Global royalties collections for music creators dropped 10.7% during 2020 due to the pandemic, declining by nearly €1 billion (approximately $1.16 billion) to a pre-2017 level of €8.12 billion (approximately $9.3 billion), according to the 2020 Global Collections Report published Wednesday by CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers.

The collections were a setback after years of consecutive growth — including an 8% boost in 2019 to €9.17 billion— but under the daunting circumstances of the pandemic, which saw collections from live entertainment, bars, restaurants and other establishments plummet precipitously, most parties agree that the loss could have been a lot worse.

Relatedly, digital collections were up significantly, reflecting the growth in streaming that was a corollary effect of the pandemic. Digital music revenues increased by 16.2% in 2020 to reach €2.4 billion. Digital overtook live and background for the first time to become the second largest income stream. Digital is the dominant revenue stream in many markets, particularly in Asia.

Not surprisingly, live and background income were the most grievously affected. Music collections from live and public performance fell by -45.2% to €1.5 billion as lockdown measures took effect across the world. The sector accounted for 18.2% of 2020 music collections, its share of total income declining from 29.6% in 2019, when live and public performance revenues grew 10.6%, according to the report. Based on data from about one third of CISAC’s member societies, live music income fell by an estimated 55% while public performance collections were down 35%.

Also, the losses reflect the scale of the lockdown restrictions in various countries, with Canada (-70.3%), the UK (-61.8%) and Italy (-60.8%) seeing the largest falls in live and public performance collections.

Alongside digital’s growth, broadcast, radio and cable prove resilient. The TV and radio sector remains the largest source of music collections at €3.2 billion, dropping by -4.4%. According to the report, this was helped by resilience in the economy, limited declines in TV advertising and strong subscription rates in cable TV. Broadcast’s share of total collections represented grew to 39.7%, compared to 37.1% the previous year.

Finally, Europe was the hardest-hit region. With music collections of €3.96 billion, Europe declined by 16.9% in 2020 but still generated 48.8% of the global total. Societies in Europe generally saw larger declines due to larger shares for live and public performance.

In his introduction to the report CISAC President Bjorn Ulvaeus — also a co-founder of and songwriter for ABBA — put a human face on the numbers. Variety will have an extensive interview with Ulvaus publishing later today.

Behind the mass of statistics in this report there is the beating heart of someone who creates,” he wrote. This person is not one of those big stars everyone has heard of. He, or she, is one of the many thousands whose vocation is to write songs, paint, sculpt, direct films, write books, take pictures – in short, to create culture. These creators are where our creative industries start. Without their work, the global “creative sector”, worth trillions of dollars, would just not exist.

A creator needs to be talented, entrepreneurial, resilient and hard-working. They need to embrace and drive change. … But there is something else which every creator, in every repertoire, must be guaranteed: a fair environment in which to work. And that is where there is an enormous problem, that needs to be fixed right now. If the pandemic leaves one single positive legacy for the creators CISAC represents, it must be to secure the place in our society that they deserve.

Today, creators work in an inequitable eco-system. If we accept that the song – or the creative work of any repertoire – is the foundation of our creative industries, why do we then accept the near-invisibility of the creator in the commercial value chain? When I took on the presidency of CISAC in May 2020, the subjugation of the creator was already a massive issue. Then COVID struck, highlighting two things. First, that streaming is fast heading towards being the most important source of creators earnings in the future. And second, that streaming revenues, however fast they grow, are currently simply not providing a fair reward when shared across millions of individual recipients. Streaming revenues, however fast they grow, are currently simply not providing a fair reward when shared across millions of individual recipients. Here are what I passionately believe is where action is needed now:

  • Better digital remuneration. COVID has propelled the creative sector into the digital world, and that will not change. CISAC’s member societies are witnessing this first hand, and to their great credit many have secured impressive increases in their digital collections. But this is just the start: to give creators the fair deal they deserve, big changes are needed to harmonise data reporting, make the identifier system work effectively and address inefficiencies that are losing creators hundreds of millions of dollars
  • Fair rights for creators. I do not claim to have the definitive answer to what the “digital split” should be. But it is clear that subscription strea- ming, the holy grail that rescued us all from piracy some years ago, has now moved into a new phase. Mountainous profits are being made by producers and tech giants. There should be no blame for that, but a deep discussion is needed to make sure that those huge revenues are now fairly shared with creators.
  • Credit the creator. If we say this enough, then this mantra can become reality: it is time to move the creator from the green room to the main stage, to be at the centre of our discussions about fair rights and remuneration. That is why I work for CISAC – for CISAC is the biggest global network representing creators, and its voice matters. To achieve these goals, above all, needs collaboration. That is why projects that unite the different players in our industry, such as “Credits Due” which I helped launch in the last few weeks, are so important. If you have read this far, I have a final plea. Next year, there is a chance I may get asked to write another foreword to this report. Please give me a new script for next year. Save me from being a scratched record. Let’s make 2022 the year to credit the creator. But with actions, not words.