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Skap i Music Week: ”Time to bring balance to music’s value chain”

Alfons Karabuda

Inför Skaps aktörsmöte om en hållbar utveckling för digitala musiktjänster den 16 februari ombads Skaps ordförande Alfons Karabuda skriva en artikel för Music Week. Under rubriken ”Time to bring balance to music’s value chain” utvecklade Karabuda Skaps syn på hur branschen måste gå samman för att garantera en framtida mångfald i musikutbudet. Läs artikeln här.

To most of you the value of music is undisputed. But, in fact, the value of music has always been questioned. Not necessarily whether there is value, but what constitutes it and how great it is.

To business, music is money. To pirates it is free entertainment. To the EU policymakers, it is a fast growing market and a promise of a strong, long-term and competitive European economy. But to us music creators, music is above all a way to express oneself, a way to make one’s voice heard. To say something. As music creators, we are part of a business, but at the same time we are very much part of culture and society. We hold a unique position moving between contexts, relating to different stakeholders with different interests.

Because it is not all about business. Where YouTube thrives from its 90 per cent music content, a dictator somewhere feels threatened by the expressive impact of that same music. Business, society and democracy meet in the work of the music creator. That is why the UN Human Rights Council, in the very first report on artistic rights, recently declared authors’ rights to be a human right alongside freedom of artistic expression.

Today there are few questions as crucial to music creators within the music business as the digital shift and the on-going review of copyright rules. The work that is currently being done will put in place a completely new  framework and infrastructure for the music, movies and television of tomorrow. This is not something the music business, or the individual music creators, can simply leave to others to decide.

Therefore, the work we are doing at The European Composer & Songwriter Alliance (ECSA), is of great importance both to music creators and to the music industry. With our 43 member organisations active all over Europe, representing composers and songwriters of all genres, ECSA has been able to make a considerable impact on regulatory development in the EU.

As an example, The British Academy of Songwriters , Composers and Authors (BASCA), already from the outset an important foundation pillar of ECSA, represents a music nation in itself containing all the constituents we need. The UK has always been a rebellious forerunner in music, and as such also a spearhead in making the value of music apparent and globally known.

Still, however, there is work to be done. With such strong players forming an even stronger unity, I am convinced the future belongs to music creators and music lovers. As it should be.

I strongly believe that 2015 will be the year when all reasons for valuing music will converge to the greater benefit of all. We, the music creators, might constitute the essence, the core of the music value chain, but every stakeholder adding to the value of music will have their place. 2015 will therefore be the year when we call into question the whole architecture of the music value chain. Who are the contributors and who receives the benefits?

Today music lovers everywhere are very aware of the environment surrounding the music they listen to. They are conscious of the role they themselves play in this environment. They will no longer accept services lacking the same awareness, denying fair remuneration for those at the heart of the value chain – the music creators who constitute the core of the business model behind those services.

The international World Fair Trade Music initiative launched in Nashville in October 2014, following the publication of the report “Fair Compensation for Music Creators in the Digital Age”, is the beginning of a much needed process. A process of creating balance in the value chain, of formulating a strategy in order to secure regrowth of content for the long-term, sustainable development of digital music services. In Europe, the next step will be a pilot round table meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 16th, where representatives of all stakeholders will discuss a strategic approach to these issues.

So, will 2015 be the year when music creators snatch money from other stakeholders, pulling the rug out from underneath new as well as existing digital music services? On the contrary. We will keep investing with our work, our music. And we call for other stakeholders to recognize that investment as the core value it really is, and in return to provide fair and necessary renumeration.

This said, my aim is not to promote gloom. Quite the contrary. I recognize a bright future when I listen to the music of my colleagues, when I see them fight for democracy, and when I see how willing they are to invest their music even in the smallest start-up. Music creators are ultimately facilitators, willing and able to cater to other stakeholders’ needs in this complex and fascinating industry.

We now have a window of opportunity to achieve change in the long-term direction we need, looking out for music creators, artists and music lovers while at the same time providing for innovators, entrepreneurs and their business. Let us take advantage of this unique situation and form the music landscape of tomorrow together – for a future of true diversity in music.

Alfons Karabuda