EMI Music Publishing, one of the largest music publishers in the world, has signed its first sub-licensing deal in the Middle East, with Fairwood Music (Arabia) in Dubai. The deal makes EMI the second big publishing catalogue to sign an exclusive regional sub-licensing deal with Fairwood, after the Dubai company signed a similar deal with Universal Music Publishing last year.
It also represents a big step towards more composers and songwriters getting paid for the use of their songs in a region notorious for not paying music rights holders, according to Hussain Yoosuf, the managing director of Fairwood. "Two years ago, most major publishers were very suspicious of any request coming from the Middle East, because they are very protective of how they licence their copyrights," he said.
"They don't necessarily want to give a licence to someone to use something on an advertising campaign for a year, and then have them use it for five years. But as we have begun to develop a close relationship with all of the majors, that has begun to change." Fairwood Music (Arabia) was founded in January last year as the region's first company attempting to represent in the Middle East the leading music publishers, the organisations that hold the intellectual property rights to the song as a composition, as opposed to the recorded track.
Music publishers are supposed to be paid whenever a song is used in a commercial, played on the radio or sold on a CD, but often in the Middle East they are not. When they are, the transaction is often managed through European offices where requests from the Middle East are not the top priority, Mr Yoosuf said. "Generally speaking, no radio stations or broadcasters here are paying for licensing the music that they are using, which isn't in line with the music rights protected by UAE copyright law," he said.
Part of the problem is that the UAE lacks a performers' rights organisation, the body that in most countries acts as a conduit between the music publishers and the record labels. Talks have been under way at government level to address this problem for more than a year, and Mr Yoosuf hopes the arrival of another major catalogue sub-licence in the region will help push this process forward. "We are making the right kind of inroads into seeing things happen," he said. "We've had a lot more conversations with various parties, including music users, who seem less reluctant to discussing licensing as they were last year. I think part of it has to do with the fact that major music publishers have started to enter the marketplace."
Jo Smith, the head of business affairs at EMI Music Publishing UK, said Fairwood's years of experience in the region helped convince her company to enter the Middle-Eastern market. "The United Arab Emirates is still a relatively new market for music publishing, but we're seeing tremendous growth and vitality and want to make sure that our songwriters are able to take advantage of the opportunities that are beginning to emerge," she said.