Fair Pay for Every Play, Ep 20: User Generated Content

On this new episode of Fair Pay For Every Play, host Kristian Luoma sits down with the Head of UGC Royalty Collection at Utopia Music, Jean-François Bert. With an impressive background working in music technology companies specializing in data and royalty collection, Jean-François now heads up the department responsible for developing smart processes to collect royalties from user generated content.
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Jean-Francois: Wow, My favorite song, uh, is actually a song from The Cure, perhaps Carnage Visors or Siamese Twin?


Kristian: Right. Welcome to Fair Pay For Every Play by Utopia, a podcast about music technology for the music industry professionals. My name is Kristian Luoma. On this episode, I'm joined by the Head of UGC Credit Collection at Utopia Music, Jean Francois Bert. Jean Francois has a background working in exciting tech companies in the Music Industry, specializing in data and royalty collection. He's also the President of Music Tech France, an association that gathers the most exciting 80 French music tech companies to discuss innovation in the industry. In this episode, I was intrigued to ask Jean Francois all about user generated content. How we track it and how Utopia plans to collect royalties from this content. What is UGC and how can it provide a new revenue stream for artists and rights holders in the music industry?

Welcome to the show, Jean Francois. Could you give us a short rundown of who you are and what do you do?


Jean-Francois: Sure. I'm Jean Francois Bert I'm 54 and I'm the head of UGC Royalty collection at Utopia Music. For me in the music industry, everything started 30 years ago. After business school, I tried to become a professional singer - and it wasn't a big thing. So I was very disappointed. So I said to myself, if I cannot be an artist, perhaps can I stand up for them? And that's what I did. I joined SACEM (The Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music), the French collective management society, then EMI started to create companies, two management businesses, music supervision and rights administration. I wrote a book on rights administration. I think I’d had most of the jobs in the Music Industry when the digital revolution happened and suddenly we were facing a tsunami of data coming from digital platforms and only the capacity of an old system, which was not able to manage such an amount of data. So I decided to create a digital rights management company called Transparency Rights Management and this was the real beginning of my experience in music tech.


Kristian: You've been working practically all your professional career around data management and digital rights. Transparency was one of those things that was way ahead of its time. Can you speak a bit more on Transparency? What the mission was and what were you guys doing?


Jean-Francois: Yes! In fact, everything was in the name when I started Transparency Rights Management. One of our first achievements was to interface Dailymotion and SACEM as a trusted third party, in order to manage data exchanges between them. It was the first time something like this was attempted, so we were kind of explorers, but there was a real goal of Transparency Rights Management bringing transparency and accuracy to rights management. And in 2018 we set up a partnership between IMPF, , an association of independent publishers and YouTube. And again, as a trusted third party, we enabled publishers to see in real time who was claiming their songs on YouTube - in all territories for all kinds of rights. It was a great application of transparency.


Kristian: You continued your career with transparency as part of Quansic and definitely Quansic has been working towards helping the music industry with a range of metadata services. Could you speak a bit about the importance of getting the metadata right? Why does it matter so much when we talk about Fair Pay For Every Play?


Jean-Francois: Well, metadata is everything and metadata is everywhere. In the music industry, you've got two kinds of metadata which are supposed to be unchangeable and reliable identification metadata which identify a song, a recording or an artist. Most of the time there are alpha-numeric codes - like your social security number - and descriptive metadata, which could describe content, the genre, the lyric language, date of release, etc. The whole music industry is built on this metadata and if you don't provide a platform with descriptives, your song will be anonymous and won't be listened to. And if you don't provide the identification metadata, you won't be paid. It is as simple as that.


Kristian: That's definitely the crucial thing to get right. Throughout your journey, around the metadata in music, what are the simplest improvements that might lead to a better state of metadata? Like, holistically, looking through the value chain, what do we need to get right to fix this problem?


Jean-Francois: Well, we should focus on the journey of metadata - when are they created and how are they shared and how are they used? It's really important to have 100 percent coverage of metadata for all parties - songs, contents, song recordings - in order to be accurate and have a real traceability of everything in order to be fair.


Kristian: Now, throughout your career, in addition to building great companies around music technology, you've been also exploring innovation within music as the President of Music Tech France. You've certainly seen a number of interesting companies - any highlights, from that part of your career that you would love to bring up?


