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MPs call for music streaming ‘complete reset’

July 15, 2021

By Colin Mann

Artists must be given a legal right to a fairer share of revenues from streaming, according to the conclusions of a wide-ranging inquiry by the UK parliament’s House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which calls for a complete reset of the market.

The Report into the Economics of music streaming finds that comprehensive reform of legislation and further regulation is needed, not only to redress the balance for songwriters, performers and composers, but to tackle fundamental problems within the recorded music industry.

Services that host user-generated content gain significant advantage on copyright, say MPs, with YouTube emerging as a dominant player. The Report warns of ‘deep concerns’ about the unassailable position of the major music companies with a call for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to examine whether competition in the recorded music market is being distorted.

Though consumers enjoy music that is historically cheap, more personalised and more readily available than ever before, streaming’s short-term pricing structure puts music at risk in the long-term, say MPs.

“While streaming has brought significant profits to the recorded music industry, the talent behind it – performers, songwriters and composers – are losing out,” suggests Julian Knight MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee. “Only a complete reset of streaming that enshrines in law their rights to a fair share of the earnings will do. However, the issues we’ve examined reflect much deeper and more fundamental problems within the structuring of the recorded music industry itself.”

“We have real concerns about the way the market is operating, with platforms like YouTube able to gain an unfair advantage over competitors and the independent music sector struggling to compete against the dominance of the major labels.

“We’ve heard of witnesses being afraid to speak out in case they lose favour with record labels or streaming services. It’s time for the Government to order an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority on the distortions and disparities we’ve uncovered,” he asserts.

Key findings and recommendations:

  • Government to legislate so that performers enjoy the right to equitable remuneration for streaming income
  • Government to refer case to the CMA to undertake full market study into the economic impact of the major music groups’ dominance
  • Government should introduce robust and legally enforceable obligations to normalise licensing arrangements for UGC-hosting services, to address the market distortions and the music streaming ‘value gap’

The inquiry into the Economics of music streaming was launched in October 2020. It received more than 300 pieces of written evidence. Among artists and performers who gave evidence, songwriter and producer Nile Rodgers, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, Elbow’s Guy Garvey and soloist Nadine Shah. It took evidence from the UK’s independent music sector, as well as major record labels Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music. Spotify, Amazon, Apple and YouTube also gave evidence.

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