Aside from managing the rights of your music and collecting royalties, there are many things that a performing rights society can do to support and advance your career. But taking full advantage of those resources almost always requires you to proactively get involved and work with them to get what you need.
STIM is a performing rights society based out of Stockholm, Sweden that has been around for nearly a century, and represents some of the world’s biggest songwriters in a country that is the third largest exporter of music in the world. As songwriter outreach specialists at STIM, Ida Staxenius and Anton Waltari have extensive experience in the music industry and both take pride in their ability to offer support and guidance to both upcoming and established songwriters. They’re not only tasked with encouraging these creators to join STIM, but also focus on getting them to make use of the many resources STIM offers.
Spotify sat down with Ida and Anton to discuss the importance of getting involved with a performing rights society, misconceptions surrounding rights societies, and reasons why you may want to consider joining a society outside your region.
Can you tell us a bit about your roles at STIM?
Ida: What we do depends on the songwriters we’re working with. We work with data, extracting lists so we can see where people are in their career and try to meet the needs that they have - we can see if you are a big songwriter, if you’re a new songwriter, or if you're in between. But we also offer know-how and networking. Both Anton and I have worked at different labels, and management agencies, so a lot of our outreach to songwriters comes from our existing relationships.
Anton: We become a place of comfort where people can feel more relaxed and if they want to have a meeting to work through a difficult situation, they can do it from our space because everyone is represented by STIM—the songwriters, the publishers, the clients. So we have kind of a cool role that way.
How does STIM work with Spotify?
Anton: We work with Spotify to hash out ideas on how we can promote publishing and make sure that songwriters are on top of all of their publishing rights, but also how Spotify can provide more exposure to our songwriters. Things like song credits and songwriter pages.
Ida: We also created a masterclass together with Spotify and IFPI, which is the organization that handles master rights in Sweden. We talked about how all of these parties in the industry work together, and these sorts of programs have been really great for reaching the young songwriters before they start out. We’re trying to avoid a scenario where a songwriter has a world hit and then joins STIM three years later.
Would you say that songwriters joining STIM after they have a hit is something you see often?
Anton: I'd say the most common mistake that we see with up and coming songwriters is that they join a society way too late, which limits the ways we can help.
If you don’t register your songs, we don’t have the rights to collect money for you. And it only takes a minute to register your songs. Sometimes we can help you out with royalties from the last year or two if you didn’t register your songs, but we can never guarantee it. It’s way more difficult than just making sure you’re up and running from the start.
Are there benefits to songwriters joining multiple rights societies or joining a society outside of their region?
Ida: It depends on how you’re set up. We are one of the best collecting societies in the world in terms of how many deals we have and how many countries we cover, and the number of lines in which we get money and data. So if you’re an international artist in a country where you feel like the rights and royalty system doesn't work that well, you could absolutely join
STIM. If you are in Sweden, working with Swedish songwriters, or your music is being played in this market, it would make sense for you to have a partner that's close to that market.
So if you're from the U.S. and you decide to move to Stockholm, you could keep ASCAP or BMI in the States, but join STIM for the rest of the world. We don't necessarily recommend that you join multiple societies because our world is not built for that (because of the complex way money flows through the societies). But for some songwriters a multi-society setup could be beneficial depending on what your needs are.
How do you think the rights management and royalty process could be improved?
Ida: I think the infrastructure throughout the industry has to get a lot better. We are working with Spotify to make it easier to let us know what’s being played so that we can distribute money as correctly and as fast as possible. Everyone in the music industry is aware that it's not working perfectly, but fixing it is a matter of time and resources. I think figuring out a universal way to correctly report data would be a big step, because the process is so different around the world. Standardizing things like programs we use and file types we use. It sounds so boring, and it really is sometimes. But in our world, it’s a big deal.
We’ve worked on some of this with KOMCA (Korean Music Copyright Association), which is like STIM in Korea. Because of how far away they are, different languages and different ways of doing things, collecting the data or making sure the data was good enough to get the money in the right pockets was hard. And we have so many Swedish songwriters who are dominating K-Pop and J-Pop right now.
We received money from those countries, but the data did not meet our standards. As a result, we ended up going on a trade mission with our colleagues and just had a long day with the KOMCA team; talked to them, made sure that we were on the same page and we set like the formats of how we wanted the data. After that, the money ran through the system much better.
How important is member involvement when it comes to the work you do every day?
Anton: We 100 percent need the input of our members. There are very few products, workshops or meetups that me and Ida launched that haven't come from a songwriter. I think a lot of members initially come to us like, “So what can STIM do for me?” But for STIM, it’s more like “What do you want us to do?” As members, songwriters kinda own STIM.
We try to make sure that members know they vote and decide on the projects they want us to work on each year. That process is what led to STIM creating our co-working space, our studios, our app, and our new initiatives for young and upcoming songwriters.
What’s the best way for songwriters to build a relationship with STIM?
Anton: We have an open space at our office for songwriters, not only STIM affiliated, but members from other societies. So if you're in Stockholm, songwriters always have a space at our office to hang out. It’s a co-working space called Music Room. We’ve got two studios, and we’re currently developing the space.
Also, download the STIM app. We’re trying to get people more involved with data and that's probably going to be our main tool moving on. There are going to be tons of new features being added throughout the year, so that's how we want to get people engaged.
- To find out more about STIM and the ways they work with songwriters, check out STIM.SE.*