This article was jointly produced between MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl and Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies.
At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, when musicians and songwriters lost so much work and over 20,000 faced immediate financial hardship, it became clear that streaming royalties were insufficient and not playing their part in shoring up music makers’ livelihoods.
While streaming continued to boom and bring in record revenues during the pandemic, the majority of musicians and songwriters saw very little benefit from it. This was the catalyst for Fix Streaming and Broken Record.
We saw that music streaming wasn’t working for our members and we had to do something about it – it was a complex problem but one with many potential fixes.
Campaigning to Fix Streaming
The Fix Streaming campaign began with a petition calling for a Government review of music streaming. The petition received over 18,000 signatures.
In October 2020, the DCMS Select Committee announced that they would be launching an inquiry into the economics of music streaming. Since then, they have heard written and oral evidence from platforms, labels, artists, songwriters, publishers, collecting societies and of course the MU and The Ivors Academy. Tom Gray has continued to build his #BrokenRecord campaign and between us we have gained the support of hundreds of high-profile artists and many cross-party MPs.
The publication of the Select Committee’s recommendations was a watershed moment for music makers. Members of the Committee had heard detailed evidence and they agreed that the economics of music streaming were problematic and that the system needed a “complete reset”.
As a result of the success of our campaigns and the DCMS Select Committee music streaming inquiry, there is an international spotlight on how the UK Government tackles the issue of music streaming. How will the Competition and Markets Authority view the role of the major labels in the streaming market? Will we get equitable remuneration for performers? Will we be able to successfully increase the share of streaming revenue apportioned to the song?
The MU, The Ivors Academy, Tom Gray and other representatives of our campaigns have spoken about #FixStreaming and #BrokenRecord at many international meetings and events. We are now looking at how we can roll out #FixStreaming to other territories so creators and performers can speak with one voice across the globe.
Streaming royalties are collected and distributed on an international scale and with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) taking an interest in the issue, it is clear that change could be achieved at that level.
Addressing the creep of buyout deals
Meanwhile, at the same time as we conceived the Fix Streaming campaign, The Ivors Academy and the MU started work on Composers Against Buyouts.
This campaign addresses the creep of buyout deals for media composers, particularly those writing music for audio-visual streaming platforms. Like Fix Streaming, this campaign focuses on the importance of royalties and argues that creators of music for hit shows should share in the value of those successes.
There has now been an exciting development at EU level which relates particularly to the Composers Against Buyouts campaign. The European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee has called on the EU Commission to create an EU-wide framework on working conditions and minimum standards for all artists.
The Committee says, “artists are exposed to unfair practices by dominant digital streaming platforms, such as buy-out clauses that deprive authors or their royalties. To remedy that, MEPs want the Commission and Member States to ensure artists and cultural workers have access to collective bargaining and to strongly enforce protection for works and their creators in national copyright legislation.”
One of the objectives of the Composers Against Buyouts campaign is to explore collective bargaining as a solution to the buy-outs issue. Although we are not part of the EU following Brexit, any commitment made by the EU Commission on this issue will assist us in lobbying and campaigning. It will also help to put pressure on audio-visual platforms and broadcasters to do the right thing by creators internationally. After all, streaming is very much a global business.
How you can support
Use our template message to contact your local MP and ask them to support Kevin Brennan MP’s Private Members Bill.
The Bill includes measures to protect music creators from bad contracts, unfair payments and a lack of transparency through an increased ability to undertake contract revision and adjustment.