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Change in streaming laws would ‘make sure musicians have a future’

·4-min read

Proposals to ensure musicians “have a future” by giving them a larger share of revenue from streaming services are to be debated by MPs.

Recording artists currently earn “very little money” from their own music through streaming, Labour MP Kevin Brennan has said.

The Copyright (Rights and Remuneration of Musicians) Bill due to be discussed in Parliament on Friday, and backed by Mr Brennan, would introduce a right to “equitable remuneration” for streaming income – where performers have a right to receive a share without reference to their label contracts.

The Bill would also give musicians more of a say over how their music is used, including rights to reclaim ownership from record companies after 20 years.

“People do forget that our creative industries are the fastest growing part of our economy,” Mr Brennan told the PA news agency.

“Our music industry is actually a very successful export thanks to the musicians and the creators themselves, and without them we wouldn’t have the music industry. We have got to make sure they have a future.”

Bill to change streaming laws
MPs Julian Knight, Jo Stevens and Kevin Brennan highlighting the Bill (Jonathan Stewart/PA)

Copyright law on music rights was last changed in 2003, Cardiff West MP Mr Brennan said, adding: “The law hasn’t moved on and that is part of the problem with the technology. Money is being made, the question is: where is it going? And a lot of it is going to the record labels and the streaming services.”

He also said: “I think Covid has thrown into daylight the fact that without live music musicians earn very little money from their recorded music.”

Mr Brennan, who sits on the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said he had heard from musicians who struggle to make ends meet because of how streaming has changed their income.

The MP gave the example of Tom Gray, of Mercury Prize-winning indie band Gomez, saying: “He doesn’t get anything. People will be surprised to know, when his music is played on Spotify because the nature of the contract that was signed even before streaming existed as a technology, those contracts are still being used to not pay, as it were, many artists now even though there is this new technology and their music is being played again on streaming services.”

On Thursday, Mr Brennan and Conservative former minister Esther McVey delivered a letter to No 10 Downing Street, calling on the Prime Minister to consider the “Brennan Bill” and reforming how musicians make money from streaming.

They were joined by the deputy general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, Naomi Pohl, who has said the Bill would see musicians “fairly paid for their streamed music”.

However, the proposals have faced criticism from some within the industry.

Paul Pacifico, chief executive of the UK’s Association of Independent Music, has written to MPs ahead of the debate saying: “Despite its best efforts, this Bill will penalise those that can afford it least – the diverse artists in our culturally vibrant independent music community and entrepreneurs who lack the economies of scale of their multinational competitors.”

He added: “A key proposal in the Bill is a compensation mechanism called ‘equitable remuneration’.

“This sounds like it means ‘fair payment’, but it does not. Nor does it mean ‘a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’.

“It is a highly complex mechanism that risks costing many of those it claims to help far more than it will ever deliver.”

A spokesperson for the BPI (British Phonographic Industry), which represents UK record labels and organises the Brits, said: “In a week that has seen The Brit Awards shortlist its rising star nominees – the prestigious awards that helped set artists such as Adele, Florence + The Machine, Sam Smith and just last year, Griff, on their way, the interventionist regulation being proposed by Mr Brennan is out of step with the digital age, and, if enacted, risks turning the clock back on the achievements of British music.

“Worse still, it would harm the prospects of the very artists Mr Brennan says he wants to support.

“It would eliminate the stability and certainty that have encouraged UK labels to invest hundreds of millions annually into future talent and new music – and which gives the UK its creative and competitive edge and, in turn, fuels music growth and exports.”

Mr Brennan has said there is cross-party support for the Bill, but it is unlikely to become law without the support of the Government.

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