Is Streaming Music Fair? 25 People in Music Respond

Twenty five from the music world talk about music-streaming in the modern age.

10 April 2021 |  Lanre Bakare | The Guardian (original link)

Scores of music industry insiders including the artists Nile Rodgers, Nadine Shah and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead, as well as songwriters for stars such as Kylie Minogue, have hit out at an “archaic” streaming model that allows major labels to maximise their revenue while some musicians struggle to make minimum wage.

Ahead of the release of a parliamentary report into the issue, notable figures from the industry have told the Guardian that music labels were perpetuating issues that need to be urgently addressed, including a system that still prioritises rights owners over artists.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Commons select committee has been examining whether the business models used by major streaming platforms are fair to songwriters and performers.

From witnesses expressing fear that speaking up could harm their careers, to the boss of a major record label being described as “living in cloud cuckoo land”, the hearings have been full of testy exchanges.

Senior figures from Spotify, Apple and other streaming services have commended the virtues of streaming, and few in the world of music would dispute that the platforms saved the music industry.

Music streaming in the UK now brings in more than £1bn a year in revenue. But the fact remains that artists can be paid as little as 13% of the income generated, receiving as little as £0.002 to about £0.0038 per stream on Spotify and about £0.0059 on Apple Music.

Many have been asking whether it is right that the split in streaming revenues means about 50% go to labels, 30% to streamers and the rest divided among all other interested parties.

The labels say they are investors in talent and any changes to the system would mean less money spent on A&R and artist development. But those on the other side of the debate say a complete rethink that introduces third-party collecting agencies for royalties or a user-centric model that ensures consumers’ money goes to artists could be the way forward.

Ahead of the publication of the DCMS committee’s recommendations, expected this spring, the Guardian has surveyed more than 25 figures from the world of music. The question we asked was simple: streaming may have saved the industry, but does it now need reform itself?

Click below to read 25 replies from the people interviewed for this piece.


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