believes our product ‘will change the music industry forever.’ We’re excited to demonstrate this to more music fans, players, creators, and executives.”