Peter Gabriel is famous as the artist responsible for such early MTV era hits as “Sledgehammer” and “Shock the Monkey,” the original lead singer of Genesis and a proponent of world music. He’s also been a high-profile human rights advocate, earning Amnesty International’s 2008 Ambassador of Conscience Award for his efforts.
Lately, Gabriel has been involved in a less noble but nonetheless urgent mission — bringing rights-cleared music to the people through CueSongs, a U.K.-based company he co-founded in 2011 with Ed Averdieck, former managing director of OD2 and Nokia Music Service.
CueSongs’ goal is to simplify the process of licensing music for digital productions, making the 14 million copyrights that are under record company management more readily available and affordable.
“Online video has been a game-changer in terms of our content consumption behavior, but in terms of its music usage, it’s living in the dark ages,” said Paul Sampson (pictured, above), who joined the company as SVP of business development last week. “A lot of the content creators who have significant subscription levels are being funded by their multi-channel networks, some to the tune of thousands for the production of each video. But that’s being let down heavily, because they’re still having to use poor quality music or royalty-free music.”
YouTube offers a catalog of royalty-free music and sound effects that added a thousand-plus new tracks last week. Its audio libary also features millions of copyright-protected songs, which can be used if the users click on the “ad-supported” tag, assigning the resulting ad revenue to the owner of the music, not the user posting the video.
CueSongs currently has a catalog of approximately 40,000 pre-cleared recordings from 350 labels and publishers, including Universal Music, Sony Music, Sony ATV, Warner Chappell, EMI Music Publishing and BMG Rights. It features well-known acts such as Groove Armada Gabriel (although his best-known songs are conspicuously absent) as well as emerging artists.
CueSongs offers customers a selection of licensing options that allows creators to keep 100% of their portion of the ad revenue.
For example, if a user wants to license Gabriel’s “Father, Son” for a video on a YouTube channel, the cost is £84 (approx. $129) for six months or £120 (approx. $185) for the lifetime of the video. For online corporate video or branded advertising, the cost is much steeper — £840 (approx. $1292) for six months or £1200 (approx. $1845) for the lifetime of the video.
Alternatively, CueSongs offers bundle deals for both branded and editorial content which, in return for an advance payment, provide reductions off of rate card prices that, dependent on the license terms required and the amount deposited, can reach up to 30%.
Sampson points out that using music from well-known artists can boost the SEO of a video, therefore increasing the revenue it generates. Nonetheless, CueSongs’ current price structure only makes economic sense for individual creators with large followings, so CueSongs is working on a more consumer-friendly option servicing the everyday video creator that it hopes to roll out by the end of the year.
“We need to be able to help them use music that’s syncable from famous and well-known artists at a price point that makes it affordable and usable for them regularly,” Sampson says. “Because while there are examples of huge channels and content creators that are subsequently earning six to eight figures from their channels, the vast majority of them aren’t.”
Sampson also notes that CueSongs could benefit the music industry, which has seen its economic model upended over the last decade and a half by technology-driven trends such as digital piracy and ad-supported streaming.
“The industry is a behemoth that’s traditionally been slow to respond to necessary change, but it’s shown recently that it can be more agile in response to new areas of business and new areas of revenue,” Sampson says. “And if they continue to be open to new revenue streams and new business models to monetize the content, then they’ll be able to thrive again.”