MPs told of ‘urgent’ need to fix music streaming model

The Musicians’ Union has told MPs they should urgently fix the music streaming model to increase its profitability for artists as they struggle with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The union made the comments in a written submission to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into the economics of streaming, which was published on Thursday.

Their statement said the pandemic has “brought into sharp relief the fact that creators and performers are sustained primarily by income generated by the live side of the music business and that streaming royalties are woefully insufficient”.

The union said artists would not be able to make up the shortfall in their income triggered by the cancellation of live music events through streaming.

“There has never been a more urgent time to fix streaming so that it becomes a real source of income for musicians and composers,” it added.

The Ivors Academy also called for artists to be given a larger share of the profits raised from streaming.

“Creators face a lack of transparency, lack of trust, royalty distortions and inefficiency,” the association for music writers said in its submission.

The organisation said in streaming there is “value leaking away on its path from the consumer to the creator”, adding: “Covid-19 has exposed the scale of the problem for all to see since other sources of revenue for songwriters and composers have disappeared or been significantly reduced.”

Artists have been hit hard by the cancellation of live performances
Artists have been hit hard by the cancellation of live performances

The Tru Thoughts record label said in its submission that streaming services can offer opportunities to artists.

“As is widely talked about, the revenue to be made from streaming is poor… however the kudos, credibility and weight around having strong streaming figures is hugely impactful on every part of an artist’s career,” they said.

The submission added: “For smaller artists and/or artists that would be unable to release music in a DIY sense without streaming services, the money they make from streaming revenue can and does make a difference and so there are positives here.

“However, calls for them to pay artists more/questions around what ‘fair’ pay is have been more prevalent.”

The Government also submitted a response to the inquiry, saying it “recognises the importance of fair remuneration and transparency in the global streaming environment, while also acknowledging that contractual agreements between rights holders and streaming platforms as well as between record labels and artists is a private matter”.

As part of its inquiry, the committee has held evidence sessions with Chic frontman Nile Rodgers, Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey and singer-songwriter Nadine Shah.