Open Music Initiative Hopes to Solve the Music Industry’s Money Problems

The Berklee College of Music in Boston is taking the lead with a new group that aims to fix the complexities around artist payments in the age of music streaming. The effort already has a number of major players on board—both from the music industry and the tech space, along with academia.

The slow drumbeat toward the use of YouTube and Spotify as our primary ways of accessing music online has been hard to miss, but for many artists, the corresponding melody has been absent.

That’s because the growing popularity of streaming music has created problems for musicians when it comes to getting paid or doing the accounting behind all those streams. The inconsistency can get frustrating, and it’s already led to legal settlements between Spotify and the music industry.

But the Open Music Initiative (OMI), a new industry enterprise being led by the Berklee College of Music’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, hopes to solve the accounting problem that, for many artists, is taking the fun out of making music.

The strategy, which has the backing of major players in the digital space (Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, SoundCloud, and SiriusXM) and the major labels that release much of that music (Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music), is an attempt to build open-source standards to ensure that music plays are being consistently tracked—and to compensate the artists and musicians behind this work.

Panos Panay, a cofounder of OMI and the managing director of the Berklee Institute, says that revenue problems faced by the music industry point to structural problems with the way it is organized as a whole.

“To us this is less of an insurmountable problem and more of a unique opportunity. An opportunity to jointly modernize the framework on which our business operates on so that we can all reap the benefits of tomorrow,” Panay wrote in a blog post last week.

OMI, beyond the two major parties mentioned above, also includes affiliations with a number of industry groups, including the Future of Music Coalition, the International Artist Organisation, and the Music Managers Forum among its more than 50 members. And there’s also a significant academic element to the OMI effort beyond Berklee. The MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative will play a role, as will faculty members from the University College London.

Ultimately, though, the one member that everyone has their eye on is Spotify. And it’s looking forward to the opportunity.

“We think transparency across the entire music economy is essential to rewarding artists, songwriters and everyone involved in the creation of music fairly and rapidly,” Jonathan Price, Spotify’s global head of communications, said in a news release. “We’re really happy to be part of an effort that is exploring innovative ways to do that with new technologies.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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