Last month Canadian collective rights society SOCAN, which represents the performing rights of songwriters and music publishers, acquired U.S.-based MediaNet, a business-to-business digital music service provider. At first blush the pairing is intriguing enough. With a memory of music business history, an understanding of industry relationships and a sense of irony, one could write a headline like, ‘Songwriters & Music Publishers Buy DSP Launched by Major Labels,’ and smile. After all, SOCAN is a membership society of songwriters and publishers, a group that historically has not held an equity interest in any DSP. MediaNet when launched in 2001 as MusicNet was co-owned by three of the then-five major label groups, which were trying to control their digital destinies.
Speculation still surfaces now and again about this or that tech company at some point turning the tables and acquiring a major record label group or music publishing company. It makes attractive (scary?) headlines and plays into the theories (conspiracy theories?) that distributors of digital music want to better control the price of acquiring music they distribute by having the ability as owners to make that price as low as humanly possible. But no one ever even imagined this switch—a non-profit performing rights society buying a for-profit DSP of recorded music, right? And most certainly not a Canadian society buying an American company headquartered in the Seattle shadows of mighty titans Microsoft and Amazon.
But there is more. Look beyond that headline to see what is really going on. This new pairing is so much more than just enhancing the ability to better match music metadata for better royalty accounting.