Streaming inquiry MPs call on government to deliver national strategy for music

Streaming inquiry MPs call on government to deliver national strategy for music

More than two years after it launched with lively encounters between MPs and execs, the streaming inquiry is still making an impact as part of a wider industry debate.

The model of streaming remuneration has even come under scrutiny from UMG CEO & chairman Sir Lucian Grainge, who has revealed that the major is exploring new ideas.

Today the DCMS Committee publishes its economics of music streaming follow-up report, several weeks after  sessions with policy experts and industry figures to explore developments in the industry.

According to the latest report from DCMS Committee MPs, more focus is still needed on ensuring creators and performers receive a “fairer cut of the money made from streaming music”.

The report also calls for the establishment of a wide-ranging national strategy for music. This chimes with comments by former BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor in Music Week, who said the UK should take inspiration from South Korea’s commitment to its cultural exports.

The committee warns that the current approach to cultural policy making is “too scatter-gun to be effective”. The report states that the government should take a more proactive strategic role and develop a national strategy for music which includes an assessment of the impact of digital technology on musicians, songwriters and composers, and on the UK music industry’s potential for growth.

“We recommend that the government take a more strategic approach to policy making regarding cultural production and the creative industries,” states the report. “Responsibilities are dispersed across too many departments, which has created persistent issues, including in international trade, visas and the ongoing skills shortage. This could be addressed by DCMS more regularly setting the overall direction by publishing its overall strategy… with tangible, measurable outcomes, at more regular intervals, that the work of various departments and arm’s length bodies can then work in concert to implement. 

“We also recommend that part of this work should revisit Creative Industries Forums with other markets, including South Korea, and ensure these lead to tangible outcomes that re-energise the commercial collaboration with our most important overseas partners.”

The committee now has Conservative MP and former deputy PM Damian Green (pictured) as acting chair. Green has not been one of those committee members who clashes with execs giving evidence (“playing to the gallery” as former BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor suggested in Music Week), preferring to ask useful questions with carefully considered follow-ups. He’s taken on the chair role following a complaint to the Met Police against Julian Knight, who has recused himself from Parliament.

British music is a huge national asset and is loved around the world

Damian Green

The DCMS Committee’s recommendations follow an examination of the progress made since an initial report in July 2021, which called for artists to be given a legal right to a more equal share of revenues as part of a “complete reset” of the streaming market.

However, the subsequent investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority found that the concerns raised by artists are not being driven by the level of concentration of the recording market

Today’s DCMS Committee report highlighted the “mixed” responses to that CMA report, suggesting that MPs are not entirely satisfied with the regulator’s findings on competition and the power of the majors. 

“We will continue to monitor developments in the sector as the music streaming market matures and as new technologies emerge,” stated the latest DCMS Committee report. 

MPs also called for majors to inform the committee on the royalties that are now being paid out.

“We welcome the substantial move by Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group to join Sony Music Entertainment in writing off unrecouped balances for pre-2000 record deals, which we called for in our report, which may have enabled thousands of artists to receive royalties from streaming,” stated the follow-up report. “In welcoming these announcements, the committee would like to see evidence of the amount of consequential royalties that are now being distributed by all three major rights holding groups, and request that they each provide this information to us.”

Sony Music last month provided an update on its processes in relation to helping heritage acts access streaming income.

While welcoming the advances made by the government, including the involvement of stakeholders through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the undertaking of further research, the report highlights frustrations with the lack of discussion on core issues such as artists’ pay. 

The report calls for the establishment of working groups on remuneration and performer rights, alongside more transparency for the groups already set up and greater departmental and ministerial involvement.

Damian Green MP, acting chair of the DCMS Committee, said: “Over the last 18 months, the government has made some welcome moves towards restoring a proper balance in the music industry, but there is still much more to do to ensure the talent behind the music is properly rewarded. As the committee heard, there is still frustration about the returns for the vast majority of musicians and songwriters. Too many of them receive pitiful returns despite making successful music. The main players need to get together to remedy this in a sustainable way.

“The world of music streaming is highly susceptible to changes in digital technology and the government needs to make sure it is ahead of the game by taking a more strategic role in coordinating policy across departments. The government described our initial report as a ‘key moment for the music industry’. It now needs to make sure it follows through on the work done so far to fix the fundamental flaws in the market. British music is a huge national asset and is loved around the world. British musicians and songwriters need to share in this success.”

David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition & Annabella Coldrick, chief executive, Music Managers Forum, said: "Having contributed substantially to their initial evidence sessions on music streaming and subsequent IPO dialogue, the FAC and MMF wholeheartedly welcome the DCMS Committee's renewed calls for reform. In what will be a critical year for British music, it is heartening that artists, songwriters and music makers have such concerted Parliamentary support for improved remuneration and contractual rights. We are also pleased by the committee's demand for further scrutiny of recent market reforms around recoupment and their backing for a national music strategy.

"It is now vital that the wider industry embraces this spirit of reform and takes seriously the work already underway at the IPO. Our organisations are in complete alignment with other creator bodies on the need for greater fairness, transparency and remuneration. These issues are not going away, and neither are we."

A BPI spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the DCMS Select Committee has highlighted the positive steps that the industry has taken on the back of the original report. Following on from the three major music companies’ announcement last year of legacy artists’ programmes that set aside unrecouped artist balances for pre-2000 record deals, we are collectively working with the IPO to complete industry-led packages in the key areas of transparency, metadata and artist remuneration.

“After a record-breaking year for British artists domestically, negotiations are ongoing between the BPI and the Musicians’ Union over new rates for session musicians. At a time when the global music market is more competitive than ever, public policies must be firmly rooted in driving sustainable growth across the entire UK music ecosystem.”

Gee Davy, COO, Association of Independent Music, said: "AIM welcomes recommendations for transparency, a proactive strategy and inclusive working groups to look collaboratively at practical positive outcomes in streaming. It is important that all stakeholders are heard in this ongoing work, including diverse voices and independent and DIY sectors, which will need increased investment if the UK is to maintain its strong innovative place in the global music market. We hope such a proactive approach will mean incentives such as extending creative industry tax reliefs to cover British music are actively considered.”

Subscribers can read our interview with the BPI’s ex-CEO Geoff Taylor here.


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