Gomez singer Tom Gray claims streaming payments to artists are ‘pretty horrific’

The coronavirus crisis has made it clear that artists receive “pretty horrific” sums of money from streams of their music, Gomez singer Tom Gray has said.

Gray, founder of the #BrokenRecord campaign, told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry that the advent of streaming technology had made inequities in the music industry “more profound”.

MPs are looking into how the streaming model has affected artists and record labels, following increased scrutiny prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the committee remotely during the inquiry, Gray said: “This is a problem we have been hearing about forever. This isn’t new. We have always been hearing about inequality and unfairness in the music industry. This isn’t the first time any of you will have heard about this.

“Streaming has come along, this wonderful technology that puts music in all of our back pockets – all the music that has ever been made.

“But unfortunately it has made the problem worse and more profound because it is so much harder to understand. If there is one thing this country is amazing at – truly great at – it’s music. We are genuinely world-beating at it.”

Gray also suggested that less well-known artists have suffered more than well-established ones due to the introduction of streaming.

He said: “I am not here to argue for Paul McCartney to get more money. Far from it. This is happening while a few multinational corporations, foreign-based corporations, are making the most money, the best growth, the best profit margins, they have ever made in their history.”

Addressing the committee, he said: “If we rebalance, this money goes into the UK economy. It goes into UK PLC. It goes into every single one of your constituencies.

“It seems like a bit of a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. We need to protect our talent pipeline. We need to protect these people on quite modest incomes.

“We shouldn’t change this because of Covid, far from it. But what Covid has done is that it has provided an opportunity for us to really see what we are making from recorded music and it is pretty horrific.”

The session also saw Tom Frederikse, a partner at Clintons Solicitors, give evidence.

Mr Frederikse said many musicians feel they had not benefited from the shift to digital streaming, despite it reducing the costs of their record labels.

“Artists feel that some levelling-up is needed to fix the balance that has increased and happened since the beginning of streaming, mainly because the huge risk and physical costs to the label which were the story of the physical world is largely gone,” he said.

Gray added that a number of independent record labels are brokering “more ethical” deals with their artists.

However, he suggested up-and-coming artists still feel compelled to join major labels because they have “completely captured streaming” and could make their music heard more widely on platforms such as Spotify.

The inquiry comes after the Musicians’ Union and Ivors Academy launched the Keep Music Alive campaign, calling streaming royalties “woefully insufficient” and urging the Government to undertake a review.

There has been increased scrutiny of the business models of platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play after artist revenue from live performance was hit by Covid-19.