According to the BBC, there is a debate in the UK about how to fairly reward performers and creators for music streaming. Some MPs have called for a “complete reset” of the market and proposed that the government pass legislation to give performers the right to “equitable remuneration”, whereby labels and artists receive an equal share of streaming royalties. The report said that this would be a “simple yet effective solution”, as the right already exists in UK law when songs are played on radio and TV.
Currently, streaming exploits the “making available” right for recordings under UK copyright law, which means that performers do not have a right to equitable remuneration when their music is streamed on-demand. Instead, they rely on their contracts with labels or distributors to receive a percentage of the streaming income, which can vary widely and often be very low.
The idea of extending equitable remuneration to streaming has been supported by some artists and organizations, such as the Musicians’ Union, who argue that it would provide a new and guaranteed income stream for all performers. However, it has also been opposed by others, such as record labels and some songwriters, who claim that it would reduce investment in new music, create legal and practical challenges, and potentially harm the UK’s competitiveness in the global market.
For the uninitiated, here are the alternatives to equitable remuneration:
- A “user-centric” payment model, where each subscriber’s monthly fee is distributed only to the artists they listen to, rather than being pooled and divided by market share. This could potentially benefit niche and independent artists who have loyal fan bases, but may not affect the overall distribution of income very much.
- A “fan-centric” payment model, where artists receive a share of the streaming revenue based on how engaged their listeners are, such as how often they repeat a track, add it to a playlist, or share it with others. This could reward artists who create music that resonates with fans, rather than music that is passively consumed.
- A “value recognition” payment model, where artists are paid according to the value they generate for the streaming platforms, such as attracting new subscribers, retaining existing ones, or enhancing the brand image. This could reflect the different roles that artists play in the streaming ecosystem, and incentivize platforms to invest more in artist development and promotion.