In an unprecedented show of solidarity, 75 artists including The Rolling Stones have added their names to a joint letter with artists such as Annie Lennox, Paloma Faith, Kano, Joan Armatrading, Chris Martin, Gary Barlow, Paul McCartney, Melanie C, Jimmy Page, Boy George, Noel Gallagher, and Kate Bush, calling on the PM to update UK law to “put the value of music back where it belongs – in the hands of music makers.”
All the modern British recording artists named by Boris Johnson in his Desert Island Discs are now represented on the letter.
Together we can fix streaming and keep music alive
The letter was organised by the MU in conjunction with the Broken Record campaign led by artist, songwriter and MU member Tom Gray, our Fix Streaming partners The Ivors Academy, and the Music Producer’s Guild. Together, we represent tens of thousands of UK performers, composers, songwriters and producers.
Add your voice to the call. Sign the petition to fix streaming and put the value of music back where it belongs – in your hands.
A systemic problem crying out for a solution
This renewed call to fix streaming comes on the back of a report last week by The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which said this is a "systemic problem [that] cries out for a systemic solution.”
The report concluded that streaming should start to pay more like radio: "The more global revenues surge, the harder it is for performers to understand why the imbalance is fair—because it is not...streaming remuneration likely should be considered for a communication to the public right."
More and more people are streaming music – heightened by the pandemic – but, as the artists point out, “the law has not kept up with the pace of technological change and, as a result, performers and songwriters do not enjoy the same protections as they do in radio,” with most featured artists receiving tiny fractions of a US cent per stream” and session musicians receiving nothing at all.
The letter and petition suggest 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.”
It’s a change that “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,” and will contribute to the “levelling-up agenda as we kickstart the post-Covid economic recovery.”
Equitable remuneration for the streaming era
The 227 signatories – which also include Lily Allen, Rebecca Ferguson, Beverley Knight, Laura Mvula, The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, and Sting – do not want streaming to be recognised as radio. Instead, they want streaming to share some of radio’s remuneration model so that they are paid more fairly. Legislation, despite recognising that streaming is replacing sales, is yet to recognise that the technology is on its way to replacing radio too.
They also recommend “an immediate government referral to the Competition and Markets Authority” because of “evidence of multinational corporations wielding extraordinary power” over the marketplace and the creation of an industry regulator.
Artists believe that these changes “will make the UK the best place in the world to be a musician or a songwriter, allow recording studios and the UK session scene to thrive once again, strengthen our world leading cultural sector, allow the market for recorded music to flourish for listeners and creators, and unearth a new generation of talent.”
It's time to put streaming income back where it belongs – in your hands
Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the MU, said: “I’m delighted to see so many artists, performers and songwriters backing our call. Streaming is replacing radio so musicians should get the same protection when their work is played on streaming platforms as they get when it’s played on radio.
“As the whole world has moved online during the pandemic, musicians who write, record and perform for a living have been let down by a law that simply hasn’t kept up with the pace of technological change. Listeners would be horrified to learn how little artists and musicians earn from streaming when they pay their subscriptions.
“By tightening up the law so that streaming pays more like radio, we will put streaming income back where it belongs – in the hands of artists. It’s their music so the income generated from it should go into their hands.”
This is the moment for the UK to lead the way
Tom Gray, Founder of the #BrokenRecord Campaign, said: "It is incredible that the World Intellectual Property Organisation, who create the global treaties that underpin UK law, are reporting that things should change in the way we ask.
“This is the moment for the UK to lead the way. British music makers are suffering needlessly. There is an extraordinary amount of money in music streaming. It is a success story, but not for the British citizens that make the music. This letter is fundamentally about preserving a professional class of music-maker into the future. Most musicians don’t expect to be famous, they just want to earn a crust.”
You should benefit from the value your creativity drives
Crispin Hunt, Chair of the Ivors Academy, said: "Major Music labels delude themselves that they are the sole providers of the music economy. They are not; the musicians, producers and composers who signed this letter are the true providers of the music economy; without them, no employment in music could exist. Britain’s music creators should be the primary beneficiaries of the value their creativity drives.”
“The record companies are now glorified marketing firms, without manufacturing and distribution costs. Their extraordinary profits ought to be shared more equitably with creators. In streaming the song is king, yet songwriters are streaming’s serfs.
“Britain’s music creators want nothing more than a reasonable partnership with the companies that market and distribute our work. But a reasonable partnership should be based on shared rewards and responsibilities, not unilateral takings.”
Easy steps to fix streaming and keep UK music alive
Graham Davies, Chief Executive of the Ivors Academy, said: "Paying music creators properly, which is what so many incredible artists have spoken up to ask for on behalf of present and future musicians and songwriters, will drive the streaming industry and sustain the UK creative economy. Music should and could be a major national asset, but its potential value is currently stripped by overseas interests.
“We need to keep the value of British music in our nation by supporting, nurturing and investing in our creators, whilst ensuring the handful of foreign multinational corporations which dominate the music industry and have little interest in preserving British cultural heritage, contribute more value back into the UK. These easy steps will achieve exactly that.”
Take action now
Call on Boris Johnson to put the value of music back where it belongs – in the hands of music makers. Sign the petition, and ask three more people you know to sign it too.