The music-streaming model requires a “complete reset” to ensure fair pay for artists, a UK inquiry has found. In tandem with reforms to platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, record labels should split streaming royalties with artists 50/50, according to the report, which was conducted over six months by a cross-party panel of 11 UK lawmakers. (Currently, the average artist’s share of streaming royalties is about 16 percent.) Other recommendations include a study into major-label dominance of the music market by the competition watchdog. The UK government has two months to respond to the report’s advice.
The report, which was conducted with input from musicians, streaming representatives, and other industry figures, also calls for transparency on playlisting and algorithm bias, and suggests a rethink of “safe harbor” legislation, which blocks copyright claims against streaming services that host user-generated content (such as YouTube and TikTok), as long as the services remove the offending content once notified by the rights-holder.
Streaming services “undoubtedly helped save” the music industry from the catastrophic impact of piracy, the report acknowledges. And yet, “while streaming has brought significant profits to the recorded music industry, the talent behind it—performers, songwriters and composers—are losing out,” said Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) committee, which conducted the report. “The issues ostensibly created by streaming simply reflect more fundamental, structural problems within the recorded music industry,” the report adds. “Streaming needs a complete reset.”
The most fundamental and immediate change for musicians would be the enforcement of equitable remuneration, a demand pushed by the artist-focused Broken Record campaign. The report recommends classifying streamed music as a rental, helping artists to recoup higher royalties—a stance strongly opposed by major labels and streaming services. “The right to equitable remuneration is a simple yet effective solution to the problems caused by poor remuneration from music streaming,” the report concludes. “It is a right that is already established within UK law and has been applied to streaming elsewhere in the world,” such as in Spain.