The British debate for streaming reform is gathering pace as the biggest acts in history enter the argument.
On Monday, the prime minister Boris Johnson was served with another reminder of the challenges facing recording artists in the streaming age: a petition, with the names of 75 high-flying artists calling for a solution.
The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, Pet Shop Boys, Barry Gibb, Emeli Sandé and Jarvis Cocker are just some of the names on board, demanding fair pay in a world where fractions of a cent is the going rate for plays.
“Streaming is quickly replacing radio as our main means of music listening,” reads the open-letter. “But the law has not kept up with the pace of technological change. As a result, performers and songwriters are not paid fairly when their music is streamed.
The #BrokenRecord campaign is orchestrated by the Music Producers Guild, Ivors Academy, and Musician’s Union, the U.K.’s trade body for musicians which boasts more than 32,000 members.
The three peak bodies know their quarry. All of the British recording artists represented on the letter appear on Johnson’s “Desert Island Discs“, his all time-fave records.
Over 75 artists including The Rolling Stones add their names to the #FixStreaming call.
It’s time for @BorisJohnson to put the value of music back where it belongs – in your hands.
Read more ➡️ https://t.co/1ViDLI2eZE
Sign the petition ➡️ https://t.co/FwC1iobMNf#BrokenRecord pic.twitter.com/0S5crB0VLF— Musicians' Union (@WeAreTheMU) June 7, 2021
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At the core of the campaign is a three-pronged proposal.
To solve the problem, laws will need tweaks, and regulators should step in.
Campaigners are calling for changes to the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, to ensure performers “receive a fair share of streaming revenue, just like they enjoy in radio.”
Also, government is urged to make an immediate referral of the streaming players to the Competition and Markets Authority, and put a regulator in place to ensure the lawful and fair treatment of all music makers by the industry.
The industry bodies are lobbying Johnson “to meet urgently with representatives of musicians and songwriters to discuss the current unfair practices and how we can put it right.”
The latest push follows a letter published in April, featured the names of Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Annie Lennox, Robert Plant, David Gilmour and about 150 more creators, calling for action at a legislative level.
What happens in the U.K., if anything, would set the precedent for other territories to follow, including Australia.
Calls for a fairer streaming model have reached a crescendo over the past year, and they’re loudest in a country already coping with Brexit and the pandemic.
Earlier this year, U.K. parliament examined what economic impact music streaming is having on artists, record labels and “the sustainability of the wider music industry,” as part of a landmark probe into Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play and others.
Separately, in March, the United Musicians and Allied Workers Union organised a series of global protests under the banner, “Justice at Spotify.”
The Union and other artist advocates are calling for a royalty hike to a penny-per-stream, transparent contracts, a user-centric payment model, and to stop fighting artists in the courts.
Rather than engage with government around the globe, the industry organisers went direct to the source, by way of a letter to Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek.
The letter called on the music streaming giant to make a public commitment to never use, license, sell, or monetize its new speech-recognition patent technology.
Spotify didn’t respond by deadline.
“Ignoring a letter like this from human rights groups and artists is completely unacceptable,” says Evan Greer, musician and director of Fight for the Future.