Streaming services exploit British artists and ‘should start paying musicians properly', say MPs

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Record labels can receive as little as £0.003p per stream, which then has to be split between everyone involved in making the song – Nick Ansell/PA Wire

British artists are being exploited by foreign-owned streaming services and record labels, MPs have said, as they called for a change in the law to give performers a greater revenue share.

A group of 44 Conservative MPs likened the behaviour of digital giants and record companies to the football clubs that attempted to form the breakaway European Super League earlier this year.

They have written to the Prime Minister to say that the current economic model deprives British musicians of income and puts the nation’s cultural heritage under threat.

“These huge and often foreign-owned multinational corporations have done astronomically well this past year compared to artists,” the letter said.

Changing the law to bring royalty payments in line with radio play, which gives a greater proportion of money to the artists, would fit the Government’s “levelling up” agenda, it added.

Call for change in the law

Esther McVey, MP for Tatton, who organised the letter, said: “There can be no better way to level up than by ensuring that when a band emerges from Bassetlaw, a song is recorded in Sedgefield or a track is mixed in Heywood and Middleton, we keep the value here – in Britain and in our constituents’ pockets.

“Like many sole traders and contractors, musicians have had a tough year. If we want to build back better, big international corporations who have benefited from the Government’s help during the crisis should start paying musicians properly for the music they use.”

The letter reminded Boris Johnson that the Government said, in the wake of the European Super League bid, that it “would not hesitate to act when other treasured areas of our national life are under threat”.

Other signatories include the former Cabinet ministers Andrew Mitchell, Maria Miller, Tim Loughton and David Jones.

‘Hit songwriters are driving Ubers’

The MPs are calling for a two-word amendment to the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which would require streaming companies to make “equitable remuneration” via a rights collection company. This model is used by radio stations and splits revenue 50:50 between artists and record labels.

Under the current streaming model, Spotify is believed to pay around £0.003p per stream and Apple around £0.006p to the rights holder, usually the record label.

The record label then takes its own share and divides the rest between everyone involved in making the song. Artists receive around 16 per cent.

Spotify pays around £0.003p per stream to the rights holder – Reuters/Christian Hartmann

A Commons inquiry earlier this year heard from musicians and songwriters who said they could not survive on their streaming income, despite producing hits.

Fiona Bevan, who has written for Kylie Minogue and others, told the inquiry: “Right now, hit songwriters are driving Ubers.”

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “We warmly welcome the support of over 40 Conservative MPs who are calling on the Government to fix streaming and help our fantastic artists secure fair financial rewards for use of their music.

“For too long, streaming platforms, record labels and other internet giants have exploited performers and creators. We must put the value of music back where it belongs – in the hands of the music makers.

“The support of MPs will be critical in securing meaningful change, which is why we are so pleased to see such strong support for reform on the Conservative backbenches.”

Top stars back #BrokenRecord campaign

The campaign to change the law was started by Tom Gray, a musician who founded the #BrokenRecord campaign. More than 150 artists, including Sir Paul McCartney and Kate Bush, wrote an open letter in support.

Mr Gray said: “Music has long presented an opportunity for young people to change their circumstances through invention, enterprise and raw talent.

“Whilst they have always faced an uphill battle to succeed, today things are exponentially more difficult.

“Without intervention, we are endangering our capacity to develop and nurture the great artists of the future and cheating our treasury of necessary tax revenues. This change keeps millions of pounds in the UK economy that would otherwise flow into foreign-based multinationals. It’s a no-brainer.”

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