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Berklee College report spotlights lack of transparency in the music industry

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Bruce T. Martin
The Berklee College of Music in Boston.

A longtime sore spot for artists is being exacerbated by the convoluted world of streaming, in which large record labels have ownership stakes.

The song "Cheerleader" by the singer OMI is at the top of the new Billboard Hot 100 chart, but whether you've got the biggest hit in the country or you're just an artist starting out, you'd like to think you'll be properly paid for your music.

You might be wrong.

A new 29-page report from the Berklee College of Music titled, "Transparency and Money Flows in the Music Industry," says: "Anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of music payments don't make it to their rightful owners."  

Panos Panay, managing director of the Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship at Berklee College of Music, spoke with The Frame's John Horn to discuss the year-long study that led to the report.

What was the impetus for your institute to take on this study?

The rules of the game are changing by the minute and I'm curious if performers have believed for decades that they haven't always received the money they're owed. Technology and streaming has really exacerbated that, is that fair?
So you were studying, I assume, separate revenue streams for things like radio airplay, TV and film royalties, album sales and streaming. Are you looking at that whole pot of money? If it's coming in, where is it getting funneled away?
You also studied something called "the black box." It sounds ominous and it has nothing to do with the flight recorder on an airplane. What is the black box? How does money that should be getting to the artist end up there?
Spotify issued a statement about the report saying, “We’re big believers in transparency and think it’s key to building a new music economy that pays artists and songwriters fairly.” The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade organization for record companies, said, “We support efforts to ensure all music creators are paid fairly and efficiently for their work and we look forward to reading the report.”
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