Here’s a fascinating tipoff we had from a reader with a Swedish source. It concerns a music tracking app for artists, but a similar solution for ebook authors could be a winner – if it’s feasible.
According to the original Swedish article – helpfully translated by our source – a new app pioneered by Michelle Kadir, Vice President Digital Business at Sony Music Entertainment in Sweden and former Senior Director for Product and Development at Spotify, will allow artists “to track/control exactly where, when and how their music is played – and how much money will come into their (bank) accounts in the form of royalty.” Spotify already operates such a service for its own network only: Kadir’s app aims to extend this to other networks and social media, including YouTube and streaming radio.
The article also instances Kobalt, another online rights-tracking platform which claims to ensure that “artists, songwriters, publishers and labels can trust they will be paid fairly and accurately, regardless of how complex the digital world becomes.” Kobalt claims to represent “over 8,000 artists and songwriters, 600,000 songs and 500 publishing companies,” including “on average over 40 percent of the top 100 songs and albums in both the US and UK.” Kadir (as translated by our source) claims to be “taking the next step and link everything that goes on around the artist and link it in an app that they can check 24/7.”
Could such an approach work for ebooks? Some might argue that Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited pages-read equivalents provide pretty much the same for self-published indie authors, and that given Amazon’s market dominance, that’s as much as self-published authors are likely to need. In the latest AuthorEarnings report, Kindle Unlimited daily downloads are credited with almost 15 percent of ebook author income from Amazon. There’s also the ticklish question of reading versus performance, since streaming imposes a different dynamic on online music.
All that said, though, Big Five publishing companies are getting richer – while authors get poorer – off the back of revenue streams that writers may not even be aware of, let alone able to track. Pressure from the Authors Guild and the Society of Authors for better contract terms for writers has belabored this point time and time again. The Swedish article cites “700,000 different revenue streams that a single song has.” Now, surely someone could come up with an app that could provide similar coverage of the – probably fewer – streams that a book has, and conceivably identify what’s happening, or could be happening, in each. Authors everywhere could literally be the richer for it.