Keeping the music industry fair for all is a constant tug-of-war against many types of fraud. From preventing false royalty claims, stopping automated bot streaming, and keeping platforms accountable—everyone has a different opinion.
Today we’re speaking with Virginie Berger, Chief Business Development & Rights Officer at Matchtune. Berger is also participating in our upcoming webinar, speaking specifically on the topics of user-generated content monetization, royalties, and more.
Virginie Berger says one of the biggest challenges facing the modern music industry is that companies are navigating an increasingly intricate and globalized environment. “It’s one of the most significant liabilities they face—the complexity of managing music rights & royalties in this diverse landscape,” Berger told us.
Digital Music News is hosting an online webinar exploring fraud prevention and liability reduction in music. Some of the topics our panelists will explore this session include how the liability of inaccurate payments from public performance impacts the industry and how millions in royalties have been stolen through false copyright claims.
- What: Digital Music News’ Webinar ‘Missing Payments? A Look at Loss Prevention and IP Protection In Music’
- When: January 24 | 11 am PT / 2 pm ET (3 hours runtime with Q&A session)
- Exclusive to DMN Pro Members.
“As the industry expands across borders, music companies must grapple with varying copyright laws, royalty collection societies, and distribution channels in different countries. This international dimension introduces a level of complexity that demands extensive legal knowledge and cultural sensitivity, increasing the risk of non-compliance and missed revenue opportunities,” Virginie shared.
Berger is a seasoned professional in the music and tech industries, renowned for her expertise in music business innovation and integrating AI in music strategy and rights management. Her 20-year career has included pivotal roles at Downtown Music-Songtrust, Armonia, MySpace, and Microsoft—where she played a key role in generating revenue, forging strategic alliances, and championing artists’ rights.
Virginie is known for her work as a curator, professor, and artist advocate, with a rich background in music business rights innovation. Matchtune is a pioneer in AI-powered audio recognition, developing the cutting-edge ‘Advanced Audio Fingerprinting’ technology. DMN spoke with Virginie about the biggest liabilities facing companies in music, how artists can get what they’re owed, and some of the biggest challenges they’ll face in getting paid what they’re owed.
“Music rights are often divided among numerous stakeholders, record labels, and music publishers. Each party holds specific rights, such as performance, mechanical, or synchronization rights. This division creates a convoluted network of royalty payments and rights management, leading to disputes and delays in payment—ultimately affecting the financial well-being of artists and companies alike,” Berger continued.
“Many music companies continue to rely on outdated technology for tracking royalties and managing rights, which is not sufficient to handle the volume and complexity of data generated from digital streaming platforms. Although AI and advanced analytics offer potential solutions for more accurate tracking and prediction models for royalty distribution, the industry’s slow adoption of these technologies has led to significant gaps in data accuracy and royalty distribution.”
Streaming fraud and account manipulation can play a big part in theft of royalties. Fraudulent activities like artificial streams to inflate royalty payments hurt everyone, distorting data analytics that companies rely on in their decision-making process. Berger says combating these types of fraud requires a “more sophisticated approach to monitoring and detecting fraudulent activities, potentially involving AI-driven analytics.”
While AI may help the industry administer the royalties side of music, it is also one of the biggest liabilities in the industry. Berger says the integration of AI into the music industry represents its current biggest liability. Here’s why.
“This is primarily due to the complex interplay of data training, copyright, licensing, and the management of input and output,” Berger shared. “This situation is further complicated by the rapid pace of AI development and the lag in corresponding legal frameworks. Current copyright laws were not designed with AI-generated content in mind—leading to a grey area in legal terms.”
“As AI continues to evolve, there’s an urgent need for updated laws and regulations that address these new technologies’ unique challenges and implications. Balancing the innovative potential of AI with respect for intellectual property rights is crucial,” Berger added. “The industry must advocate for fair practices in data usage for AI training, ensuring that creators are adequately compensated and their rights are protected, while also pushing for legal reforms that address the nuances of AI-generated content.”
So we’ve explored how the complexity of the music industry’s growth across the globe has made it difficult to track and pay rights holders. But the transition to digital streaming has massively exacerbated that. Berger says that royalty calculation models used by streaming platforms are often complex and not fully transparent, leading to misunderstandings and suspicion of underpaying artists and labels. The sheer amount of data that DSPs handle on a daily basis can also introduce metadata errors—causing delays in royalties.
“The prevalent ‘pro-rata’ system, where revenue is pooled and distributed based on the percentage of total streams, often puts niche and emerging artists at a disadvantage, raising questions about the fairness of these models,” Berger continued. Some of the pain points that have emerged in getting artists what they’re owed include:
- Inadequate Compensation | Many argue that artists are not compensated fairly on DSPs, particularly smaller, indie artists.
- Delayed Payments | The lag time between when music is played and when artists are paid can be substantial.
- Complex Royalty Calculations | The algorithms used by streaming platforms to calculate royalties are not always transparent, leading to confusion and potential underpayment.
- Metadata Errors | Metadata includes song credits and other underlying information tied to the release of a song or album and it plays a crucial role in getting the right people paid. Errors like missing credits, misspelled names, or inconsistencies with a platform’s guidelines can lead to missed royalty payments.
- Unclaimed Royalties | Unclaimed royalties are another major problem in the music industry, affecting many independent artists and songwriters. Unclaimed royalties may be due to a spelling error, unreported usage of music, or a lack of understanding in royalty collection.
With so many ways for an artist or label to potentially miss out on royalties, what recourse do they have in collecting missing payments? Virginie says a multi-pronged approach is necessary for anyone seeking to recover lost revenue.
“Auditing agreements and royalty statements is a crucial first step,” she told Digital Music News. “This process involves closely examining the data, including the metadata, for any errors or inconsistencies that might have led to the missing payments. Engaging with collection societies and DSPs is also vital for gaining detailed play reports and understanding the royalty calculations. In cases where discrepancies persist, legal advice and intervention may become necessary to ensure rightful payments are received.”