Apr 19, 2024 3 min read

Patience is wearing thin among music creators says CMM at first government working group on creator remuneration

The first meeting of the new Music Creator Remuneration Group took place yesterday, after which the Council Of Music Makers published a statement it delivered during the session. The BPI described the meeting as “constructive” while AIM says that its members “respect” the concerns of artists

Patience is wearing thin among music creators says CMM at first government working group on creator remuneration

The Council Of Music Makers has published the statement it made at the first meeting of the UK government convened Music Creator Remuneration Working Group. It sets out three key objectives for changing the way artists and songwriters are paid when their music is streamed: a minimum royalty rate for all artists, a remuneration system for session musicians, and a right for artists and writers to terminate or renegotiate old record and publishing contracts. 

“The success of music streaming has delivered massive financial gains for the recorded music sector and wider music rights business”, the statement begins. However, it adds, “many music-makers are simply not seeing the benefit of all this growth”. 

The new working group is the latest phase of work led by the government in response to the 2021 inquiry into the economics of music streaming by Parliament’s culture select committee. The report that followed that inquiry summarised various issues with the way the streaming business works and proposed a number of solutions, including copyright law reform. 

Saying that it would prefer industry-led voluntary solutions, the government brought together stakeholders from across the sector to discuss what they might be. Previous working groups focused on data issues and transparency issues, while the new one is dealing with the most contentious topic of them all: how streaming money is shared out between artists, songwriters, record labels, music publishers and the streaming services themselves. 

Labels would generally argue that artists signing new deals today get better royalty rates than in the past, plus an artist can opt to release music through their own label with a distributor in order to keep an even bigger share of the money. Meanwhile, a key problem for artists is that because the streaming market is so competitive, partly because there is so much music available on streaming services, it is hard to stand out and drive revenue from streams. 

CMM acknowledged those points in its statement yesterday, before adding that, "there is a large group of music-makers whose music is heavily streamed, and who are delivering significant value for streaming services and corporate rightsholders, but who are not sharing in that value in an equitable way".

This, the CMM added, is ”because they are locked into long-term – often life of copyright - deals with business partners which have chosen to apply contract terms and industry conventions of the old world to the new world”. This all took place, they then said, with “zero consultation” and “zero communication” with music creators.

Labels also argue that if they make adjustments to historic contracts to pay more money through to artists stuck in those older deals, it would result in less money to invest in new talent.

The need to ensure that any possible changes to music-maker remuneration do not negatively impact on the ability of labels to invest will be a key argument put forward by record label trade group BPI as part of the working group process. Commenting on yesterday's meeting it said, “this first session in the working group was a constructive one and we look forward to an ongoing discussion that is informed by the evidence and enables UK record labels to continue their essential investment in new music and support for established and future talent”.

Neither major labels nor indie labels support the copyright reforms proposed by MPs in their report, although many indies are closer to the music-makers on at least some points, especially applying modern minimum royalty rates across the board. 

Commenting on the first meeting of the group, Chief Policy Officer and interim CEO of the Association Of Independent Music, Gee Davy said “the independent music community has fairness at its heart. Independent music businesses respect the issues raised by creators and share in frustrations around market disparities and revenue squeeze, such as the concerns we have raised about unintended negative consequences of recent streaming changes on independently released and emerging artists and those from diverse communities”. 

"AIM is proud to participate in the working group and the opportunity to hear further from creator groups", she added. “We look forward to working collaboratively to achieve growth, assess the data behind the issues, and ensure widespread best practice and fair returns from streaming for all participants - musicians, creative workers and music businesses alike”. 

It's not entirely clear what process the working group will now go through, nor to what extent any upcoming General Election might interfere with the proceedings. 

The CMM's statement noted that it's now nearly three years since the select committee's music streaming report was published. Meanwhile, in a new report on creator remuneration published just last week, MPs said they expected to see “tangible steps to improve musicians’ remuneration and performer rights in the next twelve months”.

The CMM statement went on, “Patience is wearing thin. The select committee last week set a twelve month deadline to address these issues and put in place solutions, so we really need to get down to business”.

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