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Fair Remuneration from Streaming

The Musicians’ Union (MU) continues to lobby at the European Union (EU) and UK levels for fair remuneration for performers and songwriters from streaming. Here’s why, and how it affects you.

The Musicians’ Union (MU) continues to lobby at the European Union (EU) and UK levels for fair remuneration for performers and songwriters from streaming. 

Streaming sites like YouTube currently fall under ‘safe harbor’ legislation which effectively means they are not held responsible for user generated or uploaded content they host. This means labels and publishers struggle to achieve reasonable licence fees for use of music and MU members do not receive fair payment as a result. 

This lack of income from streaming is known as the ‘value gap’.

Record labels and music publishers have been very proactive in campaigning for legislation to change and pressure to be applied to services like YouTube, which is owned by Google, to pay fairly.
The MU is very much in support of this effort and has been lobbying in conjunction with the labels and publishers via UK Music.

We are now meeting on a regular basis with the Music Managers Forum (MMF), Featured Artist Coalition (FAC), British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), and Music Producers Guild (MPG) to focus on issues of shared concern for our members in the UK, and streaming is top of the agenda.

The MU has also been closely involved in the Fair Internet for Performers campaign through its association with the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and this is picking up momentum as a result of various potential legislative developments at EU level.

In addition, the MU is fighting alongside the MMF, FAC, BASCA and MPG for a full review of the streaming value chain.  For us, the issue isn’t the value gap in isolation. 

Naomi Pohl, MU Assistant General Secretary says, “When the new government is formed, we will be calling for a full review of the streaming value chain. This starts with tackling the value gap which is a huge problem for our industry.

“We will also lobby for government, however, to look in detail at how the money filters through to the artists, songwriters, performers and producers we represent. We believe business models and contractual arrangements in the music industry may need to change so individuals who create music are paid fairly for its consumption.”

At the EU level there are discussions taking place around the lack of transparency for performers and creators regarding what they are paid and why. 

While many labels and publishers are improving in terms of the information they issue to our members along with payments, there is still a veil of secrecy around licence fees paid by streaming services. Non-disclosure agreements prevent the Union or individual musicians from gaining access to numbers. This makes it extremely difficult for musicians to analyse the fairness of individual income streams and assess their share in relation to a global figure. 

AIM, which represents independent UK record labels, has already committed to treating artists fairly in agreements relating to digital exploitation of their work, including issuing more transparent royalty statements. However attempts to get major labels and publishers to sign a similar pledge have stalled. 

Other musician-friendly proposals being discussed at EU level are:
  • Contract renegotiation: it could be an obligation for labels and publishers to revisit and renegotiate legacy contracts which do not provide for fair remuneration or a fair share of income for performers and songwriters;
  • Equitable remuneration: there is a proposal which specifically calls for an unwaivable collectively licensed income stream from streaming. This could work in the same way as PPL income for radio broadcasts.
To elaborate on the second point, the MU has observed that viewing figures for Radio 1 are in decline. However, more and more consumers are accessing music on streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube. With many radio stations migrating to online or providing online listening services, the lines are increasingly blurred between streaming and radio. In fact, we consider curated playlists on streaming sites to be akin to radio broadcasts. There is a very strong argument, therefore, that musicians should be compensated for streaming in the same way as for radio. 

We want a fair share for our members; a fair share of a licence fee that’s fair.  
Published: 06/06/2017

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