Former Music Rights Exec, Comedy Managers Launch Spoken Giants, New Org. For Spoken Word Copyright

Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan Courtesy of Luzena Adams, Joey L./ACLU

Jim King, former executive at music rights group BMI, and comedy label 800 Pound Gorilla Records co-founders Ryan Bitzer and Damion Greiman have launched Spoken Giants, a royalty administration company specifically for creators of spoken word copyrights.

Based in Nashville and aimed at comedians, podcasters, speechwriters and other wordsmiths, Spoken Giants said it’s already working with members including Lewis Black, Dan Cummins, Gerry Dee, Pete Holmes, Kyle Kinane, Kathleen Madigan, the Ralphie May estate, Leanne Morgan and Theo Von, The founders announced the firm publicly Wednesday and hope to scale up dramatically, noting that “millions in royalties have been unclaimed by, or simply not paid to, spoken word creators.”

Rights organizations have long existed in music and Spoken Giants will follow that industry’s precedents “to correct the global financial oversights of the past,” they said.

Spoken Giants represents underlying composition copyrights and its revenue is based on a percentage of what it collects. For members, this is an additive income stream, supplemental to revenue already earned from performance rights group SoundExchange for sound recordings. Members retain all rights to their work and also get access to data, analytics, market knowledge, copyrights administration and repertoire management.

“Although U.S. copyright law protects spoken word assets, it’s an area where even having a marquee name doesn’t guarantee you’ll be paid what you’re owed. We’re changing that with transparent, collective representation for all in order to strengthen the marketplace in favor of the creator,” said CEO and co-founder King.

“While copyright law is clear, a dedicated team and detailed technology are needed to pursue underlying composition royalties … especially with the overwhelming rise of podcasting and streaming over the past decade,” he added.

For tracking, royalty collection and reporting, Spoken Giants has partnered with Muserk, an AI tech-driven administration platform. Muserk’s proprietary technology is widely used for video and music and it currently manages millions of works on all major tech platforms including YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

“In recent years, spoken word content has become increasingly valuable to the tech platforms that monetize this type of content,” said Muserk CEO Paul Goldman, now a board member of Spoken Giants. “Just like music, if there isn’t a rights organization … you can bet the content owners will not be paid their fair share, if anything at all.”

BMI and ASCAP’s blanket licenses, for instance, do not collect on behalf of spoken word creators. And the Music Modernization Act of 2018 did not address spoken word content when it updated copyright law to address music streaming.

Spoken Giants’ payments are facilitated by Exactuals, a subsidiary of City National Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada.

Former comedy managers Bitzer and Greiman opened Nashville-based comedy label 800 Pound Gorilla Records in 2016 and saw that comics weren’t getting all they were owed for their work. The duo partnered with King in 2018 and began to build Spoken Giants.

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