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UK Parliament Inquiry Into Streaming Releases Report
Christian Eede , July 22nd, 2021 14:41

"Streaming needs a complete reset," the report concludes

A UK parliamentary inquiry into music streaming has concluded that the current system needs a "complete reset" to ensure that artists are more fairly paid.

As well as suggesting a range of reforms that platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube should make, the inquiry's concluding report has suggested that record labels should split streaming royalties with artists 50/50. The average artist's share of streaming royalties currently sits at just 16 percent.

The inquiry took place across six months and was conducted by a cross-party group of 11 MPs. It heard from a number of figures from across the industry, including musicians, streaming representatives and various record label figures. The government now has two months to respond to the report, which has also recommended a study into major label dominance of the music industry by the competition watchdog.

Further recommendations made within the report include a call for transparency with regards to playlisting and algorithm bias, as well as a push to enforce equitable remuneration, which currently refers to a sum that is owed to artists and performers whenever a sound recording of their performance is played in public, or is broadcast to the public, and does not apply to streaming services in the UK.

"The right to equitable remuneration is a simple yet effective solution to the problems caused by poor remuneration from music streaming,” the report says. "It is a right that is already established within UK law and has been applied to streaming elsewhere in the world."

In a statement, Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, which conducted the report, said: "While streaming has brought significant profits to the recorded music industry, the talent behind it — performers, songwriters and composers — are losing out. Only a complete reset of streaming that enshrines in law their rights to a fair share of the earnings will do."

He continued: "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."

Gomez's Tom Gray, who leads the Broken Record campaign in support of fairer remuneration for artists

Outside of streaming, the report is critical of a number of major label practices, and suggests that musicians and songwriters should be able to reclaim the rights to their work after a set period of time; artists should have the right to contract adjustments if their work significantly outperforms their remuneration; and Warner and Universal Music should follow Sony's lead in cancelling artists' historic debts.

The Musicians' Union has welcomed the report, saying it "identifies the problems and recommends achievable and practical solutions, which won't cost the taxpayer a penny." Gomez's Tom Gray, who spoke to the inquiry and leads the Broken Record campaign for artists, also complimented it, saying it "reflects an industry that is pocketing a fortune while failing UK performers and songwriters."

The Association of Independent Music has welcomed some of the report's recommendations, particularly its calls to reform major label practices, but did not like the idea of enforcing equitable remuneration, describing it as "a 20th Century solution not fit for the 21st Century digital market."

You can find the full report here, and revisit a 2020 video interview with Tom Gray about his Broken Record campaign here.