Jean-Francois: It is quite difficult for me to highlight one company. We created Music Tech France two, three years ago together, all the companies innovating the music industry. Today we're 80 companies. So I would like to highlight the 80 companies working in very different sectors, varying from live-streaming to blockchain, not forgetting NFTs and metadata. It went very fast! This year we are creating Music Tech Europea, building a strong network, we’re able to optimize the strengths and the expertise of the European Music Tech ecosystem. I would prefer to collectively talk about all the great companies we are working with, instead of just highlighting one of them.


Kristian: How about from the technology standpoint? Like if you ignore the individual companies, what do you think will be the most fundamental technology that we will look back in 10 years and say that really made a difference?


Jean-Francois: I'm really sorry to be obsessed, but, I would like to speak about metadata again, uh, because metadata is everything and I'm convinced the next revolution will be linked to metadata. Soon creators will be able to generate the identification metadata themselves. At the very moment they create content and blockchain smart contracts will enable them to share their work in a reliable way. I think that soon AI will help the platforms of tomorrow. To describe and recognize a song just like human beings currently do. This metadata revolution will force a new era. Definitely.


Kristian: Certainly a lot of things to be excited about. I'm so excited that you joined Utopia and you're now the Head of UGC royalty collection. For those who don't know, what is UGC?


Jean-Francois: UGC stands for user generated content. UGC can be uploaded by anyone, even if they are not professional. And this is typically the kind of content you find on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Twitch and more.


Kristian: I'm assuming that you will be saying that it is a metadata challenge, because normal consumers don't really care about, or shouldn't have to care about, matching the data.


Jean-Francois: Let's give an example. If someone sings and dances on a TikTok video called Let It Be. How do you manage that? Uh, do you automatically send the money to The Beatles’ rights holders? We've got more than 150 different registered songs called Let It Be? So do you rely on Shazam or on fingerprint technology to recognize a song performed by an unknown TikToker? This is very complicated and the solution was, is, and will be more metadata and more technology.


Kristian: So, it’s the same problem of mapping and identifying what song is in question. It's not really like people are behaving maliciously and don't want to credit the creators, but actually messing up the data is far easier for all parts of the value chain then than it should be. So in your job, how are we planning to reimagine it?


Jean-Francois: Well, this is not simple, but it's quite exciting to do things in this area! To start with, we have to build mutual trust between rights holders and the UGC platforms, because from my experience, everything starts with trust. And you can build trust thanks to long term expertise and commitment. So, what I'm doing isI'm just hiring the best experts I know, and we are investing in the most promising technologies and processes to build the best service ever to collect revenues on UGC platforms. We need a service based on transparency, traceability, accuracy, and as much as possible in real time. This requires a lot of investment, resources and time, obviously, but it is worth it.


Kristian: How do you see the future of royalty collection on UGC? I think that we will not see any decrease in content. On the contrary, we will see a lot more original content also created on these platforms, as well as the existing copyrights being used. What opportunities does the UGC growth give for artists and right holders?


Jean-Francois: Tricky question! These revenues generated by UGC exploitation already represent a major part of revenues for some artists. And this phenomenon will grow, but the artists and rights holders which aren’t able to collect their revenue efficiently on the UGC platforms will suffer. If we succeed in building smart processes with UGC platforms, revenue opportunities will be unlocked for millions of artists and the boundary between a creator and an active fan, which uploads his own version of a song to the platforms, is becoming more and more tenuous. Both of them will become new business partners. Fans are integrating the music ecosystem by becoming professional YouTubers and TikTokers. We all have to adapt to this new paradigm and offer radically new tools and services to be sure to provide the famous Fair Pay For Every Play!


Kristian: True. Thank you so much. Maybe just as the last question: I would love to hear your view on the future of music technology? Like, do you see it with optimism that things will be better for the creators or are you concerned that we will continue to make things more complicated at the expense of creators?


Jean-Francois: No, no. I'm fully optimistic in this area because, thanks to the music tech network, I meet a lot of interesting startups and they all have the same goal in common. They really want to bring clarity and transparency and efficiency. So, no, I am super confident!


Kristian: Thank you so much Jean Francois for the interview and thank you for listening to this episode of Fair Pay For Every Play by Utopia. Utopia Music is dedicated to giving fair pay for every play. We provide the solutions to make royalty payments transparent, efficient, and fair. The artists and right holders for the music feature on this podcast have been rightly paid for their contribution. As always, please remember to subscribe on Apple Music, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts or your favorite music. To find out more about what we do and the mission we are on, please go to utopiamusic.com