Music industry clashes over MP Kevin Brennan's Bill to 'fix streaming' - AIM and BPI call it 'reckless and damaging'

Music industry clashes over MP Kevin Brennan's Bill to 'fix streaming' - AIM and BPI call it 'reckless and damaging'

Cross-party MPs, artists and musicians are backing a Parliamentary Bill - published today - which presents legislative solutions on streaming remuneration for artists and composers. But the proposals have provoked a huge row within the industry.

The reforms included in Kevin Brennan MP’s Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians) Private Member’s Bill follow-up on the key recommendations made by the cross-party group of MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee during their in-depth inquiry into the Economics of music streaming.

However, music industry organisations have clashed over the proposals from Kevin Brennan (pictured), a Labour MP, former Shadow Minister for Arts and Heritage, and songwriter.

The Bill is due to be presented to Parliament on Friday, December 3. Ahead of this, MPs will be joining the Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy today (November 24) on Parliament Square after Prime Minister’s Questions to raise awareness for the Bill.  

Bob Harris, Rebecca Ferguson and Glen Matlock are expected to be in attendance, and it is understood that the musicians will be performing “Heroes” by David Bowie to MPs as they sign the Bill.

The Bill’s central aim is to “ensure performers and composers are properly remunerated, by placing the treatment of revenue gained from music streaming services onto a common footing with the treatment of revenue gained from other sources.” The Bill mirrors the calls from the Musicians’ Union, The Ivors Academy and the #BrokenRecord campaign to ensure that music makers in the UK receive a fairer share of streaming revenues. 

Brennan and his backers support equitable remuneration for performers as a fair method of revenue distribution. It is already in effect, or currently being implemented, in territories across Europe. 

Kevin Brennan MP, who is sponsoring the Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians etc) Bill, said: “More and more people are streaming music – heightened by the pandemic – yet, unlike for radio, there is no guaranteed royalty payment for all the musicians who have contributed to the recording being streamed. To redress this, my Private Member’s Bill seeks to allow performers and composers to access means to ensure a fair sharing of revenues generated from their works. In particular, the Bill will introduce a right to equitable remuneration for performers on musical works, where works that they have performed upon are made available to the public.

“These reforms would lead to more new music, the revival of recording studios, a boost to the UK session music scene, the unearthing of a new generation of British talent, and Britain becoming once again a world-leading cultural hub for the recorded music industry.”

This Bill completely misunderstands today’s music business, and the value that labels provide in finding and nurturing talent

BPI spokesperson

However, the BPI and AIM have come out against proposals in the Bill.

“This Bill would bind British music in red tape, reduce income for the most entrepreneurial artists, stifle investment and innovation by record labels, and disproportionately harm the independent sector,” said a BPI spokesperson. “It would create huge uncertainty and deny many of the next generation of artists their shot to build a career. It completely misunderstands today’s music business, and the value that labels provide in finding and nurturing talent. 

“Labels are committed to ensuring artists are rewarded in line with their success from streaming, but just as British music is finally climbing out of its long downturn, this misguided, outdated regulation would be a damaging step backwards, eroding the foundations of the UK’s extraordinary global success in music.”

In a statement, AIM said: “We think the approach to streaming should be data first, discussion second, and law last. We have expressed our concerns and are open to reviewing and discussing them with all stakeholders to figure out the best way forward. Legislating before this is reckless.” 

On the other side of the debate, the Ivors Academy, MMF, FAC and Musicians’ Union are backing the Bill.

Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “The domination of the major music groups in the streaming market is clear. Musicians and songwriters are not getting a fair enough deal and legislative reform is overdue. Now is the time to address the imbalances in the music industry and in music streaming in particular. We are calling on the government to allow a free vote on the Brennan Bill on December 3. Members across the House of Commons have already voiced their support for the Bill, showing the depth of bi-partisan commitment to fixing streaming to ensure performers are fairly paid for their streamed music.” 

Graham Davies, CEO of the Ivors Academy, said: “On behalf of songwriters and composers our thanks go to Kevin Brennan and MPs from all parties who understand that Britain’s place as a cultural powerhouse rests on investing in people that actually make music. The growth of the streaming market has diverted too much wealth to multinational record labels at the expense of music makers. These market distortions must be fixed in order to grow Britain’s enviable music sector.” 

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive, Music Managers Forum & David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition, said in a joint statement: “The MMF and FAC are pleased to see the publication of Kevin Brennan MP’s Private Member's Bill this morning. We welcome provisions on rights revocation, greater transparency and contract adjustment and hope this proceeds to Report Stage for further debate.

"We also look forward to further discussion about the remuneration right, including its detail and practical implementation and we will actively support modelling of impacts. It is vital that all artists, songwriters and performers are empowered by greater transparency and flexibility in their contractual agreements, to ensure those agreements are fit for purpose in today’s streaming market and beyond.”

In the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, over 20,000 musicians and music creators applied to music industry hardship funds. The #FixStreaming and #BrokenRecord campaigns gathered momentum as the streaming inquiry launched in late 2020.

In a recent joint letter to the Prime Minister, over 40 Conservative MPs called on the government to “fix streaming” and ensure musicians get a fair share of revenue from their streamed music. 

Click here to read our extensive coverage of the streaming inquiry.

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