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Industry Insider: Rightsify Founder Alex Bestall On Getting Artists Paid For Music Played By Businesses

Rightsify is trying to fix a little-known problem that plagues the industry.

You know when you go into a mall, coffee shop, restaurant or grocery store and there is music playing? Those businesses have to pay royalties on that music. Sometimes this comes in the form of a pre-created CD that the royalties are paid on or they have their own large selection of music that may or may not be paying royalties. If it is a small store, they might just be playing some Spotify playlist, which is illegal because they aren’t paying the additional royalties on the songs played. Rightsify wants to make it easier for public places to adhere to the law and for artists to get paid for when their music is played in these spots.

The new company helps to solve the problem that artists and businesses face when it comes to music. You pay the company a fee and then you can listen to any one of their channels and royalities on the music will be paid. Obviously it is incredibly difficult for PROs and government agencies to make sure every business is doing the right thing, but this can be a valuable extra bit of income for artists. Business can feel as though they are doing right by creatives, especially when they might be one as well, and avoid potential fines.

We caught up with Rightsify founder Alex Bestall to learn a bit more about the company, the problem they are solving and how artists will get paid through them.

What inspired you to start this company?

Love and passion for music and helping rights holders get paid when their music is played.

What is the main problem you are trying to address?

Ever since royalties were first collected from businesses over a century ago and even all the way until today, the concept of royalties from background music globally has been a total black hole and mystery for most artists and rights holders. Nobody knew who’s music was played where and thus the royalties collected by PRO’s for this kind of usage haven’t been paid to artists based on actual usage and data.

How does Rightsify help fix the problem of unpaid royalties?

Rightsify licenses businesses directly and we track every song that is played. Every time a song is played it's logged in our system and we account to our artists each month. Similar to the consumer facing streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, except we focus entirely on businesses.

If I have a coffee shop and use some Spotify playlists, am I in violation of copyright laws?

Yes. The consumer version of Spotify is illegal to use in public spaces as businesses need a ‘public performance license’ to play music in their business and the consumer version of Spotify does not include that license and can only be used for personal use.

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How often do royalties get paid on music played out in a public place (like a restaurant etc)?

Rightsify pays artists every month and they can see where their music is being played even down to the city level and the type of business. Businesses pay a monthly or annual subscription for the service and our members then get paid each month.

Traditionally, PRO's collect license fees from businesses and pay their members quarterly, however, there is little to no usage data so the royalties aren't paid on a per-play basis and are paid out based on market share which negatively affects smaller rights holders even if their music is getting a lot of play in business settings.

What are the enforcement mechanisms so that places are actually paying the right amount of royalties on the music they play? What are the penalties?

Rightsify provides copyright protection to our members by ensuring that their music is licensed entirely via our platform so there is no unauthorized use of their music in businesses.

Every business needs a license to legally play music except in some cases in the US businesses under 2,000 sqft can play the radio or television for background music. But in most cases it is copyright infringement if a business plays music without a license. Whether it's the PRO's, other background music services or Rightsify, the license fees are largely based on the square footage or number of areas that music is being played. For example, a hotel will generally have several areas playing music (lobby, restaurant, gym, pool, etc).

How does your curation work?

We listen to all the music that is submitted to Rightsify. We don’t use any algorithms or deep learning to curate our playlists. We start out by listening to all submissions and every week we decide on playlists that are relevant and that will work well with each business. We add new playlists every week and existing playlists are uploaded every month.

How do you curate the music on your various stations?

With each playlist we focus on a certain style. mood or type of business on which we then build. We also create custom playlists for brands where we identify a sound that represents a brand then design a playlist that matches their brand.

What is the process for artists to get paid and how long does it take?

We pay artists by the end of every month and in their dashboard they can view full analytics on how much they have earned down to every play, revenue per country, per song and business types.

How much should an artist be making when their music is played in these settings?

Royalties are calculated by how many times a song has been played so the amounts can vary depending on the amount of plays each month, in some cases our per-stream rates have been as high as $1 per play. Overall, the more a song is played the more an artist gets paid.

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