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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
Tim Burgess, Radiohead’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
Marc Almond OBE
Joan Armatrading CBE
Jazzie B OBE
Adam Bainbridge (Kindness)
Gary Barlow OBE
Brian Bennett OBE
Aflie Boe OBE
The Chemical Brothers
Kate Bush CBE
Eliza Carthy MBE
Martin Carthy MBE
Mike Batt LVO
Don Black OBE
Badly Drawn Boy
Dame Sarah Connolly DBE
Roger Daltrey CBE
Catherine Anne Davies (The Anchoress)
Bob Geldof KBE
David Gilmour CBE
Howard Goodall CBE
Roger Greenaway OBE
Tony Hatch OBE
Jools Holland OBE, DL
John Paul Jones
Julian Joseph OBE
Linton Kwesi Johnson
Beverley Knight MBE
Mark Knopfler OBE
Annie Lennox OBE
Gary Lightbody OBE
Tasmin Little OBE
Claire Martin OBE
Cerys Matthews MBE
Sir Paul McCartney CH MBE
Gary “Mani” Mounfield
Mitch Murray CBE
Jimmy Page OBE
Robert Plant CBE
Eddi Reader MBE
Sir Tim Rice
Orphy Robinson MBE
Nitin Sawhney CBE
Feargal Sharkey OBE
Fraser T Smith
Ruby Turner MBE
Norma Waterson MBE
Cleveland Watkiss MBE
Bruce Welch OBE
Daniel “Woody” Woodgate
Midge Ure OBE