Research Blog Series: Economic Survival in Music Publishing

Ruth Towse discusses research into the effect of changes in copyright law on music publishers and song writers, for the Research Blog Series.


Project: Economic survival in a long established creative industry: strategies, business models and copyright in music publishing

Investigators: Ruth Towse and Maurizio Borghi (CIPPM, Bournemouth University) with Fiona Macmillan and Jose Bellido (Birkbeck College – Bellido later at Kent Law School)

What did your research aim to do?
Test for the effect of changes to copyright law/institutional arrangements on revenues for published music – publishers and song-writers.

How did you do it?
We did not ‘do it’ because data were not available that enabled the test to be applied. Instead, we looked at the historical development of copyright and music publishing specifically in relation to song-writing.

What are your key findings?
That copyright law in the form of performing rights not only did not influence song-writers but music publishers ignored the right in favour of their business model of promotion through live performance.

What impact has your work had so far/what impact do you anticipate it will have?
Not a lot, though it calls into question the view that copyright is important for business models. We showed the opposite: that business models trumped copyright.

Challenges encountered/Lessons learned
Getting data, the hazards of relying on collecting societies and using titles as a measure of output.

Are there additional/new research questions still to be answered in this area?
Yes – if data were available.

How has your association with CREATe helped to take things forward?
I hope my association with CREATe helped others!

For more information see the ACEI working paperarticle in Intellectual Property Quarterly, article on Copyright in Music Publishing and the Going for a Song resource.

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