Five Things I Know: Clive Hodson, AMPAL Deputy Chair

Late last year, several A-list artists, from Stevie Nicks to Shakira to Bob Dylan, sold the publishing rights to their catalogues in multi-million dollar deals. Clive Hodson, director of WA-based Perfect Pitch Publishing and deputy chair of the Australasian Music Publishers’ Association Limited, talks to NME about whether this wave of deal-making could come to Australia and what issues music publishers are facing today

Equity firms are beginning to take interest in copyright

What’s happening now is that interest rates are low, globally, and equity firms have found that copyright actually has incredible currency in it. They can make great return on their investment by investing in copyright. After looking at record companies, they’ve begun to look at publishing companies: how can we get involved?

Companies like Hipgnosis and Round Hill, who are going on massive buying sprees, are basically management funds who are attractive to investors. They’ve raised IPOs with incredible amounts of money, and buying catalogues at what many in the publishing industry believe are inflated prices. Only time will tell if that is the truth.

What’s being lost is songwriter development

My biggest problem with what’s going on right now – and there’s nothing you can do to stop it – is that there’s no artist or writer development whatsoever. They’re not signing young and up-and-coming writers. They’re going, “This is a well-known song, I want to use and exploit it.” At the end of the day, you have an aging catalogue. That’s a concern for me as a person who believes it’s a garden we have to care for and nurture.

In publishing, ‘exploitation’ is not a bad word. In fact, if a publisher is not exploiting a writer’s works, then they’re not doing their job, which is finding opportunities for the writer’s works in order for them to make additional money on the back of radio play and live performance. With a company like Hipgnosis, we’re talking about exploitation – but they’re not doing the other part of it, which is the nurturing and signing.

“Bob Dylan, the most protective guy in the world, and he’s gone, ‘Hey, show me the money’”

Local songwriters may be courted for their catalogues

I wouldn’t discount this spate of deal-making coming to Australia and New Zealand. I don’t doubt that [these companies] will be eyeing high-profile Australian writers to sign. The only caveat I’d put on it is the fact that a majority of the high-profile Australian writers are already signed to major publishing companies, whether they’re Sony, Universal or Warner, or some of the major independents. If a writer’s catalogue becomes out of contract, then they might become an option for these companies to consider.

But I don’t know, Australians can be pretty cynical and protective about this sort of stuff. I know a lot of writers, and their catalogues are their babies. Though, again, you’ve got Bob Dylan, the most protective guy in the world, and he’s gone, “Hey, show me the money”. So yes, I think there’s an opportunity for them in this country. I hope it’s not soon.

The streaming value gap is a huge problem for publishers worldwide

I don’t know what it’s going to take for streaming services to pay a better royalty rate to writers and artists. Is it legislation? Is it withholding of tracks from those services, our writers and performers cutting their own throats by saying, “We’re not going to give it to you”?

It’s a big gamble, because the only game in town, really, is streaming. You have a right not to have your music streamed, but how are you going to make money? Live performance is dead in the water right now because of COVID. CDs and downloads are effectively gone. There’s some vinyl, but that’s very small. So where are you going to make your money?

I was reading a report that said there’s going to be thousands of streaming services in the marketplace. Unless something is actually done, musicians are not going to be paid well for their music. They will become the coal miners, not the mine owners. They’ll be going down and digging the coal, but not making the money.

“With the economic issues, creators are forced to seek revenue from online events and streaming services”

There’s a Copyright Act loophole that’s hurting publishers and songwriters

An estimated 50 per cent of the digital video advertising market in Australia is currently using music without a licence. This could be worth up to $50million in local licensing revenue, which could be generated from digital platforms if the government closes the authorisation provision loophole in the Copyright Act. Unlike with physical copyrights, there is currently limited legal incentive for digital platforms to engage with copyright owners to address the growing problem of unauthorised use by third parties on digital services.

We now have economic issues, due to COVID-19, which has shut down live performance, and creators are forced to seek revenue from online events and streaming services. The government’s a little bit like the Queen Mary – they don’t turn around quick, and they don’t stop quick or start quick – and we want them to be a speedboat. What we’re trying to do is make them aware of this, and keep lobbying.

Trending Now

Top Stories: