Members who have been following the union’s joint #FixStreaming campaign with The Ivors Academy and the #BrokenRecord campaign closely, might be forgiven for thinking there has been a lull in our activity. In fact, we have been extremely busy and are hopeful for further progress as this year continues to unfold.
Getting a better deal for members from music streaming was in my General Secretary campaign manifesto and is a priority for me. We have come far since the Fix Streaming campaign launched in May 2020 – now is not the time to relax or take our foot off the pedal. We must get a solution, or package of solutions, that are fit for purpose and that will evolve for the future.
Government and Intellectual Property Office involvement
The Government’s response to the revolutionary music streaming inquiry report referred the dominance of the major music groups to the Competition Markets Authority, and committed to further research and working groups within the industry to tackle key issues. The MU have been working behind the scenes to make sure your voice is heard at every step.
The union has been attending meetings with government officials, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and industry representatives to work on potential solutions to the problems with music streaming. The Government are keen that we explore solutions that could be agreed within the industry voluntarily.
To make that happen, they have set up an overarching music industry contact group and two sub-groups dealing with contract transparency and data management to move things forward. The MU is on the first two of those to ensure you are represented as musicians, songwriters and composers.
However, the Minister has said that legislation will be considered if the industry can't agree. This is hugely important for us and is a result of all the support from MU members and MPs in the debate around the Brennan Bill to fix streaming that was debated in Parliament in December 2021.
The IPO is also involved in further research into music streaming and music industry contracts which could prove useful in our campaigning work.
The Competition and Markets Authority could be decisive
The CMA are investigating competition issues in music streaming which is also hugely positive news. The Government has committed to addressing issues in digital industries and they have also indicated that the CMA could play a greater role in this space.
The union’s submission to the CMA on the scope of their investigation into streaming said:
"The careers of musicians and songwriters have for years been hampered by the abuse that arises from the market dominance and power of the major music companies. To have this recognised by the Select Committee, cross-party MPs and the Government, especially during the pandemic when so many have faced financial hardship, has given them hope of a fairer and less stifling music market.
“We are also concerned about the impact of Google, Apple and Amazon on the music streaming market and the suppressing effect they have on pricing and music licensing. Companies such as Spotify, Deezer and Soundcloud, which focus primarily on music streaming, cannot put their prices up because they are competing with corporations whose profits are derived from other areas of their business and who can therefore afford to run music streaming as a loss leader. This must be addressed as it is having an impact on the revenue generated for musicians, songwriters and composers."
Part of a global movement
We’ve mentioned before that the world is looking to what happens in the UK, but we are also looking outward to see how international campaign groups are doing in the fight to fix streaming.
There was encouraging news in France in May where a historic agreement means that record companies have to pay minimum streaming remuneration to featured and non featured artists through collective management organisations that collect performance and mechanical royalties.
There was news from the US too, where the US Copyright Royalty Board increased the mechanical royalty rate 32% to 12¢ per track for physical sales and downloads with adjustments for inflation in the future.
While everywhere has different systems for determining and delivering royalties to musicians and music creators, these give us more cause for optimism. The Government has agreed that it wants to make the UK the best place in the world to be a musician. It’s time to make that happen, fix streaming and keep music alive.