156 British Artists call on PM to fix streaming

In a letter to the Prime Minister an incredible list of music makers including Annie Lennox, Paloma Faith, Chris Martin, Gary Barlow, Paul McCartney, Rebecca Ferguson, Bob Geldof, Boy George, Noel Gallagher and Kate Bush, have written “on behalf of today’s generation of artists, musicians and songwriters here in the UK”. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, they have asked him to update UK law to “put the value of music back where it belongs – in the hands of music makers.”

More and more people are streaming music – heightened by the pandemic – but, as the artists point out, “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,” with most featured artists receiving tiny fractions of a US cent per stream” and session musicians receiving nothing at all.

The letter suggests 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” – a change which “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” and which will contribute to the “levelling-up agenda as we kickstart the post-Covid economic recovery.”

The letter is backed by the Musicians’ Union and the Ivors Academy, collectively representing tens of thousands of UK performers, composers and songwriters, brought together in partnership with the #BrokenRecord campaign led by artist and songwriter, Tom Gray.

The Musicians’ Union has this morning published a petition which it is encouraging its members to sign, reinforcing calls made in the artists’ letter to the PM. The Commons DCMS Committee has been examining this issue with its Economics of music streaming inquiry, but it is understood that this issue falls between the remits of both the DCMS and BEIS departments, which is why the artists have chosen to address it to the Prime Minister.  

The letter also recommends “an immediate government referral to the Competition and Markets Authority” because of “evidence of multinational corporations wielding extraordinary power” over the marketplace and the creation of an industry regulator.

They write that these changes “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.”

Tom Gray, Founder of the #BrokenRecord Campaign, said:

“Our country prides itself on its formidable music pedigree. The signatories of this letter hope the generations that follow them can have the kind of sustained careers they have enjoyed. Today, there is much to indicate that kids need to be from wealthy backgrounds in order to risk working in the music sector.

“Streaming, a brilliant way of enjoying music, held the promise that smaller and mid-level artists might be able to live comfortably with a committed audience, instead only a few enjoy streaming’s rewards. “Billions go to a few foreign corporations while, commonly, musicians and songwriters are experiencing financial difficulty.

“This letter is fundamentally about preserving a professional class of music-maker into the future. Most musicians don’t expect or want to be in the gossip pages, they just want to earn a crust.”

There is evidence of enormous hardship amongst musicians with over a third saying in recent MU polling that they are considering abandoning the industry altogether.

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

“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, Chair of the Ivors Academy, said:

“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.”

Background:

Back in 1988 the Copyright Act was born – a landmark piece of legislation giving creators of musical (and other) artistic works the right to control the ways in which their material could be used.  But this law came about a full 18 years before Spotify was born – and nobody could foresee the sea-change in the way we now listen to music.

Streaming is not radio, it is a new form of communication, but today we are listening less and less to radio, and streaming more and more. The pace of this change has quickened during lockdown, with streaming soaring by 22 per cent as the whole world moved online during the pandemic.  

The vast bulk of the money generated by music streaming ends up in the pockets of record labels, streaming platforms and digital giants – huge multinational corporations – rather than in the hands of musicians.  And these multinational giants have done very well out of the pandemic.  YouTube’s yearly revenue went up in 2020 by £2.8bn – by around a fifth, and Spotify’s gross revenue went up by around 15 per cent. The three major rights groups, Universal, Sony and Warner earned £6-7 billion from streaming in 2020.  Musicians, meanwhile, earn an average salary of £23,000 during normal times.

Rather than saying streaming is broadcasting, artists, performers and songwriters are asking that the rights they enjoy in radio and their valuation be applied to streaming which presently is remunerated through the ‘making available to the public’ right.

The suggested change to the 1988 Copyright Act:

We can make streaming pay in exactly the same way as radio by changing two words in clause 182D of the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act:

PRESENT WORDING

Where a commercially published sound recording of the whole or any substantial part of a qualifying performance is played in public, or is communicated to the public otherwise than by its being made available to the public in the way mentioned in section 182CA (1), the performer is entitled to equitable remuneration from the owner of the copyright in the sound recording.

NEW WORDING

Where a commercially published sound recording of the whole or any substantial part of a qualifying performance is played in public, or is communicated to the public, or by its being made available to the public in the way mentioned in section 182CA (1), the performer is entitled to equitable remuneration from the owner of the copyright in the sound recording.  

They believe that songwriters do not receive a fair share of the pie because of uncompetitive behaviour. They would ultimately like an adjudicator or ombudsman to protect the lawful and fair treatment of all music makers.    

Full list of signatories:

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


About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.