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British MPs demand that musicians are given a ‘fair share’ of streaming royalties

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(Image credit: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The UK parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee is demanding that the royalties payment structures around music streaming should be “completely reset” after finding that artists are seeing “pitiful returns” from streaming.

Following a six month enquiry into music streaming during which artists, managers and record label label bosses were called to give evidence before MPs, the committee concluded that musicians were not being given a "fair share" of the £736.5 million that UK record labels earn from streaming.

"While streaming has brought significant profits to the recorded music industry, the talent behind it - performers, songwriters and composers - are losing out," said MP Julian Knight, who chairs the DCMS committee. "Only a complete reset of streaming that enshrines in law their rights to a fair share of the earnings will do."

In their report, the committee recommends that streaming royalties should be split 50/50, instead of the current rate, where artists receive about 16%.

Other recommendations include:

Musicians and songwriters should be allowed to reclaim the rights to their work from labels after a set period of time.

Artists should be given the right to adjust their contract if their work is successful beyond the remuneration they received.

The government should explore ways to ensure songwriters, who receive minimal streaming royalties, can have sustainable careers.

Curators who make playlists on services like Spotify and Apple Music should adhere to a "code of conduct" to avoid bribes and favouritism.

The government should require publishers and royalty societies to inform artists about how much money is flowing through the system.

Warner and Universal Music should follow Sony's example, and cancel their artists’ historical debts. 

Earlier this year, artists including the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Joe Strummer”s estate and Wolf Alice, signed a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring that the law "has not kept up with the pace of technological change" when calculating payments.

The Musicians Union has hailed the report as “revolutionary.”

“It grasps the issue, identifies the problems and recommends achievable and practical solutions, which won't cost the taxpayer a penny," said general secretary Horace Trubridge.

The Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum said the report could “fundamentally improve” the economic situation for thousands of musicians.

The bodies said: “This is a once in a lifetime moment to reset our business along fairer and more equitable lines, it is not an opportunity to be wasted.”