By Victor Omondi – A digital, culture, media, and sport select committee has been carrying out an inquiry into the economics of streaming, which now makes up for more than three-quarters of music industry’s income in the UK. The findings are quite appalling.
Fiona Bevan, a famous songwriter, who’s written songs for Steps, Lewis Capaldi and One Direction, revealed that she had made a meager £100, after co-writing Disco, a track on Kylie Minogue’s number one album.
She pointed out that many songwriters were struggling to make ends meet because of how streaming services pay royalties. Bevan added that most popular songwriters in the world couldn’t afford to pay their rent. “Right now, hit songwriters are driving Ubers. It’s quite shameful,” she said.
The committee also heard from music managers Kwame Kwaten and Maria Forte besides musicians like Chic’s Nile Rodgers and saxophonist Soweto Kinch.
Rodgers said he hadn’t bothered to check out his streaming earnings before the COVID-19 struck “because my tour revenue has been so substantial that I could support my entire organisation”. He however said he was “completely shocked” when he did so this year.
The guitarist and producer told the committee that transparency was required since musicians don’t know what a stream is worth and that there was no way to find out due to the non-disclosure agreements between record labels and the streaming services.
Rodgers blamed the major labels for purposely withholding money from the artists. He revealed that record labels hold up to 82% of the royalties they receive from streaming services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify, dubbing the system “just ridiculous”.
Soweto Kinch, a Mercury-nominated jazz musician, said the inquiry was timely since the live music scene had been “eviscerated” by the pandemic. He added that due to the prevailing emphasis on chart music, streaming had put pressure on niche musical genres and experimental musicians.
The inquiry will proceed in 2021, where the “perspectives of industry experts, artists and record labels as well as streaming platforms themselves” will be considered. The committee head, Julian Knight MP cautioned companies against meddling with the inquiry.