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Guest blog: Fairness in the Fishbowl – Reconsider the Copyright Board Ruling on Tariff 8

The following is a guest blog by Greg Nisbet, Founder & CEO of Toronto-based digital music company Mediazoic:

Made-in-Toronto music biz legend Bob Ezrin recently wrote about the Copyright Board ruling on Tariff 8, speculating that it may be “The Day The Music Died”. In the piece, he states the following:

Perhaps the worst result of the low rate is that we will be granting a 90% discount to American streaming companies that covet our market and will eagerly sweep in here with powerful and well-funded systems that will wipe out any Canadian-owned competition – all at the expense of the creators you have historically supported with thoughtful policy.

I run a 100% Canadian music streaming company and I agree with Mr. Ezrin. The ruling was a bad idea and the rates are too low.

It may at first seem counter-intuitive that a streaming company would advocate for paying higher costs to do business, in a business that is already notoriously expensive. Indeed, I was asked in a recent Globe & Mail article if music streaming companies will ever make money.

Well, I don’t know about other companies, but I am proud to be able to claim that ours has been built without any of the digital and entertainment grants available, and, not having had access to those deep wells of venture capital available to many of the international streaming companies, we have therefore managed any progress we’ve made through our own devices.

In our first couple years in business, that lack of funding was actually by choice 😉 People in the industry told me for years that Mediazoic was the ultimate grant magnet – Canadian, digital, music, and media all rolled into one. I used to respond that I didn’t think we could consider ourselves a viable business model unless and until the market had decided our fate. We were going to focus on getting clients, not writing grants.

Then one day we lost a huge deal to a very well-funded international service because, in order to enter our market, they were willing to do for free what I’d have actually had to pay my people to do. I understood immediately the frustration of the local merchant with the big box store opening next door (and yes, we started applying for all the grants we could!)

So yes, Bob Ezrin has a point, but mine is not an argument for protection of companies like mine up against better-funded international competitors. I still think having to stand on our own two feet helps us understand how to build something valuable and sustainable.

My concern with the Copyright Board ruling is that it will foist this “big box” model on our music creators as well. The price-driven “big box stores” (streaming companies) are set up to thrive, but their “suppliers” (artists, management, labels, etc.) are not. And listeners may think they’re better off, but when the creators suffer, it is ultimately music fans who suffer.

It would have been one thing if licensors, who have a deep understanding of the business/culture balance and of Canadian/international ownership complexities, had decided the timing and nature of a change in rates. As we all know, streaming even at low rates is still preferable to file sharing, or streaming from sources that don’t report their plays. The progress that has been made in monetizing convenient access to great music is not something likely to reverse, and in spite of the whipping-boy status earned during the piracy wars, I haven’t found anyone in the business who understands that better than label folks.

And yes, streaming companies do need an environment in which to make a profit. But rather than push for lower rates, my company chose to innovate the business model. Basically, we believe the success of each project we undertake is based on three parties – us for providing the platform, the rightsholders of the music played on our system, and our station hosts (clients) for getting it out there. As such, when planning and implementing a project, we always strive for a fair and transparent split of the revenue between the parties. This isn’t just because we’re nice and we love music – we believe that in the music business of the future, the most successful companies will be the most fair and transparent.

Indeed, we hear repeatedly that one of the main reasons our clients choose to do business with us is that they want to support a flourishing arts community, even more so if that has built-in support for Canadian artists and companies.

We live in a fishbowl. Fairness may be desirable now for organizations, but it is rapidly becoming necessary. Systems that are not based on fairness are doomed to fail, as they will not bear the ever-increasing scrutiny that comes with our interconnected world.

Simply put, the Copyright Board ruling is not fair. It is my hope that the artistic community will use every means at its disposal to support the many innovative new ways of delivering music that actually focus on giving artists a fair shake.

 

Greg Nisbet

Mediazoic…Radio, Evolved

gregn [at] mediazoic [dot] com

http://www.mediazoic.com

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Toronto Digital Music Company Mediazoic Announces Licensing Deal with AVLA

Toronto Digital Music Company Mediazoic Announces Licensing Deal with AVLA
Comprehensive deal covers internet streaming of music from Universal, Warner, Sony, EMI, and more than 1000 independent labels

Toronto, January 24, 2012: Toronto-based digital music company Mediazoic today announced a deal with the AVLA (Audio-Video Licensing Agency), which will allow Mediazoic’s internet radio network to carry the music catalogues of more than 1000 record companies representing the majority of all sound recordings and music videos produced and/or distributed in Canada.

