Takes the Mic: APRA AMCOS International

Monday, 06 Jul 2015

In short, international royalties are generated by the licensing and distribution practices of APRA AMCOS’ affiliate collection societies. In a huge windfall for the industry, this year more than $33 million was transferred to Australian and NZ music creators’ bank accounts from works performed or played overseas.

In most, but not all countries, international royalty collection covers all revenue streams, from digital, radio, television, cinema to background music, music in clubs and live performances.

Societies are members of the international organisation CISAC (and BIEM for mechanical societies) which oversees the relationships between societies and the rules relating to international distribution. CISAC has also developed binding governance principles relating to transparency and accountability and  distribution obligations.  

“APRA AMCOS members benefit from our network of affiliated international collection societies - across 130 other countries, that’s about three quarters of all countries on earth,” said Scot Morris, APRA AMCOS Director of International.

However, the journey of the ‘royalty dollar’ from, say, a performance in Montreal, across international waters to the Australian bank account of the songwriter is a complex one that needs explanation.

“The important thing to keep in mind is that the copyright laws, licensing regulations and payment cycles of other territories and other countries vary. Once the ‘royalty dollar’ is remitted from the foreign collection society, APRA AMCOS is all about transparency, efficiency and speed in paying this out to members. In fact we are setting benchmarks in turnaround time." Scot said.

“We are continuing to work on accelerating payments for international royalties, allowing you to get on with the business of making great music,” Scot said.

John Watson, Owner of Eleven: A Music Company and manager of international success Gotye recently commented on the changing international revenue stream model: “Obviously we're moving from a world where most forms of digital consumption are shifting from an ownership model to an access model. Whether it's Netflix or Spotify we're clearly moving away from sales-based royalties as the primary form of income from copyright exploitation.

“Instead we're shifting back to a world where performance income is the ‘main course' instead of a ‘side dish.' This is sort of how things used to work in the days before most homes had record players so in some ways we're going back to the future.

“The main difference this time around is the vast proliferation of income streams and the notional ability to digitise - and thus automate - collections from each individual play. 

“A song like Gotye’s Somebody that I Used to Know generates domestic and international performance income from tens of thousands of different channels. Not just the obvious ones like live shows, radio/TV broadcast and online streams but potentially from video games, ringtones, user generated content, preloaded hardware and dozens more. When you throw in the fact that there are hundreds of cover versions plus thousands of mash-ups and remixes it's clear that the collection task has grown exponentially.

“That undeniable complexity can lead to slower payments. Outside Australia, best practice is not followed in some territories and chasing payments can take time. 

“Some collection societies are still in the 'Wild West' phase in many respects and that can be frustrating at times when systems simply don't deliver what they're supposed to deliver. However that makes it all the more important for artists and their advocates to dig deeper and push harder for higher standards and greater transparency,” John said. 

Flow of Rights and Royalties Through Collecting Societies

What’s Improved?

Scot Morris continues, “APRA AMCOS has worked hard to accelerate the time from when we receive members’ international royalties from an affiliate collection society and when we subsequently pay our writer members.  We also pushed for international standards through CISAC, requiring all societies to distribute at least quarterly and to remit to affiliated societies within 30 days of distribution to their own members.

“We now aim to turn this around within eight weeks issuing payments to our members on a monthly cycle. This is a benchmark for the industry,“ he said.

APRA AMCOS: guardian of member’s copyright, on any turf

APRA AMCOS monitors incoming distributions to ensure affiliate societies are paying members their full entitlement.

“Our monitoring is streets ahead. We aim to make sure nothing slips through and that the collection society we are dealing with has the correct Works Documentation and Cue Sheet to ensure accurate and timely distribution. We constantly monitor Australian or NZ works that are seeing activity on television, cable and radio/digital charts overseas as well as festivals and cinema, and take this up with affiliate collection societies to ensure prompt and full payment for our members,” said Scot.

APRA AMCOS’ international team continually engages with other collection societies throughout the year. Find out more about this revenue stream and how you can maximise your income.

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