Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks and more sign letter calling on Boris Johnson to fix streaming economy

The letter, from the Musicians Union', says that "the law has not kept up with the pace of technological change"

Some of the UK’s biggest musical stars have signed a new open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for a reform to the streaming economy – see it in full below.

The letter, from the Musicians’ Union in association with the Ivors Academy and the #BrokenRecord campaign, says that the law around streaming revenues and royalty payments “has not kept up with the pace of technological change” in the music industry. Among the 156 signees of the letter are Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Damon Albarn, Chris Martin, Noel Gallagher and Wolf Alice.

It comes as MPs are currently examining the economic impact that music streaming is having on artists, record labels and the wider music industry as part of the ‘Economics Of Music Streaming’ inquiry.

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The inquiry has seen the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Commons Select Committee examining the business model since last year and whether or not the model is fair to songwriters and performers.

Streaming
Credit: Alamy Stock Photo.

The involved artists say they’ve written the new letter “on behalf of today’s generation of artists, musicians and songwriters here in the UK,” and call on the government to adapt the law in order to “put the value of music back where it belongs – in the hands of music makers.”

The letter adds that 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.” It goes on to 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,” and that the proposed change “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.”

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney is among those to have signed the new open letter. Credit: Mary McCartney

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said of the letter: “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.

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“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 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.”

Crispin Hunt of the Ivors Academy added: “In streaming, the song is king, but songwriters and composers do not enjoy the true value of their work and struggle to make a living.
“The record companies are now simply marketing firms. Without manufacturing and distribution costs, their extraordinary profits ought to be shared more equitably with creators.

“Our industry has an unfortunate history of pitching artists, performers and songwriters against each other. With this letter, we are finally speaking with one voice to say ‘enough is enough’. Our industry is broken, Government can and should help us fix it.”

Nadine Shah 2021 show
Nadine Shah, who has signed the new letter, recently said she was unable to make rent due to low streaming payouts. CREDIT: Getty

Over the last year, a host of artists have spoken out about the outdated and unfair streaming economy model. Nadine Shah has been one of the most vocal critics, saying last year that payments are “paltry” and meant she was unable to pay her rent, meaning she had to move back in with her parents for a time.

Elsewhere, Paul Weller said last week that he’ll never support Spotify, calling the financial situation “disgraceful” and “shit for artists.”

Tim BurgessRadiohead’s Ed O’Brien and more also recently opened up about the ongoing debate into streaming and artist payments in a series of new interviews. O’Brien said: “They’re no quick fixes, but there are some reforms such as equitable remuneration. But they don’t solve the problem entirely.

“Up-and-coming artists wouldn’t necessarily benefit from that and they are the ones who fall by the wayside with streaming, especially now because they can’t sustain their income with live gigging.”

The DCMS Select Committee’s inquiry into the business models operated by streaming giants like Spotify is due to be published this spring. Over £1billion in revenue was generated from 114billion music streams in the UK last year. The inquiry has already noted that despite these figures, artists can be paid “as little as 13%” of the income generated.

See the new open letter and the full list of signatories below.

“Dear Prime Minister,

We write to you on behalf of today’s generation of artists, musicians and songwriters here in the UK.

For too long, streaming platforms, record labels and other internet giants have exploited performers and creators without rewarding them fairly. We must put the value of music back where it belongs – in the hands of music makers.

Streaming is quickly replacing radio as our main means of music communication. However, 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.

Today’s musicians receive very little income from their performances – most featured artists receive tiny fractions of a US cent per stream and session musicians receive nothing at all.

To remedy this, only two words need to change in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. This will modernise the law so that today’s performers receive a share of revenues, just like they enjoy in radio. It 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.

There is evidence of multinational corporations wielding extraordinary power and songwriters struggling as a result. An immediate government referral to the Competition and Markets Authority is the first step to address this. Songwriters earn 50% of radio revenues, but only 15% in streaming. We believe that in a truly free market the song will achieve greater value.

