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Taking Control of Your Intellectual Property

We speak with Opposition about the finer details of rights management.
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The music industry’s finer points can often feel mysterious. For example, artists often struggle to tackle nightmare scenarios—say, someone just uploaded your content on YouTube and is claiming it as their own—because resources for upcoming acts are scarce at best. There is a general feeling within the artist community that they are left out to dry when it comes to intellectual property issues. Too many independent artists have identified a feeling of hopelessness when discussing their needs as entrepreneurs looking to protect their IP.

These fears can be quelled with Opposition, a boutique-style agency and veteran in the YouTube Rights Management space. Meaning, you get to create without worry, relying on Opposition to handle the gritty details as they assign a dedicated manager to your channel.

We spoke with Shane Gill, Head of Opposition, who believes in breaking down the wall between artists and the industry through complete transparency and education: “Many will do the work and show the results to artists and managers but then not explain how they got there. At Opposition, we try to pass the knowledge on so artists are informed enough to properly measure results and hold us and other companies accountable.”

“Opposition has been our YouTube rights management partner for nearly ten years, and the partnership has been tremendous for us,” says Zack Gershen, Head of Digital Marketing & Strategy at mtheory, an artist development firm who use Opposition as their YouTube partner for many of their artists, including Major Lazer and Flume. “Their YouTube knowledge and expertise has been critical for us as we continue to try and fully maximize our artist’s presence on YouTube.”

Rights management describes the process of taking back control when someone uploads your IP to, say, YouTube, without your explicit permission or license. “For example,” Gill says, “while a song may only exist in an official release on Spotify, on YouTube, it can exist in an infinite amount of user uploads and different contexts, which presents a unique problem for the owners of that song.

“Whether it’s preventing leaks, efficiently monetizing usage and reusage, or simply collecting statistics—all the while operating within copyright rules and regulations—rights management is how it all can be accomplished.”

Opposition ensures artists are collecting on every dollar that’s rightfully theirs. “An artist often doesn’t realize the song they made is truly their owned work and is often available in many places online,” Gill continues. “They must take the proper steps to protect that IP.”

And this is where Rights Management and Opposition come into play. According to Gill, “it’s not just collecting your revenue, it’s protecting so someone else doesn’t collect it, or someone doesn’t use your IP without your permission.”

Truly, Opposition stands in the corner of the artist. As Gill elaborates on the technical aspects of the Opposition offering, it’s clear the company’s chief concern is allowing artists to maintain control of their music and creative journey.

“What makes Opposition different from other organizations that offer Rights Management services is that we maintain a hands-on boutique approach for every service we provide,” Gill concludes. “Our scalability, investment in clients, and nimble approach ultimately benefit our clients because they can rest assured knowing their talent roster is being offered intelligent and premium Rights Management support that helps them make more money and grow their fanbases.”

Our full interview with Shane Gill, edited for length and clarity, follows.

What sense do you have as to why Rights Management is such an oblique aspect of the music industry?

It starts at the labels—especially the major labels, who always seem to be a bit behind on the digital aspect of rights management, so they often miss a lot of revenue on platforms like YouTube. That bleeds into distributors and other companies taking on the same bad habits.

We’ve worked with artists like Major Lazer, who saw their revenue increase tremendously by partnering with us on YouTube. That made them prioritize Rights Management moving forward and carving YouTube out of their future label deals. It’s quite straightforward, but most artists and music organizations need to see it done before taking action of their own.

On the other side of the coin, rights management on YouTube specifically has other benefits outside just collecting on revenue. Rights managers can choose to monetize not only third-party usages of their content but also block those usages. There’s a huge strategic value in being able to block usages of your content in a timely manner to funnel the viewership to your original upload, which helps in building a more loyal following to the channel. It’s also a valuable tool in preventing leaks of music prior to the release date.

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How does Opposition step in to help with Rights Management?

We’ve found that many distributors and labels rely on YouTube or Facebook’s technology for finding content that is simply not efficient enough. This is where Opposition comes in. We treat each platform independent of one another. We have employees, tools, and techniques specific to claiming on YouTube. Often, the majority of the revenue we claim for artists is done through our proprietary technology or through manual searches and claiming techniques performed by our team. So you can potentially see your revenue double.

Very often, the larger piece of the revenue pie comes from capitalizing on third-party usages of your catalogs’ music—opposed to on “channel” earnings. This is very true for artists and even more true for Labels. Having a robust rights management partner is absolutely essential for any artist or label releasing their music on the YouTube platform.

Can an artist only use Opposition for rights, or is this service baked into a larger distro deal?

Yes, they can. We treat every artist, producer, or label deal separately. In today’s music landscape, we’re happy to customize deals around their needs, for example, if they only need assistance in an area or two.

Artists need to start treating certain platforms like territories. The same way you may potentially carve the UK or Brazil, or Australia, out of your distribution deal to a team specializing in that area, you should look at carving out a platform like YouTube to a team specializing in that specific platform.

What do these services cost an artist, and can they employ Opposition on a title by title basis, or do you need to sign up for a period of time?

For rights management, we work in multiple models. It could be a monthly fee, but usually, we’re working on a revenue share based model, so the artist doesn’t have to pay anything upfront. This way, it is more like a true partnership, and we’re invested in growing their revenue.

Do all companies who provide rights management essentially offer the same services?

Not at all. As to my earlier point, a lot of companies rely on the platform’s technology. It depends on the company’s tools and techniques on how efficient they are on capturing the remainder of that revenue that is missed. You’ll want to compare numbers and case studies between companies, what percentage of revenue they are finding for artists, and how much they’ve increased them.

Additionally, YouTube has broken up its back-end rights management portals into three “tiers,” with each tier offering a better payout rate from third-party claims than the one below it.

Companies need to walk the line regarding YouTube’s guidelines and policies around rights management admin to enjoy the top tier rating and highest payout rate. At Opposition, I’m proud to say we’ve remained at the top tier rating since this new program was implemented. It’s a testament to our team’s attention to detail and meticulous combing of YouTube.

What technical services does Opposition provide artists in terms of rights management?

Regarding Content ID rights management: identifying and taking action on the usage of content—on behalf of artists, we can administer three main types of automatic actions; monetizing for revenue, tracking for statistics alone, or blocking. While these are the base options, they can be tweaked and refined to better suit a client’s needs by adding conditions and more specific rules for the automated identification system or coordinating directly with our team to strategically alter the actions in sync with a release timeline.

We’re able to apply all of this to the three types of valid music-related content in any given catalog; audio, visual (music videos), and compositions (publishing and songwriting).

In terms of technical services, we optimize several aspects of the channel and videos throughout an artist’s rollout, including their channel banner and avatar, optimizing SEO/metadata for video uploads, scheduling video premieres, pitching releases for playlist consideration.

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