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It’s been a hell of a year for music business bickering so far. But no matter what particular side of the fence you sit on, one thing that I doubt some corners of our business expected was the extent of the damning findings and recommendations listed in the DCMS report following the streaming inquiry.
There was a lot to take in across the full report, from equitable remuneration, royalty splits and CMA referrals for the majors to calls for a new GRD [Global Repertoire Database], safe harbour dismantling, and a slap on the wrist for the MPA. But, here, I want to have a look at some of the constructive ways I hope we can move forward as a united sector to ensure our business is a thriving, more sustainable place for all.
Regular readers will know I’ve been speaking about this subject for some time. Indeed, at the start of the inquiry I pleaded with the business not to fight in public, but you only have to look online to see that many, many public squabbles were had. Some played out in a tweet, some in the media and many behind closed doors with, I’d say rather questionable, lobbyist efforts. But the overwhelming takeaway from all of this is that we, the music business, have some major problems that need addressing.
Now they’ve been firmly aired in public, there’s no more hiding behind excuses and denial. We need to find a way to move forward. I think that sums up the only thing all parties agree on in public. But what is interesting, and in many ways heartening, is the reaction from some quarters and some of the discussions going on in private.
Even before the report was released, we saw Sony move to change their ways on unrecouped legacy contracts for artists and songwriters. It’s something I would argue would never have happened without the pressure from this investigation and one of the loudest and perhaps most unlikely advocates to come out in favour of many of the requests from artists and songwriters: BMG. Now firmly identifying themselves as an artist-friendly label (and publisher) amidst the shit flinging, they’ve received praise from all corners of the creator community for doing so.
I’ve had quite a few chats with most corners of our business since this all started (and long before). Some publicly, whilst hosting debates on the various issues and solutions, and some in private. But there have been some really interesting takeaways for me throughout this process.
One is that, secretly, many labels seem to agree that equitable remuneration should be paid out on “push” streams. I’ve heard this from multiple senior sources in both the major and indie worlds, and the more DSPs themselves identify that push and pull streams are different things, the more I think this is going to happen. Indeed, many seem to be preparing for this to take place.
Another interesting part to all this is that the report very clearly identified the numerous market dysfunctions which many of us have long known existed. They’ve shone a light on some of the embarrassing parts of our business, be that black box, legacy contracts, bad contacts, questionable competition, deals and rewards… And, of course, safe harbour.
These may all seem like abstract and unachievable subjects to tackle, but they’re not. None of them are. Anyone saying they are needs to move out of the way and let the next generation take our business forward.
One of the really interesting things in all of this for me is the right to recapture. Despite what some will tell you, this is really rather achievable, legislatable and already active in other parts of the world, so there is more than enough precedent.
The next few months are going to be full of more arguments. The lobbying will no doubt move up a level for all, but I want to take a moment to urge the business to talk openly, calmly and respectfully about the ways we get out of all this with or without the need for the government to force anything on our sector. Can we, for once, show we are capable of moving forward together?
In short, it’s time for the music business to grow the fuck up, have a roundtable, and discuss the ways out of this that create a more equal and equitable business for our artists and songwriters that you can all stomach.
There is no one solution here, no silver bullet. If the report has shown us anything, it is that there are many issues across our business and all of them need addressing. Not everyone is going to be happy. Some will win a little, some will lose a little, but the goal now must be that we work together to create a balanced and fair business for all.
Spotify has today gone live with its support for Notting Hill Carnival as an official partner for the second successive year.
As part of the collaboration, Spotify has created an all-new Carnival Sounds experience, in collaboration with Notting Hill Carnival. Last year’s virtual curation is nominated for the Music Week Awards.
Here, Spotify UK & Ireland artist marketing lead Leroy Harris explains how the challenges of Covid can help broaden the reach with a virtual experience ahead of a full return in 2022...