Ultimately though, we need a regulator to ensure the lawful and fair treatment of music makers. The UK has a proud history of protecting its producers, entrepreneurs and inventors. We believe British creators deserve the same protections as other industries whose work is devalued when exploited as a loss-leader.

By addressing these problems, we 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.

We urge you to take these forward and ensure the music industry is part of your levelling-up agenda as we kickstart the post-Covid economic recovery.”

Damon Albarn OBE
Lily Allen
Wolf Alice
Marc Almond OBE
Joan Armatrading CBE
David Arnold
Massive Attack
Jazzie B OBE
Adam Bainbridge (Kindness)
Emily Barker
Gary Barlow OBE
Geoff Barrow
Django Bates
Brian Bennett OBE
Fiona Bevan
Aflie Boe OBE
Billy Bragg
The Chemical Brothers
Kate Bush CBE
Melanie C
Eliza Carthy MBE
Martin Carthy MBE
Celeste
Guy Chambers
Mike Batt LVO
Don Black OBE
Badly Drawn Boy
Chrissy Boy
Tim Burgess
Mairéad Carlin
Laura-Mary Carter
Nicky Chinn
Dame Sarah Connolly DBE
Phil Coulter
Roger Daltrey CBE
Catherine Anne Davies (The Anchoress)
Ian Devaney
Chris Difford
Al Doyle
Anne Dudley
Brian Eno
Self Esteem
James Fagan
Paloma Faith
Marianne Faithfull
George Fenton
Rebecca Ferguson
Robert Fripp
Shy FX
Gabrielle
Peter Gabriel
Noel Gallagher
Guy Garvey
Bob Geldof KBE
Boy George
David Gilmour CBE
Nigel Godrich
Howard Goodall CBE
Jimi Goodwin
Graham Gouldman
Tom Gray
Roger Greenaway OBE
Will Gregory
Ed Harcourt
Tony Hatch OBE
Richard Hawley
Justin Hayward
Fran Healy
Orlando Higginbottom
Jools Holland OBE, DL
Mick Hucknall
Crispin Hunt
Shabaka Hutchings
Eric Idle
John Paul Jones
Julian Joseph OBE
Kano
Linton Kwesi Johnson
Gary Kemp
Nancy Kerr
Richard Kerr
Soweto Kinch
Beverley Knight MBE
Mark Knopfler OBE
Annie Lennox OBE
Shaznay Lewis
Gary Lightbody OBE
Tasmin Little OBE
Calum MacColl
Roots Manuva
Laura Marling
Johnny Marr
Chris Martin
Claire Martin OBE
Cerys Matthews MBE
Sir Paul McCartney CH MBE
Horse McDonald
Thurston Moore
Gary “Mani” Mounfield
Mitch Murray CBE
Field Music
Frank Musker
Laura Mvula
Kate Nash
Stevie Nicks
Orbital
Roland Orzabal
Gary Osborne
Jimmy Page OBE
Hannah Peel
Daniel Pemberton
Yannis Philippakis
Anna Phoebe
Phil Pickett
Robert Plant CBE
Karine Polwart
Emily Portman
Chris Rea
Eddi Reader MBE
Sir Tim Rice
Orphy Robinson MBE
Matthew Rose
Nitin Sawhney CBE
Anil Sebastian
Peggy Seeger
Nadine Shah
Feargal Sharkey OBE
Shura
Labi Siffre
Martin Simpson
Skin
Mike Skinner
Curt Smith
Fraser T Smith
Robert Smith
Sharleen Spiteri
Lisa Stansfield
Sting CBE
Suggs
Tony Swain
Heidi Talbot
John Taylor
Phil Thornalley
KT Tunstall
Ruby Turner MBE
Becky Unthank
Norma Waterson MBE
Cleveland Watkiss MBE
Jessie Ware
Bruce Welch OBE
Kitty Whately
Ricky Wilde
Olivia Williams
Daniel “Woody” Woodgate
Midge Ure OBE
Nikki Yeoh

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