Exercise bike company Peloton has been in the news for using music without the permission of publishers.
Indoor bike company Peloton has amassed a cult following and a $4 billion valuation off of its dreamy lifestyle sell: Well-dressed men and women pedal their way to fanatically good health with the help of electrifying videos and hit songs. But the latter may have involved some cut corners, according to a lawsuit filed recently.
A group of music publishers is taking legal action against Peloton, alleging that the fitness-tech company has been using songs from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Drake, Bruno Mars and Ariana Grande without permission. Peloton launched in 2012 and currently offers a subscription service with some 13,000 home workouts. The 10 independent publishers involved in the suit say the company has knowingly violated copyright on thousands of songs since it launched at-home streaming features on its exercise equipment in 2014 by failing to obtain the requisite sync license. Under U.S. copyright rules, companies using music in other media, like the exercise videos that live on Peloton’s subscription service, must obtain sync licenses from publishers and songwriters.
However, this is not the first case of this type, and probably will not be the last, question is, how can artists protect their investments of time, blood , sweat and tears, the whole of their art and craft, without having to hire a bank of legal watchdogs. Who will look out for the artists that are just tying to break into the scene and make their music matter?
Rights clearance company Dubset has been active in this space, and has even provided pre-cleared mixes to exercise groups and other companies for proper legal use. As the music industry continues to sharpen its eye and collect any royalties that previously fell through the cracks, companies like Dubset will be responsible for making sure revenue funnels back to rightsholders.
IndiePulse Music Magazine had the honor of speaking with Bob Barbiere, Chief Strategy Officer and SVP Global Licensing for Dubset about the issues at hand, how they affect the Musicians presently working and looking to retain rights of their intellectual work and all things in this matter.
IPM: As we have seen in the past couple of years, questionable use of music and distribution, even in some of the smallest ways, has been met with serious consequences. Tell us about the “Peloton” problem, and why this is such a huge deal?
Often music licensing news tends to take on the “huge” label because of the size of the liability and/or penalties. Music carries with it sets of statutory laws and conditions that have quite severe penalties when breached. In the case of Peloton, it’s alleged that the company missed some of the compulsory licensing requirements, and that gets costly quick. From what’s been reported, it appears there might have been some holes in their sync licensing program.
IPM: With the advancement of Online music distribution and the overwhelming amount of changes and loopholes in what can and cannot be done, what can an artist do to secure their intellectual property and protect themselves?
That’s a very important question, particularly in a world where it has become so easy to create, upload, and distribute content, all within literally minutes. Liabilities abound for content creators, distributors, and as we are seeing, even brands that might attach themselves to certain content. My first piece of advice is to always proceed with caution, great caution, and engage with companies who have a history of experience in the particular area of music one is working within. Dubset, for example, focuses on a particular vertical, mix music, and although the company may only be a few inches wide, it is miles deep in experience in that area.
IPM: Way back when Napster and sharing first started and there was the downfall of the “Freebie Status Quo,” things were changed to protect an artist’s assets. Would you say things have changed for the better?
While things have certainly changed for the better, the real challenge is that technology has outpaced the “traditional approach” of music licensing. Music is well into its digital age, and from a distribution and monetization standpoint has become incredibly agile, yet areas of music licensing are still bogged down in negotiations, lengthy legal cycles, and multi inter-organizational approvals. The short answer is yes, but it’s not what it could or should be.
IPM: How can Dubset help both the music producer and companies that are “end users”, like Peloton?
Dubset has been laser focused on doing one thing well, bringing transparency and speed to a very complex area of licensing: mix music. It’s difficult enough to clear a single piece of music through a label and two or three publishers; imagine trying to do that with a one-hour DJ set that contains 25 songs, each represented by a label and a few publishers? Our approach has been the most important factor in our success. We’ve approached the challenge from the rights holder perspective, not the creator or distributor. The reason is simply that rights holders control rights and liabilities for all other participants that can only be removed once you’ve engaged and properly represented them. From there, it was a matter of building out the technologies to deliver transparency and ease of clearing music for use to the rights holders. Once that was accomplished, we were able to expand Dubset’s client list of labels and publishers to represent over four million artists and composers. We were able to bring DJs, producers, brands, and music services to the platform to complete the ecosystem without risk or liability to any of the parties participating.
IPM: In your opinion, where do most people go wrong in this new age of Music distribution?
Quite honestly I believe the challenge is ease of access. It’s become so easy to create a piece of music and distribute it globally, even without a license, that the nature of access itself has become the largest trap.
IPM: With so many online music services today, and the new ones that pop up on a daily basis, as well as online radio stations, how hard is it to keep track of where the music plays, and how often and what sort of issues or dangers do modern artists face?
The seamless globalization of music that’s occurring within music streaming is incredible for the artist. For artists with label deals, the expectation is that the label is properly tracking, reporting, and paying each time the artist’s catalog is distributed, streamed, licensed or downloaded. Today, there are millions of artists without a label deal, and we strongly encourage those artists to work with the most reputable artist services companies; the companies that have experience and a track record of delivering independent artist content to music services. What we discourage is artists bypassing those companies and attempting to distribute on their own by simply uploading their content to the common user upload sites. That’s where they will run into risk, liability, and loss of control.
IPM: Where do you see things going from here, and again, can Dubset help an artist stay ahead of the game and focus on their music, while feeling secure in their distribution options?
The future for music is incredible. Technology and access, when teamed with new licensing and distribution companies and models, are going to drive wonderful consumer experiences. Just think, ten years ago we were downloading music to an iPod, and ten years later for just $10 per month we can access, in real-time, nearly any song ever recorded without delay or additional fees. At Dubset, we’re watching a very exciting area of music unfold, with Apple Music leading the way. It’s estimated that over 20 million hours of mix content are created annually by DJs and producers at live venues, festivals, or in-studio. Although these mixes are more commonly known within dance/electronic and hip-hop, Dubset is on the front lines of analyzing what’s in them. What we see are amazingly creative works across all genres, from pop to rock to country.
The music industry has proven the power of the playlist and the consumer’s desire for a lean-back, non-interactive listening experience. Mixes are going to take that Playlist format to a whole new level, delivering the best parts of consumers’ favorite music, all creatively pulled together into something wonderfully different than simply listening to song after song front to back. When Apple Music added DJ Mixes and Live Sets as one of their main genres at the end of 2018, it marked the beginning of a new era of music, and fortunately for artists, rights holders, and brands, one that they can participate in without worry of hidden turbulence.
Dubset has taken great strides to get the foundation of music rights protection and distribution narrowed down to a point where the artists can comfortably and securely protect their hard work, learn more about this company and what they can offer you as a valuable and irreplaceable resource.