Our first petition calling for a Government review of streaming received over 18,000 signatures and brought about an exceptionally thorough and fascinating Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into the economics of music streaming.
Evidence from MU members alongside key industry players
The music streaming inquiry wanted to hear from you – and our thanks go to all the MU members who sent in evidence and letters of support.
Five oral evidence sessions involved artists and songwriters including Tom Gray, Nadine Shah, Guy Garvey, Fiona Bevan, Soweto Kinch and Chic legend Nile Rodgers. Alongside artists, it involved industry representatives from the Musicians’ Union, The Ivors Academy, the Association of Independent Musicians (AIM), BPI, the Music Publishers Association (MPA), major labels, and streaming platforms.
It was clear that Select Committee members from across the political spectrum understood the issues at play, and why it is so important to examine how performers and creators are doing financially and contractually in the streaming era.
Working alongside MU member Tom Gray's hugely popular #BrokenRecord campaign has meant hundreds of artists getting involved in campaigning and spreading the word.
This culminated in a letter sent from the MU, Ivors and #BrokenRecord with over 150 artists signatures initially, and then a further 78 last week. Signatories of the letter include Sir Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Kate Bush, The Rolling Stones, Yoko Ono, Rebecca Ferguson, Kano, Alt-J, Paloma Faith, Lily Allen, Beverley Knight, Noel Gallagher, The Chemical Brothers, Skin and Wolf Alice – the extraordinary list goes on and on.
So what are we asking for?
The Union's number one objective is to achieve the introduction of equitable remuneration (ER) on streaming. This would mean a guaranteed income stream for all musicians whose performances appear on streamed tracks.
There are various ways it could be delivered in law but in practice it would mean PPL royalties on streaming for both featured and non-featured performers – including session and orchestral musicians.
ER would apply from the first stream, whereas at the moment many featured artists don't receive streaming royalties because they remain unrecouped with their labels for upfront advances, recording and marketing costs.
As Tom said to MPs on the music streaming inquiry: “If you just apply ER to some extent to on demand, suddenly, for the first time in history, money goes directly to [musicians’] pockets on the first stream – irrespective of what awful contract terms an artist has, irrespective of all this historic stuff that is out there. This produces an income from stream one for artists, and an income for our entire music community. It’s a very, very simple solution.”
Keeping copyright law up to date
We believe that copyright law hasn't kept up to date with changing technology. Why would performers receive guaranteed royalties via PPL for radio broadcast and public performance, like music being played in a nightclub or a shop, but not for streaming?
The MU believes that streaming is not like a sale of music, although this is how the labels are currently paying it. You don't download or buy tracks you listen to, you don't own them. It is much more akin to renting music or listening to a radio broadcast, or perhaps it is something entirely new which needs new legal provisions.
In fact, during the streaming inquiry sessions, very few people giving evidence suggested that streaming is like a sale. It may have replaced sales to a certain extent from the labels' perspective, but it is also replacing radio listening.
There has been an internal industry debate about 'active' and 'passive' listening. If you select a track, that is active listening. If you stick on a playlist or listen to artist radio, where tracks are selected for you by curators or an algorithm, then that is passive listening. One argument is that the latter should be paid more like radio. However, we believe that all of streaming should attract guaranteed royalties, and that this could be achieved by changing just two words in the Copyright Act.
The artist’s letter suggests that “only two words need to change in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act…so that today’s performers receive a share of revenues, just like they enjoy in radio” – a change which “won’t cost the taxpayer a penny but will put more money in the pockets of UK taxpayers and raise revenues for public services like the NHS.”
Our plan is to garner more cross-party support on this issue and keep the pressure up in the industry. Your support is vital to do that. Sign the petition to add your support. Together we really can fix streaming and keep music alive.