SESAC Performing Rights has chosen the private company Soundreef to manage its offline performing rights in Italy, withdrawing them from SIAE, the Italian collective management organization. Although the EU rights collections market has been open for a decade – the national societies are no longer national monopolies, especially when it comes to online rights – this is one of the larger moves so far. SIAE was founded in 1882 – Soundreef in 2012.
“It’s very rational,” Alex Wolf, president of international of the SESAC Music Group, tells Billboard. “What made us change is, we were very convinced about their IT, their administration and their management.”
This is the first time one of the ten biggest performing rights organizations (PROs) has withdrawn its repertoire from one of the major European societies in favor of a relatively young, private company. Italy is the sixth largest rights collections market in the world, according to CISAC’s data from 2021, the last year for which information is available.
This shows how competitive the rights market is becoming – especially, but not only, in Europe. SESAC is the third-biggest rights collection entity in the U.S., and it is building an international operation – much of it international. Some of this is through MINT, a joint venture with the Swiss society SUISA that manages Soundreef repertoire online in much of the world. Although that deal is completely separate, Wolf says he respected how Soundreef operated.
“You get a good insight into how a company works,” he says.
Soundreef is a Rome-based private company that initially focused on background music, then raised investment money to expand in 2016. It now has 40,000 affiliates, 26,000 of whom are Italian.
“We thought we could create a different system where technology was at the center of the operation,” said Soundreef CEO Davide d’Atri. “That means three things: analytical distribution, where what is played is paid; transparency, and quick payment.”
Analytical distribution essentially means reducing the amount of royalties that are distributed statistically, as opposed to tracked directly. D’Atri says that Soundreef distributes 85% of its payments this way, while some societies pay out as much as 60% based on statistics – extrapolating which songs are played in bars and restaurants by tracking which are played on radio or television, for example.
“Some of the bigger societies are very efficient,” d’Atri says, “but others sit on a lot of money” that can’t be directly attributed to specific rightsholders. Soundreef, he added, is now trying to attract other Anglo-American companies.