Survey results! (part 2)

Last post I showed the demographics of the respondents to my survey “Perception and attitude of musicians toward copyright”. In this post I’m going to report on the responses to the specific questions about copyright, some of the significant correlations between variables in the results, and what these might mean.

I went into this project with an idea that there might be differences in responses based on either or both of two variables: the age of the respondent, and the length of time they have been working in the music industry. The age of the respondent is relevant in that the older they are, the more likely they might have been exposed to copyright issues, either as part of a dispute, or generally in the course of their career. I expected that this would be reflected in the survey results.

The second variable, length of time in the music industry, has to do with the changes that have occurred in the past 25 years in how music is distributed. Digital recordings have been around for a while in the form of digital cassettes and CDs. With the right software you could rip the songs from a CD onto your computer, but you still had to have access to the CD.

Enter Napster. The peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing network was first released June 1, 1999, a date that has been called “the day the music was set free.” Napster became a massively popular method for sharing MP3s. Users could share songs directly from their own computers. Because there was no centralized place where the files were stored, it was technically and legally difficult to stop users from sharing. While Napster was eventually shut down (and has since been reborn as a legitimate music streaming site), its popularity led to a significant change in music distribution, from the sale of physical albums to the sale of individual songs as MP3 files. However, song piracy remains an issue, as P2P file sharing sites have not disappeared completely, and other methods to permanently acquire songs for free still pop up from time to time (for example, sites that can extract audio from YouTube videos).

Internet radio stations have been around since the mid-1990s, but dedicated music streaming services, where users have more control over what songs they hear, only started to pick up around the early 2000s. These days (2019), streaming has become so massively popular that Apple have decided to discontinue iTunes, their MP3 purchasing service, in favour of streaming services.

Now, songs are no longer purchased (or licensed), they are accessed on demand. Instead of being paid a royalty for the purchase of a song or album, artists and copyright owners are paid for each time the song is listened to. Keeping track of the statistics and administering payments for the various streaming services is more complicated than for physical sales, so the non-profit organization SoundExchange collects the data and receives royalties from the services, and distributes them amongst artists and copyright owners.

In 2018, U.S. Congress passed the Music Modernization Act (MMA), which deals with how songs are licensed by streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora, and thus how composers and songwriters are compensated. Among other things, it directs the Register of Copyrights to designate a non-profit organization authorized to administer the streaming licenses.


Are you familiar with the Music Modernization Act of 2018?

I asked respondents if they knew about the MMA.

Pie graph showing the proportion of respondents having different levels of familiarity with the Music Modernization Act of 2018.

From the chart you can see that 10% of respondents said that they were very familiar with the MMA, 18% are somewhat familiar with it, 26% have heard of it, and 46% are not familiar with it at all.

We can also re-categorize the variable into a binary answer (Yes/No). When we do that it shows that slightly more respondents have heard of it than haven’t.

But I was surprised that 46% had not heard of it at all. Why have so many respondents said they are not familiar with it? It could be that they truly have not been made aware of this law. Or it could be the phrasing of the question: perhaps they have heard about a law that has to do with streaming royalties, but they didn’t know what it was called. This is why it’s important to choose the wording of your questions carefully. If I had given a brief explanation of what the law is about, that might have sparked some recall in the mind of the respondent.

Stacked column chart showing familiarity with the Music Modernization Act of 2018 by age of respondent.
Familiarity by age group

When we compare these results to age group we find that eight of those aged 18-29 years have heard of the MMA, while 15 have not; 15 of those aged 30-49 years have heard of it, and five have not; and 10 of the respondents in the 50 years plug group have heard of it, while eight have not.

Respondents aged 30 to 49 were significantly more likely to say that they were familiar with the MMA (than we would expect if it were random). Also, respondents aged 18 to 29 were significantly less likely than expected to say they were familiar with the MMA. There was no such relationship found with over-50s, where the Yes/No distribution was fairly even.

Is there any difference when we look at the length of time in the industry? In the last post I explained how I categorized the three age groups of respondents:

  • 30 years or more – before the 1990s; the era before the Internet became popular amongst the general public (“Pre-Internet era”);
  • 11 to 29 years – 1990s to late 2000s; the era that saw the rise of digital sharing and purchasing of music (“Napster era”);
  • 10 years or fewer – late 2000s to present; the era of streaming music service proliferation (“Pandora era”).
Stacked column chart showing familiarity with the Music Modernization Act of 2018 by length of time respondent has been in the music industry.
Familiarity by length of time in music industry

Eleven respondents from the Pandora era have heard of the MMA, and 13 have not. Eleven respondents from the Napster era have heard of it, and nine have not. Ten respondents from the Pre-Internet era have heard of it, while five have not.

However, I didn’t find anything significant when I analyzed length of time in the industry vs. familiarity with the MMA.

Stacked column chart showing familiarity with the Music Modernization Act of 2018 by role(s) of respondent in the music industry.
Familiarity by role

Looking at the roles that respondents chose, and whether they have heard of the MMA:
Solo musician: 18 have, 15 have not
Music student: 12 have, 16 have not
Musician in a band: 19 have, 9 have not
Music educator: 12 have, 13 have not
Songwriter (tunes): 12 have, 3 have not
Songwriter (lyrics): 12 have, 3 have not
Studio musician: 11 have, 4 have not
Guest musician: 11 have, 3 have not
Producer: 7 have, 6 have not
Artist manager: 3 have, 1 has not
Record company executive: 1 has

Significant relationships were found between the following roles and whether or not they are familiar with the MMA:

Musician in a band, Songwriter (tunes), Songwriter (lyrics), and Guest musician; these respondents were more likely to say that they have heard of the MMA than would be expected by chance.

Stacked column chart showing familiarity with the Music Modernization Act of 2018 by genre(s) of music respondents are involved with.
Familiarity by genre

When analyzing the responses by genres(s), we find the following:
Classical: 11 have, 21 have not
Rock / heavy metal: 20 have, 4 have not
Pop: 13 have, 6 have not
Jazz: 6 have, 9 have not
R&B / soul: 8 have, 1 have not
Country: 7 have, 1 has not
Blues: 4 have, 2 have not
Rap / hip hop: 2 have, 1 has not
EDM / house: 2 have

Significant relationships were found between the following genres and whether or not they are familiar with the MMA:

Those who chose Rock / heavy metal, Country, or R&B / soul as one of their genres were more likely than not to say they are familiar with the MMA. Classical musicians were more likely that not to say they are unfamiliar with the MMA.

So what can we make of these findings? It may be that classical musicians are not as familiar with laws such as the MMA because much of the music they work with is in the public domain (at least in terms of the music itself, not necessarily any particular performance or recording). Something like this would speak to the need for targeted instruction and awareness campaigns, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach for any and all musicians.

Or perhaps classical musicians don’t anticipate their music to be featured on streaming services, so they don’t expect to make money from it anyway. On the other hand rock, R&B, and country music are popular genres for streaming, so people in those communities are more aware of how they might get paid when their songs are streamed. (However that does not explain why there was no significant difference in the pop genre, especially since some of the most vocal streaming critics are from the pop world.)

Again, we have to keep in mind the caveat that 61 responses is not representative of the music industry as a whole. These results are limited to the sample, and if we had a bigger sample and broader distribution, we could be more confident of the validity of the analysis. For now, we can use the findings to make tentative conclusions that could inform further research.

Do you have any ideas or thoughts to contribute? Please use the comment section below!

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