Music streaming services: Singer-songwriters should earn a fair share of the profits and a new bill promises exactly that – Martyn McLaughlin
“I had a track on an album that was recently number one on the UK charts,” she explained. “It was the best-selling solo artist album of the year at the time of release.” The problem, however, is that the commercial success was not his. “This lead,” she added, “got me around £ 100.”
For musicians and songwriters across the country, the scarcity of income they receive from streaming services is a familiar concern, and one that forces them to make difficult compromises.
An Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union survey found that in 2019 some 82% of professional musicals were making £ 200 or less from streaming, with just 7% earning £ 1,000 or more.
The solution now is for artists to put down their instruments just to pay the bills. “Right now,” Ms. Bevan explained, “successful songwriters drive Ubers.” But there is hope that a more sustainable and fairer solution to the unbalanced streaming economy is in sight.
Later this week, Labor MP Kevin Brennan will introduce a private member’s bill to Parliament to settle the issue once and for all.
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The overarching goal of the former shadow arts minister’s bill is to ensure that revenues from streaming services move on a “common basis” with revenues from other sources, such as broadcasts. radio.
The mechanism to achieve this, known as equitable remuneration, will introduce a right to remuneration for performers on musical works made available to the public.
This would mean that whenever songs are played on streaming platforms such as Spotify or Apple Music, they are categorized as “rental” and artists are given a 50/50 split.
In Mr Brennan’s opinion, the drastic change would not only provide a much-needed income guarantee for musicians hard hit by the pandemic’s impact on live performances, but would strengthen the industry as a whole.
“These reforms would lead to more new music, a revival of recording studios, a boost to the British music scene, the discovery of a new generation of British talent and Britain becoming again a leading cultural center for the recorded music industry, ”he said.
The legislation is facing fierce resistance from the UK phonographic industry, the trade body behind the Brit Awards, which has the UK’s three major record companies – Warner, Sony and Universal – among his members.
He claims the legislation would “tie British music to bureaucracy”, stifle record company investment and “deny the next generation of artists the opportunity for a career”. It is not surprising that such arguments are advanced so forcefully. It is the record companies, after all, that have the most to lose from Mr. Brennan’s bill.
The reality is that while the heyday of the music industry is an era where physical media dominated, it is still in poor health, with the digital piracy fears that arose around the turn of the millennium long relegated. in the past. .
Global revenues hit nearly £ 16.2 billion last year, the highest since 2002 and the sixth consecutive year of growth. The year before, UK record companies alone made £ 1.1bn.
Indeed, between 2015 and 2019, these labels’ revenues increased by more than £ 200million, with payments from steaming services alone more than offsetting the continued decline in CD sales and digital downloads.
Amid such fine profits, there is a deep-rooted structural inequality at the heart of the streaming model, where the finer financial details are obscured by a host of confidentiality clauses and nondisclosure agreements.
Much criticism has been leveled at streaming services in recent years, and few of them could be considered unwarranted. In the current model, artists receive as little as £ 0.003 per stream through Spotify, with the sum just slightly higher – around £ 0.006 – through Apple Music.
When the pandemic first struck last year, the former company seemed to inadvertently admit that its payment model left artists scratching their heads for survival, thanks to its introduction of a ‘tip jar’ feature. Which allowed artists to accept donations.
But the anger exerted on firms like Spotify should not exclude the record companies themselves. Despite all the talk about A&R investment and marketing budgets, their arguments against Mr. Brennan’s bill deliberately ignore the key factors that have helped streaming services increase their profit margins. There has been, for example, a dramatic reduction in the costs incurred by these companies, without the need to manufacture and distribute millions of CDs.
Historically, this expense explained the historical imbalance in the distribution of royalties, which meant that artists and songwriters would receive a smaller slice of the pie. But this argument no longer holds.
Record companies will explain how some artists have enjoyed significant income through streaming, and while this is true, it only applies to a minority of established stars. A report released by the Intellectual Property Office in September found that the top percent of artists made up 80 percent of all streams.
For Ms. Bevan and others who are trying to make a living without having to drive taxis, the reality is quite different. They hope members of Parliament listen to their arguments.