France brings in new online music agreement

October 2015

Recorded music, music publishing, performers


The IFPI has welcomed the agreement struck by the music industry in France, aimed at boosting the legal digital music market and enhancing the value of music for all rights holders.


The voluntary agreement (the “Agreement for a fair development of online music”) was facilitated by France’s Minister of Culture and Communications Fleur Pellerin and brings together organisations representing French record companies, unions, recording artists, performers, online music services and others. They will work together to “help foster a sustainable music industry, diversity and innovation, clarity on revenue distribution and a fair value for music recordings.”


The agreement has been promoted by French government intermediary, Marc Schwartz, who was appointed in May 2015 to lead discussions on the development of the online music business between producers, performers and digital platforms.
Universal, Sony and Warner have agreed to a new government-approved ‘code’ in France which sees them commit to new levels of transparency and “the fair sharing of value from the exploitation of music online”. The code will mean more clarity over the sharing of multi-million dollar advances from services such as YouTube, as well as the equity stakes that the majors own in digital platforms. Universal, Sony and Warner are believed to own around 15%-20% of equity in Spotify between them.
The UK’s Music Managers Forum has  identified transparency as a key priority. The trade group has revealed that in a recent survey of managers in five different markets, transparency emerged as a priority issue for respondents, with 34% of those surveyed saying the issue would top their personal lists of things government could do to help the music community. Government intervention on ‘safe harbours’ – the issue that the music rights sector prioritising now – came in second with 28%. Less than 10% of the managers surveyed had been told about the key components of the labels’ streaming deals for all their artists, while less than 20% had been briefed by their label partners on how digital deals have been structured. Meanwhile 78% said that automatic ‘equitable remuneration’ for artists, like that paid on broadcast revenue, should also be paid on digital.
Brain Message, who co-manages Nick Cave, Radiohead and PJ Harvey, backed the call for more transparency. “Having publicly supported streaming as a route out of the constraints of physical distribution and digital piracy, I have been somewhat dismayed at how streaming services have been licensed and how creators and their representatives, by and large, have been shut out”, he said.


As part of its support for the agreement, the French government will continue to promote copyright in Europe and internationally.   In particular, it will seek clarification to rules applicable to online content distribution platforms.


Responding to the French announcement, Frances Moore, CEO of IFPI, said:  “The recording industry has succeeded in the digital world by embracing change, licensing music wherever it can and adapting its business to new models.  Today’s announcement in France is the latest step along that path and is a positive initiative, which we welcome.


“Record companies in France have agreed to work with performers’ groups and digital services on important objectives: to enhance the value of music for all rights holders, further develop a successful and sustainable music landscape, and bring greater clarity and understanding on the distribution of revenues to different parties.  They will also work to secure and improve the already diverse range of digital offerings among the hundreds of legal online services that are available to consumers.”
However,  in less good news for Ms Fleur Pellerin, French radio stations have protested against government plans to make them play more French music – by ignoring current rules governing their playlists. Q group of stations instigated a 24-hour boycott of an existing law which requires at least 40% of songs played to be in French, protesting at plans to amend the law to state that there must be more variety in the French songs selected. A draft of the amendment says that the 10 most commonly played French songs can only make up half of the Francophone quota – forcing stations to branch out and play less well-aired content.


The Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin has accused radio stations of failing to meet the existing quota, introduced in 1994, and dismissed the radios’ protests that the changes would infringe on broadcasting freedoms. “In place of having the quotas filled by just 10 tracks, they will be filled with 11 or 12,” she said. “I don’t believe this will result in the calling into question anyone’s fundamental liberties.”

‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ will be published on 13 Oct, and you can order a free digital copy via the MMF website at

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