skip to main content

Why Music Creators Won't Support a Major Label Led Campaign on AI

Record labels and publishers (rights holders) are planning a campaign on AI and they want composers and musicians to back them. MU Assistant General Secretary, Phil Kear, explains why that is such a challenging ask.

Photo ofPhil Kear
By Phil Kear Published: 20 May 2024 | 1:09 PM
Close up of a sound engineer sat in front of a large mixing desk.

Spotify launched in the UK in 2008. That’s 16 years ago. 16 years of rights holders’ cosy untransparent deals with digital service providers. Deals that have denied, and continue to deny, creators a fair share of the revenue generated.

Featured artists and composers: underpaid. Non featured artists: completely unpaid.

Even now, 16 years later, when the government has carried out an inquiry which reiterated the existence of this unfairness and instigated the streaming Creator Remuneration Working Group in an attempt to find an industry-led solution, we sit in meetings witnessing rights holders doing everything in their power to deny it and derail any possibility of having to play fair from now on.

And that’s all it will be. If any adjustment to the distribution of streaming income is achieved, it won’t be retrospective. So, rights holders will have gotten away with 16 years of theft from creators’ pockets.

Major labels have given us no reason to trust them

Now we are looking at AI, and the same rights holders are standing in front of creators saying: “Come on, support us now and we can win this – then we can talk about how it works between you and us once that’s done, but we aren’t going to succeed unless we can get some of your household names in front of the cameras.”

No one wants to listen to a record label fat cat saying how hard done by they are! And the incredulity on their faces when we say we aren’t up for it belies an arrogance and lack of comprehension of the rage felt by creators about the ongoing injustice of music streaming.

Had rights holders made any meaningful attempt to redress the disparity in the last 16 years, they may have found some willingness amongst the creators to back them up.

As it is, I, and all my fellow creator representatives, might just as well resign as sign up our members to another 16 years, and ongoing, of being ripped off by rights holders with a new set of cosy agreements with a different set of digital service providers. We’d look like absolute fools, falling for the same sleight of hand trick again.

Make things right on streaming. Agree a fair deal on AI – up front. Then we’ll talk about your upcoming campaign!


Take urgent action to fix streaming

Ask your MP to put the value of music back where it belongs – in your hands

Take urgent action to fix streaming

Continue reading