NMPA ANNUAL MEETING HONORS TAYLOR SWIFT, ANNOUNCES NEW INDUSTRY DATA AND ACTIONS AGAINST ROBLOX AND TWITCH
|WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) 2021 Annual Meeting celebrated creators and executives, featured exceptional tribute performances, gave a clear picture of the publishing industry through new data and announced imminent enforcement measures against gaming platforms that continue to steal from songwriters.
The meeting’s premiere honor went to singer-songwriter Taylor Swift who accepted the NMPA Songwriter Icon Award by naming her most impactful influences including Max Martin, Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner and UMPG Nashville Chairman & CEO Troy Tomlinson.
She began by explaining the importance of the award saying, “I’m really, really honored to be receiving this award because it honors the part of my job that is so magical and mystifying to me still.” Speaking of NMPA Board member Liz Rose she said the songwriter, “is someone who spent hours and hours and hours with me when there was absolutely no sign that anything would happen in my career.” She explained, “I was fourteen and she wrote with me so many times and taught me how to edit my ideas down to something more concise that packed an emotional punch.” She thanked NMPA Board member UMPG Chairman & CEO Jody Gerson, “for being such a champion of female songwriters throughout the industry.”
Celebrating Taylor with a personal tribute, Sara Bareilles performed her hit “Clean” and said, “Ms. Taylor Swift has proven herself over and over again to be an extraordinary storyteller, an innovator, a leader, an advocate, an activist, and this woman shows no signs of stopping.” At the top of the show, up-and-coming talent Priscilla Block performed a medley of Swift’s biggest hits and recounted a chance encounter with the star that encouraged her to continue pursuing music.
Also awarded was Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) with the NMPA President’s Award for his commitment to fostering legislation that promotes fairness for songwriters. Additionally, Country Music Association (CMA) CEO Sarah Trahern was given the NMPA Industry Legacy Award for all of her efforts to modernize and expand the genre and to support the songwriters who form its foundation.
Singer-songwriter Luke Bryan celebrated Trahern saying, “she has always been such an advocate for the songwriting community.” He added, “I think through the everchanging world of the music business, Sarah has continued to evolve with it and allow our wonderful industry to prosper and watch Nashville grow and watch the CMA grow under her leadership.” He then performed “Most People Are Good,” as he said, “because she’s definitely a good one.”
The keynote was given by The Ringer network founder Bill Simmons who spoke about his upcoming music docuseries with HBO and UMPG’s Jody Gerson and Marc Cimino which will chronicle iconic moments throughout history in the industry.
Peermusic Executive Chair Ralph Peer II received a surprise tribute for his 50 years of service on the NMPA Board of Directors from NMPA Board Chairman Irwin Robinson, legendary composer and producer David Foster, singer-songwriter and producer Poo Bear, and peermusic CEO Mary Megan Peer. Ms. Peer said, “I know that you have chosen to spend 50 years serving on the board of the NMPA due to the special relationship NMPA creates between music publishers, songwriting colleagues and the government.”
During his annual State of the Industry speech, NMPA President & CEO David Israelite announced new enforcement actions being taken against rampant infringers in the gaming industry. Citing the enormous size of its user base – over 42 million active daily – he detailed the lengths Roblox has gone to avoid paying music creators who are a huge driver of its growth, as well as Roblox’s enticement of children to unknowingly commit acts of piracy without protecting them by fully licensing its platform.
Israelite explained, “They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars by requiring users to pay every time they upload music onto the platform – taking advantage of young people’s lack of understanding about copyright – and then they take virtually no action to prevent repeat infringement or alert users to the risks they are taking.”
NMPA’s lawsuit, filed today on behalf of publisher plaintiffs including ABKCO Music & Records, Big Machine Music, Concord Music Group with Pulse Music Group, deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman), Downtown Music Publishing, Hipgnosis, Kobalt Music Group, MPL Music Publishing, peermusic, Reservoir Media Management, Spirit Music Group, and UMPG, will seek damages in the amount of no less than $200 million for Roblox’s unabashed exploitation of music without proper licenses. The lawsuit will ensure songwriters are fully paid for their works on the platform and that Roblox takes seriously its obligations to those who have made its service so popular and profitable. Songs recorded by artists including Ariana Grande, Imagine Dragons, deadmau5, Ed Sheeran, and the Rolling Stones are all being utilized without compensating their writers and copyright holders.
Additionally, Israelite officially launched a major ramp-up of its takedown campaign against Amazon-owned Twitch, another of the world’s most popular video creation and gaming platforms with over nine million active streamers. Twitch’s users have paid the price for the platform’s failure to license music, and until they do, NMPA will continue removing music which Amazon refuses to pay for. Israelite said, “Twitch should serve its users by fully licensing music which would allow the platform to flourish and copyright owners to be properly compensated.”
In addition to gaming targets, Israelite discussed the growth in the music publishing industry, announcing 2020’s total revenue as $4,076,829,040, a 9.6% increase from 2019. He explained, “it is important to understand the impact that COVID has had on that year. Even though the world felt the effects of COVID back in March of 2020, because of the delayed nature of much of the revenue streams for the publishing industry, there was a later impact to the industry, but it also means it will continue later in  as we continue out of that problem.” He also detailed the split in revenue categories as: Performance 51.5%; Sync 23.4%; Mechanical 20.2%; and Other 4.9%. “Mechanicals grew once again to 20.2% despite the fact that you have some mechanical categories that are shrinking rapidly. It’s because of the growth of the mechanical part of interactive streaming that the category overall grew,” Israelite added.
He summarized lessons learned from the newly-release data. “Number one: The resilience of the publishing industry. Despite the impact of COVID, we had significant growth in 2020. And that speaks to the strength of not only the diversification of our income streams, but also because of how songs perform even in a bad economy,” Israelite said. “Lesson number two: The importance of digital streaming and new business models, like in-home fitness, user-generated social media and gaming.” He added, “Lesson number three: The value of songs. They might actually be undervalued. There’s a lot of talk about whether or not in these recent catalog sales the buyers paid too much. What if they got a bargain?” Israelite concluded his speech saying, “despite our many challenges, the state of the music publishing industry is strong.”
In addition to the State of the Industry analysis, NMPA Executive Vice President & General Counsel Danielle Aguirre moderated a panel with music journalists regarding the recent boom in catalog sales, NFTs, covering the industry through the COVID pandemic and other topics.
Segments from the meeting will become available at nmpa.org/events in the coming days.