Billy Bragg tells artists to blame major labels not Spotify for ‘paltry’ streaming payments

Singer says musicians need to take action to get better royalty rates

Billy Bragg has called on artists to take action against record labels, and not companies like Spotify, for the poor rates they get from music streaming services.

Services such as Spotify have come under attack recently from artists such as Thom Yorke and more recently Foals, who have rallied against the low royalty rates paid to artists.

Writing on his Facebook page, the singer and punk protester says artists need to adapt to the increasing demand for music streaming services by pushing for better rates from major labels.

“I’ve long felt that artists railing against Spotify is about as helpful to their cause as campaigning against the Sony Walkman would have been in the early ’80s,” he begins. “Music fans are increasingly streaming their music and, as artists, we have to adapt ourselves to their behaviour, rather than try to hold the line on a particular mode of listening to music.”

He continues: “The problem with the business model for streaming is that most artists still have contracts from the analog age, when record companies did all the heavy lifting of physical production and distribution, so only paid artists 8%-15% royalties on average.”

These rates, carried over to a digital age, explain why artists are getting such “paltry sums from Spotify,” he concludes. “If the rates were really so bad, the rights holders – the major record companies – would be complaining. The fact that they’re continuing to sign up means they must be making good money.”

However, not all record labels follow this trend. Music Week points out that Beggars Group (the umbrella group for indie labels Rough Trade, XL, 4D and Matador) pays its artists 50 per cent of all streaming royalties on a license, rather than per sale or download.