Top UK musicians call for music streaming pay revolution

Image Credit: Viktor Forgacs

Over 150 British musicians including Sting, Paul McCartney and Kate Bush have signed a letter to the Prime Minister campaigning to change the music streaming model.

An open letter asking Prime Minister Boris Johnson to address the problems around the economics of music streaming in the UK has been signed by 156 high-profile musicians. It’s the latest push in a campaign to ensure artists and songwriters are paid fairly for streams of their music.

The letter, signed by the likes of Noel Gallagher, Kano, and Chris Martin, was orchestrated by The Musicians’ Union, Ivors Academy, and the #BrokenRecord campaign. Signees fear the musical generation that follows them won’t be able to have the sustained careers they themselves experienced if something isn’t done to increase payouts to artists from streaming platforms.

What solution does the letter offer? For one thing, the establishment of a regulator to “ensure the lawful and fair treatment of music makers.” Unfair splits in royalties could be solved by equitable renumeration, which would mean an equal split of recording royalties between artists and labels, as with music played on the radio. This is particularly applicable to algorithmic playlists with music listeners haven’t picked.

The UK government’s inquiry into the economics of music streaming investigated equitable renumeration, and it seems likely to form part of the recommendations the committee presents to the government when the report is finished. The open letter has started the ball rolling early. Major record labels and music streaming companies meanwhile have been generally against changing the way the system works.

As the letter says, to make a difference “only two words need to change in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. This will modernise the law so that today’s performers receive a share of revenues, just like they enjoy in radio.”

The way revenue is divided up for songwriters has been addressed, too. The letter states that there is “evidence of multinational corporations wielding extraordinary power and songwriters struggling as a result,” and calls for government referral to the Competition and Markets Authority. Songwriters currently only earn 15% of the stream of a song.

The escalating debate follows Apple Music publishing its own open letter addressing streaming revenues, revealing that it pays out a penny a stream. Beforehand Spotify had just revealed its “Loud & Clear” website, offering a more transparent look at how their revenue system works. SoundCloud, meanwhile, has moved to a “Fan-Powered Royalties” user-centric payment system for some of its creators, which was another potential solution discussed at the music streaming inquiry.

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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