Jan 13, 2023 6 min read

MPs call for “more focus” on music-maker remuneration in Economics Of Music Streaming update

MPs call for “more focus” on music-maker remuneration in Economics Of Music Streaming update

MPs on the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee have called for “more focus” on “ensuring creators and performers receive a fairer cut of the money made from streaming music” in a short follow-up report to their previous investigation into the economics of music streaming. They also call for the UK government to instigate a “wide-ranging national strategy for music”.

The new report follows a hearing in November where the select committee reviewed what work had been undertaken following the publication of its original report back in July 2021, which raised various concerns about the way the music streaming business works, made a number of proposed reforms, and called for a “complete reset” of the digital music market.

Following that original report, the UK government said that it would prefer for the music industry to come up with voluntary solutions to the issues raised by the select committee, rather than it instigating any of the copyright law reforms MPs had proposed. Although, ministers said, those reforms were still on the table if no industry solutions could be found.

To facilitate that process, the government’s Intellectual Property Office convened some committees and commissioned some research, with that work focused on data issues, transparency issues and issues around music-maker remuneration. That ongoing work was among the things reviewed at the November select committee session.

MPs heard that discussions on data and transparency were ongoing but had made some progress, and that voluntary codes for the industry to embrace should be agreed in early 2023.

However, on music-maker remuneration, research had been commissioned by the IPO but talks between industry stakeholders had not really progressed. And, those representing artists and songwriters at the November session confirmed, that lack of progress was frustrating, given that for many music-makers remuneration is the most important issue.

In the new report, the culture select committee does acknowledge and welcome the progress that has been made on data and transparency as part of the IPO-instigated work. And not only that, it also acknowledges and welcomes certain positive developments regarding music-maker remuneration that have occurred since the committee’s original report.

That includes all three majors making commitments to pay through royalties to unrecouped heritage artists, which the MPs welcome, although with accompanying questions about the extent of the positive impact of those moves. The MPs also acknowledge the ongoing talks between record label trade group BPI and the Musicians’ Union about improving session musician rates.

However, the committee members also confirm that they share the frustration of artists and songwriters that there has been no active conversation on music-maker remuneration as part of the IPO-led programme.

“We recommend that the IPO continue to build on the current momentum and good-faith engagement by all parties in the process by establishing working groups on remuneration and performer rights to consider the current evidence base and monitor developments in other countries in these areas”, the new report states.

The committee also call for more transparency about the IPO-led work – not least the work on transparency! Concerns were raised at the November session that too much of that work has been happening behind closed doors, and that it wasn’t publicly known who was participating in the IPO convened committees or ‘working groups’ (although that latter information has since been published).

“We recommend”, the committee write in the new report, “that the IPO, at minimum, ensure that there is greater transparency around the groups by ensuring that its memberships, agendas and deadlines are made public and that the groups have reporting functions at reasonable, practical intervals (eg at certain milestones or on conclusion of negotiations)”.

And MPs would like relevant government ministers to be more involved in the process too. “We also hope that ministers and departmental officials will take a more active role in the groups where appropriate, particularly where negotiations become deadlocked or deadlines are missed”, they note.

Beyond all the ongoing debates around data, transparency and music-maker remuneration, last November’s session also touched on another topic that actually generally unites the wider music community, which is the need for a more joined-up approach from government when interacting with the music industry.

One current challenge for the music community is that whenever they want or need to interact with government, they are often talking to different departments depending on the specifics of the conversation – so sometimes culture, sometimes business, sometimes education, sometimes international trade, and sometimes the Home Office and Department For Transport on things like visas and cabotage.

That approach makes things more time consuming, but also means key issues can get lost in the gaps, and solutions can be missed due to a lack of joined up thinking. Governments in some other countries have systems to enable more joined up thinking when working with the music industry, which arguably gives the music industries in those countries a competitive edge.

“We recommend that the government take a more strategic approach to policymaking regarding cultural production and the creative industries”, MPs write in their new report. “Responsibilities are dispersed across too many departments, which has created persistent issues, including in international trade, visas and the ongoing skills shortage”.

“This could be addressed by Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport more regularly setting the overall direction by publishing its overall strategy (with reference to specific disciplines, including music, film and television, theatre, etc), with tangible, measurable outcomes, at more regular intervals, that the work of various departments and arm’s length bodies can then work in concert to implement”.

Commenting on his committee’s new update report on the economics of music streaming, Acting Chair of the DCMS committee, Damian Green MP, says: “Over the last eighteen months the government has made some welcome moves towards restoring a proper balance in the music industry, but there is still much more to do to ensure the talent behind the music is properly rewarded”.

“As the committee heard, there is still frustration about the returns for the vast majority of musicians and songwriters. Too many of them receive pitiful returns despite making successful music. The main players need to get together to remedy this in a sustainable way”.

“The world of music streaming is highly susceptible to changes in digital technology and the government needs to make sure it is ahead of the game by taking a more strategic role in coordinating policy across departments”, he goes on.

“The government described our initial report as a ‘key moment for the music industry’. It now needs to make sure it follows through on the work done so far to fix the fundamental flaws in the market. British music is a huge national asset and is loved around the world. British musicians and songwriters need to share in this success”.

And here are responses from various music industry organisations to the new update report…

David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition & Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive, Music Managers Forum:“Having contributed substantially to their initial evidence sessions on music streaming and subsequent IPO dialogue, the FAC and MMF wholeheartedly welcome the DCMS Committee’s renewed calls for reform”.

“In what will be a critical year for British music, it is heartening that artists, songwriters and music-makers have such concerted Parliamentary support for improved remuneration and contractual rights. We are also pleased by the committee’s demand for further scrutiny of recent market reforms around recoupment and their backing for a national music strategy”.

“It is now vital that the wider industry embraces this spirit of reform and takes seriously the work already underway at the IPO. Our organisations are in complete alignment with other creator bodies on the need for greater fairness, transparency and remuneration. These issues are not going away, and neither are we”.

Naomi Pohl, MU General Secretary: “We are very grateful to the Select Committee for continuing to highlight the inequities of music streaming and the fact that musicians are still not being fairly paid. We are committed to negotiating with industry bodies to achieve a package which generates more money for our members without significantly disrupting existing business models. This is possible and, in fact, essential. If we cannot achieve fairer payments in negotiation, we will continue to push for legislative change”.

A spokesperson for record label trade group BPI: “We are pleased that the DCMS Select Committee has highlighted the positive steps that the industry has taken on the back of the original report. Following on from the three major music companies’ announcement last year of legacy artists’ programmes that set aside unrecouped artist balances for pre-2000 record deals, we are collectively working with the IPO to complete industry-led packages in the key areas of transparency, metadata and artist remuneration”.

“After a record-breaking year for British artists domestically, negotiations are ongoing between the BPI and the Musicians’ Union over new rates for session musicians. At a time when the global music market is more competitive than ever, public policies must be firmly rooted in driving sustainable growth across the entire UK music ecosystem”.

Gee Davy, COO of the Association Of Independent Music: “AIM welcomes recommendations for transparency, a proactive strategy and inclusive working groups to look collaboratively at practical positive outcomes in streaming”.

“It is important that all stakeholders are heard in this ongoing work, including diverse voices and independent and DIY sectors, which will need increased investment if the UK is to maintain its strong innovative place in the global music market. We hope such a proactive approach will mean incentives such as extending creative industry tax reliefs to cover British music are actively considered”.

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