Per Kviman, Chair MMF Sweden
Artists are “rights holders” too – their representatives must be involved in European policy discussions
Traditionally, the battle for Europe’s music policy has been fought between the major record labels – the “rights holders” – and the major tech corporations. Those who actually write, perform and produce the music we love, and those who represent them, are frequently absent in this debate.
In a world where artists and creators are increasingly rights holders and small independent businesses in their own right, this clearly needs to change. Traditional relationships and power structures within the business are being uprooted at a phenomenal rate. Our lobbying and political activities need to reflect that.
Last month I, along with other music managers from Finland, Norway, Poland, The Netherlands, the UK and France, was involved in the creation of a new organisation – the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA). Our goal is to ensure that creators’ representatives can have, on behalf of our clients, a closer involvement in all discussions and decisions that impact future direction of the global music business.
This concept of collaboration is standard practice in Sweden and across the Nordic territories. With MMF Sweden, who represent 50 managers including Marie Dimberg (Roxette) Anders Johansson (Veronica Maggio) Anders Larsson (Lars Winnerbäck) – as well as the artists that I manage like Backyard Babies and Watain – we have been cooperating more closely in the Nordic countries over recent years, pooling our expertise and resources through initiatives like NOMEX and through showcase platforms such as Ja Ja Ja.
We now aim to do something similar within the music management community.
The role of the music manager has changed over the past decade as the business of music has entered a new phase of streaming-based evolution and relationships between artists and labels have adapted. It is vital that such fundamental changes are reflected in licensing negotiations, and that commercial partnerships with Digital Service Providers are as transparent and modern as possible. Unfair commercial terms which may have seemed relevant in the days of physical music such as packaging and TV advertising deductions are no longer pertinent and should not apply to digital music consumption.
We want to see a modern European and Global music industry with contracts that are fair and reflect the lower-costs in accessing a digital market.
Digital consumption have enabled labels rich on catalogue to make all the repertoire they control available at a very low cost. And with little financial risk.
So when we see net margins of 70-90% in the labels favour from streaming of digital catalogue, it feels not only obscene, but also an issue that should be addressed by the European Commission. Activating recoupment debts that existed from before streaming revenues existed also feels unethical and unlikely to encourage fruitful partnerships in the future. The new music business needs to be constructed on more equitable lines.
My personal belief is that streaming income for catalogue needs to be set a more “midprice” level, and that we should look to reverse the current split of revenue between artist and labels. This can only be done by collaborative works between the EU commission and by negotiating with mangers through organizations like EMMA.
If we are to join the recorded business in lobbying on issues like Safe Harbours and the Value Gap, and for the payment of higher royalties from the likes of Google and YouTube, then it is essential that we also recalibrate how these revenues will be accounted for.
In parallel to these commercial developments, European legal frameworks and policy discussions must also involve greater participation from artists and their representatives – including debates on Intellectual Property, taxation, collection society reform and Brexit. As EMMA, we want to ensure restrictions to European touring are reduced, and that young artists should be supported – not punished – with unfair taxes across Europe. We can only influence these discussions by sharing evidence, coming up with solutions and working together.
Finally, in many countries such as Sweden, our community of music managers is relatively small in a global context. We benefit hugely from pooling our resources for education and research. Through EMMA, we are now developing a common code of practice and hope to provide increased opportunities for professional development for our membership through mentoring and exchanging knowledge.
These are early days, we clearly have a lot to do, but this moment at Midem – appropriately the most international of music conferences – marks an first important step on our journey towards a fairer and more dynamic industry.
To celebrate the launch of new pan-European managers body EMMA yesterday, a number of managers from across Europe met in London to discuss how the initiative can ensure their collective voices are heard.
The initiative will initially bring together MMF’s in Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the UK – as well as making formal links with similar organisations in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Managers must have a say in changes brought about by Brexit, as well as licensing deals for new revenue streams, said interim EMMA Chair Keith Harris. “The manager has become more central to today’s music business — 20 years ago, the majors ruled with an iron first and there was not a great deal of flexibility in the way deals were done,” he said.
“[Despite that change], current conversations are lacking the manager’s voice. The majors have agreed to distribute [the money they earn from the sale of Spotify stock] to artists, but that’s up for debate, and you’d think there would have been an upfront conversation about how that is going to take place. One of the reasons that hasn’t happened is because people need to know who to talk to. There’s an alliance of music managers who don’t feel we can wait until the European exit has sorted itself out, we need to start talking now. We need to make sure manager’s voices get heard otherwise our artist’s lives are going to get increasingly difficult. The primary aim of EMMA is to get our voices heard properly across Europe.”
Representatives from Finland, Poland, Norway and Sweden then discussed the challenges they face in their respective markets, and how EMMA could help. Virpi Immonen said the management business in her home of Finland, where she’s Chairperson of the MMF, has grown rapidly over the past 20 years. Despite the fact that the amount of managers in the market has gone from around three to 50, demand from artists for representation has now outstripped the number. “We lose revenue coming into our country because our artists sign outside of Finland,” she explained. “How do we get more managers, and good management, in our country?”
Over in Poland, Magdalena Jensen founded MMF a year ago. The country was previously wholly reliant on a domestic market but that’s becoming increasingly international. “It’s been amazing to see the development of the music scene in general but there is so much work to be done,” she said. “We’re prioritising educational activities to bring a level of professionalism that matches the international business so that we can break stars globally.”
Cecilie Torp-Holte, Chief Officer NEMAA Norway, said her situation is similar to Finland and streaming has internationalised the market. The launch of a management degree has helped educate managers who start out in the business with a higher level of professionalism than their predecessors. Sharing information and identifying crucial topics, like safe harbour rules, taxes and the value gap, with other music business companies has also been beneficial, said Torp-Holte, which is why EMMA is vital. “It’s crucial that everyone doesn’t sit in our own territories doing the same. We need to share information and experience and educate each other.”
In Sweden, where Per Kviman is Chair of the MMF, while the artists, songwriters and producers coming out of the market have reached a level of professionalism needed to break the international market, the business hasn’t caught up. Kviman said: “The challenges we face working with artists internationally is not something we can overcome as one, we need to unite. Also, when it comes to the unfairness of the admin and cost of bringing our live acts into the US, as oppose to vice versa, we need to be unified to make this different and make real changes.”
Other issues raised during the meeting included the lack of ad revenue generated on Spotify’s free tier that makes its way to the artist, the limited amount of data managers have access to from platforms like Apple Music, as well as little transparency around the way PROs operate in each territory.
British manager Ric Salmon said EMMA will ensure the voice of the manager is as loud as the recorded music trade organisations when it comes to demanding change, especially as artists increasingly choose the independent route. “We don’t have to be observers, we are the change. Our voice collectively can be loud enough to compete with Google, Universal, BPI, or whoever it is. We have enough artists doing direct deals with DSPs and the marketshare of the indie sector is a huge percentage of the global music industry. That allows us a certain clarity and tone of voice.”
Harris said EMMA intends to have rules of engagement in place by Midem in June, including a long term Chair and board elections. The board will rotate and the organisation is “members driven,” added Jensen. “We want to represent voices that come from everybody, this is not a top down organisation.”
Words by Rhian Jones.