DMN Pro Q1 Mini-Conference Preview: My Music Royalties Were Stolen, What’s My Recourse?

my music royalties were stolen what can I do
  • Save

my music royalties were stolen what can I do
  • Save
Photo Credit: Alexander Baynum

Keeping the music industry fair for all is a constant tug-of-war against many types of fraud. From preventing false royalty claims, stopping automated bot streaming, and keeping platforms accountable—our music administration infrastructure is the glue that keeps the industry together. Today we’re speaking with Alexander Baynum of Exploration Group on a range of challenges threatening transparency and accurate payments in the music industry.

Ownership conflicts, fraudulent activity, platform-level accountability, and market share distributions are among the biggest barriers to rights holders receiving the full value of their works,” Baynum told Digital Music News. “Today’s music administration infrastructure depends heavily on rights holders or their representatives claiming assets at their own discretion.”

Baynum works to identify new business opportunities, consult with rights holders, and negotiate administration deals for Exploration. He currently represents the company from Nashville and has been working to drive the growth of the organization since November 2020. Part of Alexander’s work involves routinely evaluating catalog audits to identify areas for improvement in earnings potential for musical copyright.

Digital Music News is hosting an online webinar exploring fraud prevention and liability reduction in music. Some of the topics our panelists will explore this session include how the liability of inaccurate payments from public performance impacts the industry and how millions in royalties have been stolen through false copyright claims.

Leveraging his familiarity with copyright administration, Alexander has also made a foray into catalog valuation and the projection of future value for musical catalogs. Digital Music News spoke with him about getting artists & music companies paid—and what to do about it if they believe they’re owed money.

“This typically involves using an online portal to input a song’s metadata and assumed ownership percentages. With the right level of access, this allows almost anyone to claim revenue shares regardless of their right to do so,” he continued. This means revenue can be routed to the wrong party or withheld due to overlapping claims.

“Some platforms opt to comply with copyright statute through the distribution of music royalties by market share as opposed to direct usage of a given song. This process—though widely accepted—is prohibitive to compensating rights holders equitably.” That’s part of the reason Spotify’s new royalty structure is going into place—to combat manipulation. More on that after a quick piece of advice.

If you’re an artist, musician, or other rights holder dealing with fraudulent royalty claims, what can you do?

“MLC’s Public Work Search, which allows users to review breakdowns of ownership shares, writers, publishers, and even matched recordings associated with a given work, Baynum told Digital Music News. “If you think you are missing attribution of payment, this is an excellent place to start your search.”

Back to Spotify’s new royalty payment structure, we asked Alexander his opinion on the 1,000 streams threshold and whether it would increase or reduce the amount of streaming fraud that happens on DSPs like Spotify. Baynum admits that it may be effective in countering a specific type of fraudulent streams—but more types of fraudulent streaming may crop up to compensate as the royalty structure is cemented.

“This seems to be an effective means of mitigating one type of streaming manipulation—which involves fraudsters earning very small amounts of revenue from a tremendous volume of low-play tracks. Ultimately this will serve to improve the user experience and disincentivize exploitative ‘functional noise’ uploads to the platform.”