The IMI 3rd Oct 2022

‘The industry has focused on building databases to figure out who owns what. But there's something everyone's missed...'

Crunch Digital founder Keith Bernstein is approaching the issue of music copyright and clearance from a different direction - pointing out that it's often companies with a list of legitimate music licenses that accidently infringe on copyrights. He says the music rights databases, search engines and other online tools don't quite do enough...

When it comes to licensing, there are plenty of headlines detailing fierce litigation between music rights-holders and various enterprises who have benefitted handsomely from popular tracks before obtaining the necessary permission.

But Crunch Digital founder Keith Bernstein says that making sure music users are properly licensed is only half the battle – often its companies that already have deals in place that find themselves inadvertently infringing rights. He warns that, despite a range of search engines, databases and clearance tools, music licensees can still be in the dark about what music they can actually use.

At the end of August, Bernstein’s LA-based tech company launched the beta version of what it calls a sound recording curation and music publishing clearance platform – Tempo.

The USP? The ability to instantly confirm for companies what music can be used under existing licensing deals with record labels and publishers. And, where a particular track isn’t fully licensed for use, Tempo can determine exactly who needs to be contacted to complete clearance.

The company claims that Tempo is able to reduce processes that would usually take weeks to just a few minutes.

“Music services, apps, fitness companies and karaoke companies, and other services which have licensed music are majorly frustrated because they are not well-equipped to assess what music they can actually use, nor have the ability to maximise the number of tracks available to them,” Bernstein said upon launching the Tempo beta.

"Tempo is certainly the first-of-its kind, and I'm confident the platform is going to deliver efficiency to the marketplace and help mitigate exposure to the unauthorized use of music in way that has never been done before."

Speaking to The IMI following the launch, Bernstein described the gap in the market that Tempo aims to fill.

“The industry has focused on building new databases, search engines, and other online tools that help figure out who owns what,” he said. “But I realised there was something everyone missed: Believe it or not, companies that have concluded most of their licensing deals often end up accidentally infringing because they were unable to manage the complexity of rights-owner interests and what tracks are available to them. Until now, no one had come up with a one-stop solution to help them identify what they can use and manage the content. Tempo also helps mitigate future volumes of pending and unmatched uses of music that has actually been licensed but not yet been identified.”

He also suggested that the patent-pending platform can generate more revenue for rights-holders and present more opportunities to promote catalogues.

“For labels and publishers, Tempo can facilitate more revenue as companies and services become better aware of which tracks they can use under their licensing deals. Content owners can increase catalogue exposure and promote music to their own licensees, thus expanding the potential to generate licensing income.”

Tempo also features playlists curated by labels and publishers, and you can instantly validate which of the songs are available for use under existing licenses. For tracks not covered under an existing agreement, a report displays up-to-date rights-holder information and helps pinpoint who to go to in order to request a license.”

He added: “One thing has been very clear. It doesn’t matter if you’re a major or indie publisher or label, Tempo provides the same opportunities to all rights-owners. I’m really excited about what’s next and welcome the industry to try out our free beta version in advance of our commercial roll out this fall. Tempo is certainly the first-of-its kind, and I’m confident the platform is going to deliver efficiency to the marketplace and help mitigate exposure to the unauthorized use of music in way that has never been done before.”