The ultimate solution to the headache of global music licensing was supposed to be operational in the first half of this year. But concerns are now growing that the Global Repertoire Database may never see the light of day, due to fierce disagreements over funding behind the ambitious project.
The GRD was designed to be a single, authoritative online data resource, containing information about all musical works from publishers and collection societies across the world: no duplications, no missing fields, no erroneous information.
As such, it would be the silver bullet to age-old problems regarding the licensing of musical compositions across territories - a process often beset by inconsistencies and needless obstacles.
However, Music Week now understands that, six years into the project, costs have spiralled - leaving stakeholders at odds over who should foot the bill.
One particular point of contention is a number of collection societies who are hesitant to further bankroll the GRD while creating their own separate multi-territory publishing rights databases.
As such, there is a very real possibility that the GRD could either launch in a much more basic form than originally agreed, or even be scrapped - and rendered an expensive failure.
Initially, progress on the GRD was swift and promising: a working group was set up in 2009 to investigate how the online hub could be delivered. By 2010, the International Copyright Enterprise (ICE) was appointed as the technology provider for the platform, with Deloitte brought in to manage the project.
By the end of 2011, the four major music publishers and five collection bodies - APRA, GEMA, PRS for Music, SACEM and STIM – agreed to make all of their musical works data available for stage one of the GRD’s build. Crucially, they all also agreed to provide funding for the initial build.
All seemed to be going well: before long, another seven music rights societies - ASCAP, BUMA-STEMRA, SABAM, SGAE, SIAE, SOCAN and UBC – agreed to also throw some money into the pot.
The plan looked on track for its next steps: completing a technology blueprint by Q2 2013, with an operational GRD up-and-running for a select group of users by Q2 2014.
Indeed, so confident were the GRD's managers in its future progress, Richard Hooper’s Government-commissioned Copyright Works report, published in July 2012, claimed: “A GRD with some… data should be [openly] available by the end of 2014.”
Yet as the calendar ticks over into the second half of this year, the project now appears in serious trouble.
In a new statement, the International Confederation of Music Publishers has suggested that “rumours of the death of GRD are premature” reiterating its “commitment to creating a Global Repertoire Database”.
The ICMP acknowledges that “the establishment of the database faced huge challenges since its inception”, and has been greatly hampered of late by "various collecting societies failing to reach agreement on funding the initiative”.
Andrew Jenkins, Chair of ICMP Board of Directors (pictured), has urged collection societies to continue to fund the creation of the GRD, stressing the importance of the project to the future worldwide commercial prospects of music.
He said: “We would ask collecting societies to bear this in mind before using income, generated from the rights of music publishers and creators, to embark on the costly creation of multiple data aggregation points, which at best would still only present an incomplete picture of music publisher and creator rights.
“We are working with our technology partner, ICE, and with our other partners, to deliver a GRD, which is as close as possible to the Classic GRD solution, as defined through the hard work, time, money and expertise of recent years, that of a single authoritative database of all rights controlled by music publishers and creators."