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Home » Music Performance Trust Fund » MPTF Continues Strong Grant Funding

MPTF Continues Strong Grant Funding

  -  Trustee, Music Performance Trust Fund

Life has been good for the recording industry’s Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) since streaming revenues began to arrive in early 2017. The very good news is that, in the last decade, MPTF grant distribution has increased tenfold. We have just concluded our 2023-2024 fiscal year, delivering approximately $5 million for musician performances throughout North America. That’s a long way from the $497,000 we could provide a decade ago. Many will remember that our current good times were preceded by nearly two decades of decline, as digital disruption destroyed the physical product market for CDs, cassettes, and nearly so for vinyl.

Ever since labor and management negotiated the survival of the MPTF eight years ago, we have stepped on the gas and accelerated the grant process to match our growing revenue. Even as live performances nearly came to a stop during COVID, we adjusted our policies to provide unique initiatives, including Juneteenth, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Jazz Appreciation Month. These 100% grants served participating union locals and musicians and provided an opportunity to establish cultural context for the value of music, its history, and the musicians who are essential to performing it.

In my first year as trustee, the MPTF supported a little over 1,700 performances. This latest year, we provided nearly 5,000 admission-free live music events. The credit is truly due to the officers and event organizers at AFM locals across the US and Canada. It is their hard work that brought our funding to over 125 regional communities.

Each year, we establish an annual grant budget and allocate those funds to all union locals based on their total membership. Historically, the financial plan has been a conservative estimate. The budget for this new fiscal year is $4 million. There are still many issues that require us to protect the MPTF’s resources to anticipate our future revenue and new industry challenges that may arise. Our foot is still clearly on the gas, but with a more watchful eye.

While receipts from our signatories have grown year-over-year, the music streaming universe is maturing. New subscriptions have generally peaked, and record company royalties are getting closer to a plateau. Additionally, the major labels who fund us have seen their streaming market share on platforms such as Spotify decline from 89%, just a couple of years ago, to 75% in 2023.

While this is good news for independent artists, it is also a factor in evaluating the future of our revenue. Fortunately, streaming platforms are finally raising their monthly subscription fees, which should help provide a path for at least some revenue growth. This impacts the American Federation of Musicians and Employers Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) and Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, as well as MPTF.

We may view digital disruption as a thing of the past. However, the velocity of technological advances is mind blowing. Is streaming the end game or is it simply another musical configuration that is ultimately to be replaced, just like cylinders, 78s, and eight-track cartridges? How will artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI impact the music industry positively or negatively? Is there a future where determining royalties becomes deadlocked, just as it was 10 years ago?

The MPTF, and those who have experienced the dramatic ups and downs of our resources, are the first to understand that we must be vigilant with our reserves to weather the challenges of the future. With more locals participating in our grants, grants beyond allocation become more challenging to balance. While we don’t envision any dramatic change in our distribution and we currently enjoy the resources in front of us, we must act collectively to protect our reserves. It’s good to check the roof while the sun is shining.

Sphinx Virtuosi Perform at ASTA and SAA Conferences

Photo: Denny Medley/Random Photography

Sphinx Virtuosi captivated their audience with a stunning, admission-free performance, sponsored by the recording industry’s Music Performance Trust Fund, on March 22 in Louisville, Kentucky. Featuring recent pieces by Black and Latinx composers, it was a celebration of diversity and music’s power to unite. The concert was open to the public and took place at the Louisville Convention Center during the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) co-located conferences. Over 2,000 stringed instrument performers, educators, students, and local music aficionados attended the event.

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