Musicians tell MPs streaming payments are “threatening the future of music”

"If musicians can't afford to pay the rent...we haven't got tomorrow's music in place"

Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Nadine Shah and Gomez‘ Tom Gray have told MPs that streaming payments are “threatening the future of music.”

MPs are currently examining the economic impact that music streaming is having on artists, record labels and the wider music industry in a new inquiry.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee are looking into the issue, with the first evidence session for the ‘Economics of music streaming’ inquiry being held today (November 24).

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Garvey told the inquiry that whilst the comment “sounds very dramatic,” he went on to tell MPs that “if musicians can’t afford to pay the rent…we haven’t got tomorrow’s music in place.”

Radiohead’s O’Brien went on to explain how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic had compounded issues, saying: “Young musicians who rely on live income are really going to struggle.”

Spotify
Spotify (Picture: Getty)

The Committee is looking at “the business models” operated by such streaming giants as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play.

Over £1 billion in revenue was generated from 114 billion music streams in the UK last year, with the inquiry noting, however, that “artists can be paid as little as 13% of the income generated”.

Shah said many musicians were afraid to speak up “because [they] do not want to lose favour with the streaming platforms and the major labels.” Gray added: “They’re worried that if they speak, they won’t be playlisted.”

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O’Brien, meanwhile, also said that musicians were being taken advantage of because of their love of the art form. He said: “The inherent problem we have as musicians is we love what we do. It’s like therapy. I had years of depression and I kept my head above water because I’m in this band with my brothers.

“I would do this for free and that’s precisely what’s been taken advantage of.”

Speaking ahead of the inquiry last month (October 15), DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said: “While streaming is a growing and important part of the music industry contributing billions to global wealth, its success cannot come at the expense of talented and lesser-known artists.

“Algorithms might benefit platforms in maximising income from streaming but they are a blunt tool to operate in a creative industry with emerging talent risking failing the first hurdle.

“We’re asking whether the business models used by major streaming platforms are fair to the writers and performers who provide the material. Longer-term we’re looking at whether the economics of streaming could in future limit the range of artists and music that we’re all able to enjoy today.”

News of the inquiry was welcomed both the Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy have welcomed the news, with the former’s Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl saying that the inquiry comes “at a time when musicians are making very little money from live performance due to Covid-19.”

Last month, a YouGov poll of music fans found that 77% of respondents believe that artists deserve a greater share of revenue from streaming services.

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