August 11, 2017

APRA AMCOS – Digital Licensing Across Asia

The licensing of music in the digital space is a complex practice. Separating the artist/ label side of coin, consider the landscape of a song with multiple song writers, each having their own publisher and in turn each publisher have their own sub-publisher throughout different regions of the world. The complexities multiply when digital music platforms provide their offering to consumers across multiple countries. APRA AMCOS are approaching the licensing of digital service providers throughout the Asian region with a new and innovative approach. SHOUT! Music Publishing is pleased to be participating on behalf of our song writers and publishing clients in the Pan-Asian License scheme (PAL) from APRA AMCOS and have seen encouraging results from it. We sat down with Andrew Harris, Director of International Licensing for APRA AMCOS to chat about the history of this scheme and hear from him on its progress.


SMP - How long have you worked at APRA AMCOS?

AH - I commenced at APRA AMCOS at the end of 2012, so in the overall scheme of a century old organisation I am very much a newbie.


SMP – Can you explain to our readers what the Pan-Asian Licence is?

AH - The Pan Asian licence is a multi-territorial digital music publishing licence where APRA AMCOS acts as agent for a group of publishers wishing to license their rights to a digital music provider. It effectively gives digital services a one-stop-shop for our publishers’ rights across the whole region. We cover all the usual kinds of services, like music streaming, but license anything that is using music online or via digital channels – so also gaming Apps, audiovisual offerings, online karaoke to name a few.


SMP - Why and when did APRA AMCOS start PAL? 

AH - The PAL hub commenced in the middle of 2013 after APRA and Universal Music Publishing signed an agreement for APRA AMCOS to represent the major’s repertoire on a multi-territory Asia basis across digital and online service in the region. The genesis was that there was a feeling from publishers that the existing approach wasn’t working efficiently enough for the digital age and that royalties were not flowing fast enough or big enough in the region given the user activity they felt was happening in the region. SHOUT! Music Publishing joined soon after the commencement of PAL.


SMP - What are the challenges of digital licensing throughout this region and how is PAL addressing some of these challenges?

AH - There are numerous challenges in the region. On the rights side there is much uncertainty from many players on what rights are to be acquired and where the rights are to be acquired from. Many players often also do not understand the fragmented landscape and the difference between master recordings and musical works, let alone the difference between mechanical and performing rights. Much of our job is in educating players on the basics of the market before even opening licensing discussions. We also face large challenges on the systems and processing side, as the region has traditionally operated on the basis of lump sum payments, where services paid fees that licensors typically took and were then distributed using their own approaches that could vary by territory. We have come to the region with an approach of processing every usage of a track on each service, ensuring that there is complete transparency in our reporting and payments to our rights holders. To do this we have built our own standalone Asian system that can process all the services down to the last usage reported in the services’ usage reporting. We are now able to offer services a single source to license our represented publishers’ rights across the region and are able to offer rights holders full royalty payment and corresponding granular reporting data typically within three months of the activity occurring on the digital services we license. These timeframes are a huge shot in the arm for the region, where previously it could have taken many more months or even years for payments to flow.


SMP - Who are the key licensees under the program to date?

AH - We have actively licensed digital players in the region, so it’s a mix of relatively unknown and big Asian services (for example, Tencent out of China who are considered by some as “The Google of China”) and the large global usual suspects (for example Spotify, Apple, Deezer, Tidal etc). 


SMP - What territories does PAL currently include? 

AH - We cover all Asian territories including India and China. The exceptions are Japan and Korea, which we do not currently cover. 


SMP - How do you see digital licensing throughout Asia in five years from now?

AH - Five years is a very long time in Asian digital markets. It’s hard to see even one year ahead much of the time in Asia, given almost every day a new and different service type is uncovered or presents itself! But we’re definitely seeing an increased acceptance by music users of the requirement for legitimizing music use across digital channels in Asia and ensuring appropriate royalties fees are paid to our creators. The environment is very different to the traditional developed markets where streaming has really become the dominant player in a maturing market. In Asia we need to continue to be flexible and adapt to new services and licensing approaches as the way music is being used evolves – which can be as left field as being the soundtrack to a new piece of clothing somebody is buying for their avatar in a gaming App coming out of Korea that is blowing up across the region. 


SMP - How has the publisher response been to PAL so far?

AH - I would say it was been really positive, as we’ve been able to get royalties out of places nobody has been able to get royalties before and we’ve been able to do it very quickly – and we now do it on a regular ongoing basis every quarter. We are constantly receiving enquiries from global publishers interested in taking part in the PAL hub, and just recently added Downtown Music Publishing out of New York and Native Tongue out of Melbourne. But our key goal has always been to ensure that our entire systems and processes were solid and working smoothly for our foundation partners, of which UMP was the first (and SHOUT! not long after). Now that we’ve got that locked down, we’re growing our number of represented publishers and look forward to delivering for songwriters in a region that has been traditionally very difficult for writers to get paid transparently and efficiently.


For more information about APRA AMCOS got to