The music-streaming model is in need of a “complete reset” to properly reward musicians and songwriters, an inquiry has concluded.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report on the economics of streaming warns that “pitiful returns” from the current system are impacting the “entire creative ecosystem”.
It says some successful and critically acclaimed musicians are seeing “meagre returns” from their work and non-featured performers on songs are being “frozen out altogether”.
Major record labels Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music appeared before MPs during the sessions, while tech giants Spotify, Amazon, Apple and YouTube also gave evidence.
According to the Broken Record campaign, artists receive around 16% of the total income from streams, while record companies receive around 41% and streaming services around 29%.
The inquiry, which was launched following increased scrutiny prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, received more than 300 pieces of evidence including from Chic star Nile Rodgers, Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey and singer-songwriter Nadine Shah.
One session saw Shah become emotional as she spoke of how her earnings from streams alone were not enough to keep “the wolf away from the door”.
What did the report recommend?
- Measures allowing music creators to recapture the rights to their work from labels after a period of time
- Artists are given the right to adjust their contract if their work was successful beyond the remuneration they received
- Government should introduce legally enforceable obligations to normalise licensing arrangements for services such as YouTube.
- Government should require publishers and collecting societies to publish royalty chain information to provide transparency to artists about how much money is flowing through the system.
‘Performers are losing out’
Chair of the DCMS committee Julian Knight said: “While streaming has brought significant profits to the recorded music industry, the talent behind it – performers, songwriters and composers – are losing out.
“Only a complete reset of streaming that enshrines in law their rights to a fair share of the earnings will do.”
A government spokeswoman said: “We welcome the select committee’s report on the economics of music streaming and recognise the importance of this work for the industry.
“We will issue a response to the report in due course. We are also gathering our own evidence through a research project looking at creators’ earnings in streaming and will consider the findings from this in the coming months.”