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Major Labels Give Evidence at Music Streaming Inquiry

A number of major labels took centre stage in the latest session of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s music streaming inquiry.

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By Maddy Radcliff Published: 25 January 2021 | 4:39 PM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:32 PM
Vinyl record spinning on a turntable.
We can't have labels announcing record profits while our members are quite literally unable to put food on the table.

In a session characterised by vague and evasive answers, representatives from Sony, Universal and Warner focused on the benefits of streaming for artists and artist development.

Out of touch with reality

On being challenged as out of touch with the realities facing artists, they responded that they signed up many new artists last year and deal with some of the biggest artists in the world.

Asked about the impact of Covid-19, they blamed the closure of the live music sector and spoke about donating to charities and hardship funds for musicians.

On digital breakages, the major label representatives said that these were collected and then redistributed to artists based on the number of plays in what MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl described as “like a reverse Robin Hood”.

It did not seem to resonate with them that many music creators are deeply unhappy with unfair deals and low royalty rates – as demonstrated by the #BrokenRecord movement and over 17,000 signatures on the Fix Streaming petition.

This lackadaisical response is not good enough

Also challenging the major labels’ happy narrative, Kevin Brennan MP focused on the nature of record deals, asking how long it would take an artist to make £1 profit on a standard record deal with a relatively generous royalty rate.

None of the witnesses provided a clear answer, with one suggesting that their thirty-five artists with a billion plus streams “would all be recouping that deal, I would think”.

Our poll in partnership with The Ivors Academy exposes the shockingly inadequate earnings of many music creators from streaming – while big companies make billions:

  • 82% music creators earn less than £200 a year from streaming
  • 92% said less than 5% of their earnings came from streaming
  • 43% got a job outside of music due to insufficient income from streaming

The system is broken and it needs to be fixed

“If recorded music revenues were paid out fairly to artists then we might not have seen over 20,000 applications to hardship funds in the first few months of the Covid-19 crisis,” said MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl in a joint Fix Streaming statement with The Ivors Academy.

“Recorded music must play its part in sustaining the livelihoods of the musicians and songwriters. We can't have labels announcing record profits while our members are quite literally unable to put food on the table. The system is broken and it needs to be fixed,” she added.

Together we can fix streaming and keep music alive. Find out more about our campaign in partnership with The Ivors Academy – and how far we’ve come in the last eight months.

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