Retitling of songs means millions missing in unreported artist royalties

April 2013

Artists, record labels, music publishing


A new report, the “State of the Music Licensing Industry: 2013” provides evidence that shows an increasingly problematic music licensing landscape for recording artists, labels and publishers and highlights that whilst the music licensing industry continues to grow as a multi-billion dollar segment of the global music industry, there remains some unhealthy practices, most notably the prolific practice of retitling. Retitling is where a music licensing company re-registers a song under a different title with a performing rights organization (PRO), allowing for the royalties to be separately tracked when that song is licensed for a specific third party use. This allows the music licensing company to control and earn a significant share of the royalties collected. The report states that 40% of music licensing companies retitle works for a share in royalties garnered from “sync” placements. “The practice of retitling is considered unhealthy for artists and for the music licensing industry. It can be very problematic, as one piece of music with many titles is confusing and can lead to multiple parties claiming ownership of the same work and ultimately artists not receiving royalties owed, if at all” said Winston Giles, CEO and founder of the newly set up Music Licensing Directory which produced the report. He runs the company with his brother Adrian.

Although the report concludes that  the practice of retitling may soon come to an end as “digital fingerprinting” provides more effective and accurate data Giles adds  “Some royalty collection societies have begun the implementation of digital fingerprinting, however there remains no industry standard and the adaption away from archaic cue sheets to the new technology has been very slow” adding “There are suggestions from within the industry from companies like Tunesat, who claim that up to 80% of songs are not reported properly. When you consider that in the USA the collection societies collect over 2 Billion dollars annually – there is potentially a lot of money owed to artists going missing.”

Currently the The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC), defined by ISO 3901, is an international standard code for uniquely identifying sound recordings and music video recordings. The IFPI is the registration authority for this standard and in the UK PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) issues ISRCs which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint.  But the key is of course an accurate database so royalties from digital uses flow back to the rightful owners, writers and performers : There needs to be a proactive element in any registration system, allowing for bona fide registrations for both the sound recording and title as well as full details of ownership – as well as active policing to prevent ‘re-registrations’ under different titles. Hopefully in the future, digital watermarks will prevent this practice.

View the full report: There are only limited contact details (email) on the press release from which the above Update is drawn from, and whilst we were not able to log in, nothing apparent on the company’s website, which surprised us.

Also see

No Comments

Comments are closed.