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Musicians deserve a fair share of streaming money

3 min read

I love music streaming. Who wouldn’t want to be able to access all the world’s music from a device in their back pocket? For those of us who grew up carrying 12-inch vinyl records around under their arms, streaming is a musical miracle.

So, if it’s so great why have I brought forward the snappily named Copyright (Rights and Remuneration of Musicians Etc.) Bill which would reform how copyright payments are made when music is streamed?

The DCMS Select Committee, of which I am a member, uncovered real concerns during our Inquiry into the Economics of Music Streaming earlier this year, calling for a “complete reset” of the industry. If young talented people from ordinary backgrounds are to have a fair chance of a career in music, we need to fix streaming first.

The current law on copyright states that if you performed on a record that is played on the radio you are entitled to a payment called equitable remuneration. That same right does not apply in the UK if your recording is listened to on a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music.

My Bill would bring the law up to date by creating a new right for musicians to a share of the revenue from streaming.

If young talented people from ordinary backgrounds are to have a fair chance of a career in music, we need to fix streaming first

This is particularly timely because the stated aim of streaming companies, like Spotify, is to replace radio as the way that people mostly listen to music. As that happens if the law remains the same, musicians will lose that small but valuable source of income which helps to supplement their other earnings from making music.

My Bill would also give songwriters and artists the right to transparent and timely information about when and where their music is being played so that they can be sure that they are being properly paid.  It would also allow for the renegotiation of bad deals where an artist is clearly not receiving the rewards of successful work, and it would allow them to reclaim the rights to their music after 20 years.

Many famous names in music have written to the Prime Minister in support of this change, but they acknowledge this is not really about them.

This is all about creating the right future structure for a secure career in music. I want young people to be able to aspire to make a reasonable living from original music. I want them to be able to make music that people will love and appreciate, and to get a fair share of the money people pay to listen to it.

Streaming has helped to save the music industry after digital piracy threatened its existence. But where is the money generated going? Sir Lucian Grange, the boss of Universal Music Group, is set to get paid more this year (£153m) than the income from streaming of all the songwriters and composers in the UK combined. That confirms that something is seriously unbalanced in the music industry.

Not every talented person will be able to make a living out of music, but there’s something wrong with a system where record industry executives get massive salaries and share options and some award-winning artists can’t afford to pay their rent. My bill would press the reset button, and turn the balance dial back towards the creators of the music we all love.


Kevin Brennan is the Labour MP for Cardiff West.

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