“This is an important topic. Too many artists, songwriters, labels and publishers today are being paid below market rates – or not at all — by many streaming services and radio platforms. That needs to change.”
Statement from major label trade group the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in response to a Rethink Music report showing that the average artist is underpaid on royalties by 20-50%. The RIAA represents major labels Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment.
When it comes to the whole ‘streaming services screw artists’ thing, companies like Spotify have always had a quick defense: they pay the labels, not artists. And if labels steal money from their own artists, that’s not Spotify’s fault. “But again, our relationship right now – we pay out the money to the labels, and the labels are in turn paying out to the artists,” Spotify CEO told the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, part of a well-worn defense. Add recently-leaked major label agreements that confirmed artist-screwing terms like direct lump-sum payments and preferential ad inventory grants, and the glove seems to fit.
Enter Rethink Music, an initiative from Berklee School of Music, which just released a damning report showing just how badly artists are getting screwed in the digital era. According to the report, artists are routinely underpaid by 20-50%, on average, a figure the Recording Industry Association of America, the major label trade group, is now contesting.
“They offer no support to back that assertion,” the RIAA recently told Billboard, a longtime mouthpiece for big labels.
But the RIAA is also deflecting blame away from the labels, pointing to streaming services – not labels – as the big culprit. “This is an important subject,” the organization continued. “Too many artists, songwriters, labels and publishers today are being paid below market rates – or not at all — by many streaming services and radio platforms. That needs to change.”