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BMG boss tells signatories of #fixstreaming letter “we are on your side”

By | Published on Tuesday 29 June 2021


The boss of BMG has written to artists and songwriters who work with the company and who signed the recent letter organised by the #fixstreaming and #brokenrecord campaigns in the UK to say “I want you to know that we are on your side”. Hartwig Masuch doesn’t specifically endorse the demands made in that letter, but says the company does support “a radical re-slicing of the streaming pie in favour of artists and songwriters”.

That letter was originally sent to UK Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson in April, and was then re-sent earlier this month with additional signatories. The more recent version was signed by more than 230 artists, including The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Chris Martin, Paloma Faith, Brian Eno, Kate Bush, Gary Barlow, Damon Albarn, Van Morrison, Tom Jones and Barry Gibb.

Organised by the Musicians’ Union, Ivors Academy and Tom Gray’s #brokenrecord campaign, it sets out some key demands that were previously made by artist and songwriter reps during the Economics Of Streaming inquiry undertaken by the culture select committee in Parliament.

A key demand was that so called performer equitable remuneration be added to the making available element of the copyright, meaning performers would be due a minimum cut of streaming income under law, oblivious of their contractural relationship with whoever released a track.

Another was that the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority investigate whether the majors being such big players in both recordings and songs impacts on how streaming monies are shared out between the two music rights, possibly unfairly skewing the market.

Record labels in the main oppose the idea of ER being paid on streams, raising various issues with that approach. Although representatives for the indie sector do support and promote deals that are fairer to artists, including encouraging labels to voluntarily offer music-makers on older record contracts – that generally pay lower royalties – better terms more in line with new record deals.

In its submission to the select committee inquiry last year, BMG said that it had taken this approach with the older catalogues it had acquired over the years: “BMG takes the view that in the context of today it is no longer desirable to prolong [old contractural conventions]. We are therefore paying out more money, more quickly than we are contractually obliged to do. We are clear we cannot make good all of the sins of the past, but we are committed to doing what we can to improve”.

BMG also told Parliament that it supported a re-slicing of the digital pie to the benefit of songwriters. It said: “The only realistic way for songwriters to increase their income from streaming is for them to receive a greater share of the total pot of money paid by streaming services for the music they use”.

Masuch sets out these positions in his note to signatories of the #fixstreaming and #brokenrecord letter. He writes: “I am writing to offer my congratulations for publicly supporting the #brokenrecord campaign for justice for artists and songwriters – and to clarify BMG’s position on this topic”.

“When we started the new BMG in 2008, we did so with a conviction that the old music business had lost faith with artists and songwriters and it was time for a change”, he goes on.

“Since then we have abandoned unjustifiable historic deductions for ‘packaging’ for streams, we have pioneered new ways of structuring record deals to give artists 75% of revenues rather than the 20% or less common elsewhere, and last year we abandoned the controlled composition deduction on US songwriter royalties hated by songwriters for decades. Last month we announced we are accelerating royalty payments to 20,000 songwriters in our acquired catalogues”.

“We are not perfect, but we are determined to make a difference”, he adds. “When the UK’s [culture] select committee announced its investigation into the economics of music streaming we made our pro-songwriter and pro-artist position clear. In brief, we argue for a radical re-slicing of the streaming pie in favour of artists and songwriters to take account of the new realities of the streaming market. It’s not complicated, but it’s a logic which seems to evade much of the industry”.

Concluding, Masuch states: “I want you to know that we are on your side”.