Based out of a radio and record production studio in downtown Toronto, Mediazoic makes software that allows both individuals and commercial organizations to create, customize and curate their own internet radio stations. The system keeps track of all “listens” throughout the network, allowing royalties to be paid not only to the creators and rights holders of the music, but also to other stakeholders in the music ecosystem.

Current station hosts on the Canadian-owned-and-operated internet radio network include renowned deejay Alan Cross, iconic Toronto live music venue Hugh’s Room, annual music festival Indie Week, and local hip hop MC and artist MC FÜBB.

Cross, whose Weekly Top 11 show is unveiled every Friday on the network, has high praise for what Mediazoic’s unique take on internet radio has done for him. “Mediazoic’s resources have been a big help to my website, driving both traffic and time spent.” he enthuses, “Everyone should give the company a look.”

The network also has several radio shows in development, which will benefit from the wide range of music that this deal opens for Mediazoic and its listeners. One such show is hosted by established music journalist Karen Bliss, who will be resurrecting her popular interview show Lowdown, a one-hour comprehensive “this is your life” type show. Lowdown, Bliss’s music industry brand, has appeared in all kind of incarnations: a Canadian music industry column, an online radio show, a TV segment on Inside Jam, a TV show on Bite TV, and a music seminar. Through these formats, she has covered hundreds of artists, including Avril Lavigne, Billy Talent, Nelly Furtado and Sum 41.

“Our listeners know that every one of our stations has been playing great music since our launch last year.” says Mediazoic founder Greg Nisbet, “but let’s face it, now that our station hosts can throw a bit of Joni Mitchell, K’naan or Leonard Cohen into the mix, the listener experience is going to get a whole lot better. Our aim has always been to capture some of the magic that happens between people when great music is created and heard, and spread that magic across the digital realm, so we’re really excited about all of the wonderful collaborations that this deal will allow us to explore.”

“We’re pleased to work with Mediazoic, which will ensure that all of our members, whether they represent emerging or established artists, benefit equally from “plays” on this innovative new network,” says Graham Henderson, President of AVLA and Music Canada.

The deal between Mediazoic and AVLA covers reproduction rights. Mediazoic is also working with Re:Sound, the Canadian not-for-profit music licensing company that licenses recorded music for public performance, broadcast and new media to cover performance rights. “We’re always happy to work with innovative companies like Mediazoic to ensure that music creators are fairly compensated within emerging business models.” said Ian MacKay, Re:Sound’s President.

About Mediazoic
Mediazoic is a next-generation music and media organization, based in Toronto, whose mission is to bring together like-minded people, both digitally and physically, with outstanding, highly curated content. Mediazoic’s growing network of operations includes Internet radio stations, live events, content development and licensing, and infrastructure for artist publicity and promotion. www.mediazoic.com

About AVLA
The AVLA Audio-Video Licensing Agency (AVLA) represents nearly 1000 major and independent record companies and other copyright owners, including many independent artists. Our members own or control the copyright in the vast majority of all sound recordings produced and distributed in Canada. We license the broadcasting and reproduction of our members’ audio and video recordings in Canada. www.avla.ca

About Re:Sound
Re:Sound Music Licensing Company is the Canadian not-for-profit music licensing company dedicated to obtaining fair compensation for artists and record companies for their performance rights. On behalf of its members, representing thousands of artists and record companies, Re:Sound licenses recorded music for public performance, broadcast and new media. All of the
money collected by Re:Sound is distributed to our members, less only our actual costs. Created in 1997 (as NRCC), our member organisations are ACTRA RACS, ARTISTI, MROC, AVLA and SOPROQ. For more information, please visit us at www.resound.ca.

Contact Info:

Greg Nisbet, Mediazoic
647-294-0153
gregn@mediazoic.com

Amy Terrill, AVLA
(416) 922-8727
aterrill@avla.ca

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