Could the “starving artist” cliché finally end if artists were given access to all the royalties to which they are entitled? For indie and DIY artists, Bridger The aim now is to unlock missing music rights while offering songwriters and publishers the opportunity to generate revenue. This is all done through a modified PRO concept called Independent Management Entity or IME.
In the current music industry environment, proper artist royalties revenue relies on ties to PROs (Performance Rights Organizations), CMOs (Collective Management Organizations), or both. These connections are vital for artists to secure their rights and monetize their work. Unfortunately, for many indies, these connections are just not practical or available.
This creates a predictable problem: due to a lack of affiliation with PROs and CMOs, indie songwriters and publishers generally miss out on the opportunities these organizations can offer. As a result, artists typically collect their recording royalties only through their distributor, potentially leaving large amounts of release-related royalties behind.
As a European IME, Bridger is entitled to do so collect Mechanical rights and performing rights royalties directly, without intermediaries. Unlike most other global distribution and license collection services that act as copyright administrators, Bridger acts as a CMO for smaller, underrepresented indie artists.
Xavier Tumminello, Head of Communications at Bridger, believes artists need to join a PRO or CMO to get the money they earn to further their music projects and careers. But PROs and CMOs are ultimately limiting or exclusionary, which led to the creation of the IME. “We help artists increase their royalties by 25%. In terms of features and volume, Bridger is already the size of a small European CMO.”
So what is the difference between a PRO or CMO on the one hand and the IME on the other? According to Tumminello, it’s simple: PROs and CMOs are typically non-profit organizations, and an IME is a business entity. Most recently, Bridger has partnered with DMN to expand access to performance rights for indie and DIY artists.
After the February 2022 release, Bridger presented a repertoire size of around 35,000 works with over 700 songwriters. Bridger also recently introduced a collaborative work registration feature that allows songwriters to register collaborative musical works.
Xavier points out that some talented artists have never been connected to a CMO because the onboarding process involves significant hurdles. Bridger aims to simplify this path so that artists can use it quickly to continue their education, join yourselfand register their works “so that we may represent them and collect on their behalf”.
For creators who have been ignored by traditional CMOs but represent large volumes of streams on streaming services, Bridger can “discover value and deliver it to artists,” says Tumminello.
The number of non-traditional artists without a CMO affiliation is surprisingly large. For example, according to the company, most artists on meditation playlists receive tens of millions of streams but aren’t represented by a CMO. Overall, the royalties collection picture looks bleak for creators across most platforms. “With a total of 8 to 12 million YouTubers on Spotify, CISAC only has 4 million members. And these members include duplicates, since artists can be members of both ASCAP and BMI at the same time. So between 4 and 8 million songwriters don’t get their royalties from Spotify alone.”
This “black box” of millions of dollars in unpaid royalties encompasses more than just indie artists.
Xavier reveals even more prominent artists with existing CMO affiliations are missing out on potential revenue. “These artists know they deserve more than they get paid.”
For songwriters and larger IP owners who are already connected to PROs and are frustrated with the level of their royalties, Xavier says Bridger could potentially increase their digital revenue. “We’re not direct competitors of CMOs, but we do offer artists an alternative approach.”
According to the company, artists can optimize their copyright revenue by passing on their online royalties and streaming revenue to Bridger. Meanwhile, his existing CMO can continue to raise money for public appearances, venues and stores, malls, and traditional radio. Both organizations can coexist seamlessly.
Then there’s the cross-area collection chaos. “Copyright doesn’t spread well across the Atlantic,” says Xavier. In theory, the system of royalty generation collapses almost immediately when music leaves its region of origin – because copyright laws across the Atlantic are vastly different.
For example, while the US does not recognize performance rights for broadcast recordings, European countries do recognize those recordings as legitimate income. Furthermore, artists’ mutual agreements with their CMOs do not reflect this difference, so royalties are not returned to ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.
Xavier explains: “There is no one-way street for royalties on the other side of the Atlantic. There is no refund as the mutual agreement is not really mutual.”
It’s common for IP holders to receive meager paychecks even when big things are happening in the music world. According to Xavier, Bridger is focused on making sure artists’ digital copyrights are collected at source, on the other side of the Atlantic. “If you are in the US, you should look for a European solution for Europe. And if you’re in Europe, you might want to look at a US-based solution. Do not just rely on mutual agreements and always question how Western countries handle your intellectual property.”
Xavier admits that big publishers are doing their best and have efficiently fragmented the market to ensure they make the most of it. But as you move down the ladder, paying out music royalties gets complicated.
Artists struggling with these problems and frustrations need an obvious and simple solution to expedite payments, take control, and generate revenue faster. Bridger’s larger goal is to establish the system that drives change in the PRO/CMO landscape.
Xavier believes the nature of Bridger’s arrangements with DSPs allows him to do things differently. For its artists, Bridger can claim royalties up to two years prior to the artist’s affiliation. Joining the platform is free, with no subscription or annual fees, allowing indie artists to collect royalties with no upfront payment. He adds: “When you’re starting out and don’t know anything about copyright, you’re not willing to pay up front. We’ve removed that barrier between artists and their affiliation with Bridger so they can collect their rightful royalties.”