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Warner Music Opts In to Deezer’s New UMG-Supported Royalty Plan in France

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The Warner Music Group has signed on to Deezer’s new royalty payment structure in France, which was developed in partnership with Universal Music Group and announced in September, the president of the major label’s French operations confirmed today (Nov. 13). The move, which was first confirmed in a story with French outlet Les Echos, has been in place since Oct. 1, and only covers streams in France, where Deezer is based.

In September, Deezer and UMG announced their new model, which they referred to as an “artist-centric” royalty model aimed at combatting fraud, reducing the royalty pool for so-called “non-artist noise” like white noise and nature sounds, and boosting payouts for what the companies referred to as “professional artists,” or artists who were accumulating 1,000 streams per month from 500 unique listeners. The model replaces the existing pro-rata model, in which rights holders were paid by share of streams, regardless of their stature or content, which is still in place globally.

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“We are delighted to partner with Deezer on this artist-centric model which rewards engaging music and demonetizes non-artist noise,” Warner Music France president Alain Veille told the outlet. “Our new deal will benefit creative talent at all stages of their careers and support our ability to invest in the next generation.”

In opting in to Deezer’s new structure, WMG joins UMG and a handful of small indies, while the third major, Sony Music, has so far not signed on. The move comes amid a year’s worth of conversation in the music industry about how to tweak the streaming royalty structure as the amount of tracks being uploaded each day to major services surpasses 100,000, and fraud on services is becoming an increasingly big topic. Universal also announced a royalty review with SoundCloud and TIDAL, while Spotify released its own tweaked model, which has far lower thresholds for artists than Deezer’s and is more narrowly aimed at fraud, rather than at determining the level of streams that constitutes an artist’s professional status.

When Deezer and UMG first announced the new model, it was met with pushback from several corners of the music business, particularly the indie sector, which was concerned about those seemingly-arbitrary levels to qualify as a “professional” and about the one-label study that led to its adoption. And while there is broad consensus in the industry that the model needs to change — including public statements from UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge and WMG CEO Robert Kyncl — there is not universal agreement in how to do so, and there is a possibility that each digital service provider could adopt its own model moving forward.

In initially announcing the model in September, Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira told Billboard that he expected more rights holders than UMG to sign on, and planned on rolling out the new structure globally in the coming year. For now, the model is limited to France.

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