Do music streaming laws need to be updated? UK Parliament to discuss revenue rights

Image Credit: Clem Onojeghuo

A bill looks to re-evaluate how music streaming revenues are treated by law in the UK and request it be treated like radio plays.

A bill set to head to Parliament is being championed by a number of MPs to offer artists navigating the new digital industry of music streaming with a ‘fair chance’. Led by Kevin Brennan, he states: “My bill would bring the law up to date by creating a new right for musicians to an additional share of the revenue from streaming.”

In a new op-ed written for Independent, Brennan outlines his views in further detail and what they hope to achieve through the bill and its entailing discussions. He makes it clear that he loves music streaming, saying: “Who wouldn’t want to be able to access all the world’s music from a device in their back pocket? For those of us who grew up saving our pennies to buy the latest David Bowie record, streaming is a modern-day miracle.”

But he, and a number of other MPs, feel that streaming doesn’t always reward artists in a way that they see as fair. Using radio plays a point of comparison, each time a song is played on the radio the artist (or appropriate rights-holder) is legally entitled to a payment. These MPs want laws in place to ensure that the same law is applied to music that is streamed.

It should be noted that artists are paid for each stream on services in the UK by the major streaming services, but these MPs are looking to put that into law. When Apple Music was set to launch, they planned not to pay artists for streams in the first three months of users’ free trials. Following a public callout from Taylor Swift and undoubtedly huge pressures from the wider industry, Apple chose to pay artists during the trial period. The new potential law being taken to parliament would prevent the option from even being available.

In his article Brennan writes: “

This is all about creating the right future structure for a secure career in music. I want young people to be able to aspire to make a reasonable living from original music. I want them to be able to make music that people will love and appreciate, and to get a fair share of the money people pay to listen to it.

“Let’s be clear, not every talented person will be able to make a living out of music, but there’s something wrong with a system where record industry executives get massive salaries and share options when, as we heard recently on the Culture Select Committee, some award-nominated artists can’t afford to pay their rent.”

The efficacy of streaming has been discussed notably in the UK in recent years, particularly with the recent government enquiry into the economics of music streaming. The most recent discussion involved major label executives and centred around whether it was music services that left certain artists with little streaming or it was their unfair deals with big labels leaving them with a small percentage of the overall earnings.

We will be hearing much more from inquiries in the British government over the coming months and perhaps years as the issue of streaming rates continues to raise debates.

Writing about music, listening to music, and occasionally playing music.

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