One of the absolute highlights of the Black British cultural calendar, and a key date for anyone’s diary, Notting Hill Carnival is such a huge celebration of the many genres of Caribbean music, from soca to dancehall, reggae to ragga, jungle to calypso, and so much more. It’s more than just music to dance to - it’s a full expression of Black British culture’s beating heart and rhythm. The music and sounds are an essential part of the entire experience. Carnival is our community and culture at its absolute best, giving people a way to celebrate a shared heritage - it’s no surprise people flock from so far to celebrate together year after year.
With the pandemic taking Carnival off the streets once again this year, we wanted to show our continued support with Spotify as a lead partner for the second year running. At Spotify, we are deeply committed to supporting the Black community and elevating Black voices. Notting Hill Carnival is a monumental part of British and Caribbean culture: Spotify’s online platform and curation of Carnival provides an avenue for existing fans and those new to the experience alike, to continue to experience some of the utter joy of the weekend’s celebrations and what makes it so special.
While nothing can compare to the experience of Carnival in person, we’re committed to making the best virtual experience possible alongside Notting Hill Carnival. It just felt right to partner for a second year with new content showcasing the importance of carnival culture in the UK.
With the pandemic taking Carnival off the streets once again this year, we wanted to show our continued support
Last year our Carnival Sounds microsite really aimed to bring the music of Carnival to life and gave visitors the chance to explore over 40 of the official Notting Hill Carnival sound systems and on-the-road DJs. We also worked with some of the UK’s leading Black creators in music, film, and entertainment to help guide fans through some of our most popular playlists. To accompany the amazing sounds, we also featured exclusive content from Ekua King, the renowned London-based British Jamaican photographer.
We’re going even bigger for 2021 with the new Carnival Sounds microsite launching today (August 26) ahead of the traditional weekend.
We have some amazing guests who will be ‘on the decks’ curating playlists for us from the UK and beyond. We have the legendary Billy Ocean, West London’s own Wstrn, reggae superstar Protoje, dancehall king Dexta Daps, and football icon Ian Wright. We’re also seeing the return to the Carnival Sounds microsite of some much loved sound systems from the streets of Notting Hill including King Tubby’s and Rampage Sound, as well as DJ sets from a whole host of selectors including soca legend Martin Jay.
We’ll also be hosting and spotlighting a collection of special podcasts covering topics relating to Black culture in the UK including interviews with Beenie Man (Who We Be Talks), Norman Jay (Ace Records Podcast), and Matthew Phillip, the director of Notting Hill Carnival (Windrush Stories).
We’re also working with London-based multidisciplinary artist Bokiba who has created a stunning mural artwork for us, right in the heart of Notting Hill, capturing movement and sounds of Carnival as well as incorporating emojis as a nod to the virtual element of this year’s event. As with all of her work, women of colour are at the heart along with bold colours and patterns. The artwork mural features a scannable Spotify code so that passers-by can dive straight in, and immediately immerse themselves in the sounds and experiences of Carnival from their phones.
Showing the true breadth of culture that Notting Hill Carnival encompasses, we’re also delighted to have some of Britain’s foremost Black writers sharing their experiences of Carnival with us, exclusively for Spotify. Candice Carty-Williams, renowned author of Queenie, has penned a piece which touches on her own experiences around anxiety and overcoming this through being engulfed by the spirit of the carnival. Meanwhile, Malika Booker’s submission Carnival: Woman Is Boss is a sensory journey into the female empowerment of masquerade. James Massiah’s poem All Saints is a snapshot of memories, crowds, friends and vibes, while Eddie Otchere and Dawn Hill both share their own personal histories of carnival - totally different, yet united in the celebration of (to quote Eddie) “what good, people can do together. Visual artist, rapper and founder of Nine8 Collective Lava La Rue’s entry, Di Heir of Ladbroke Grove, is a poetic journey through Lava’s Carnival experience reflected against the recent football hooliganism of the summer.
Personally, I can’t wait for Notting Hill Carnival to return to the streets in its full glory in 2022. However, 2020 and 2021 have shown that there are ways to take it into the digital space and broaden the reach to the widest possible audience. I think we should build on this even if nothing beats the real thing!
Spotify's Carnival Sounds microsite is here.