Tracking all over the world

How do you accurately track your music when it’s broadcast on international TV? According to Anne Miller, not without some difficulty...

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 20 Jan 2011
  • min read
How does a composer or publisher accurately track their music when it’s broadcast on international TV? According to Anne Miller, not without some difficulty, and bridging the gap could be worth millions

Tracking broadcasts in the UK is relatively easy.  The BBC, for example, keep online records of every programme transmitted in the last few years.  However, hunting for the same information on an international scale proves virtually impossible.   There seems to be an absence of reliable sources for broadcast information and cracking this problem could be worth millions to publishers and composers alike.

It’s vital that TV music publishers and composers can access accurate transmission details to ensure they’ve received correct payment from performance paying channels.  All that’s needed is the title of the show, the composer, the publisher, when and where it was broadcast and, if we’re pushing the boat out, a link to the cue sheet.  This information is only really needed for the top 200 – 300 international channels.  Some publishers claim to have accurate tracking systems in place, but these appear to be on a programme-by-programme basis,  similar to the service Euro Data offers.  We are currently involved in a wrangle concerning a top UK TV show that has been sold into almost 100 territories - and the composer has been accounted to for only 25 of those territories.  If the CIA are capable of monitoring millions of mobile phone conversations all over the world, surely we mere mortals should be able to track the output of 300 TV stations!

That said, the UK has one of the most sophisticated and transparent collecting societies in the world.  They supply us with detailed statements and a “per minute” rate for broadcasts which enable us to cross-reference the information and calculate the amount of royalties due in the UK.  However, we owe it to the composers to ensure we don’t rest on our technological laurels and search the four corners of the earth for the money that is due to them.

For 2011, the challenge stands to create a digital tracking system similar to Shazam that clocks every minute of broadcast music of a show, in any territory, primarily focusing on channels that pay a royalty. If we can combine the creative and commercial needs of music, we can set the rules before the rules set us.

Anne Miller is Creative Director of Accorder Music Publishing.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the M editorial team or PRS for Music.

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