Helene Fischer, Rammstein, Other German Superstars Demand Fair Streaming Payouts

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High-profile German artists, including Helene Fischer and Rammstein, are demanding larger streaming royalties from the Big Three.

A number of prominent German artists are demanding larger streaming royalties from their record labels.  

In December, 14 lawyers and managers, representing popular acts like Rammstein and Helene Fischer, among others, sent a strongly worded letter to the heads of Universal Music Group (UMG), Sony Music Entertainment (SME), and Warner Music Group (WMG). 

According to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which first broke the story (and has exclusive media access to the secretly delivered letter), the artists indicated that from now on, their streaming royalties will be determined collectively; all individuals and groups will have to be onboard before an agreement is approved. 

The letter also suggested a February meeting in Berlin between the dissatisfied artists and “big three” execs, though Warner Music was quick to back out, citing an unwillingness to violate German anti-competition laws. At the time of writing, Sony Music and Universal Music hadn’t publicly responded to the letter.  

Owing to the involved artists’ immense reach, stakes are high for the affected record labels.

Helene Fischer is perhaps Germany’s top musical star. The 35-year-old’s eight studio albums have numerous sales records to their credit, and Fischer earned an estimated $32 million in 2018, the most of all but seven other female artists. 

Rammstein, a world-famous rock group, formed in 1994 and has been part of the Universal banner since 2001. Additionally, Sarah Connor, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, and Peter Maffay, well-known German artists in their own right, signed off on the letter. 

Spotify, the leading music-streaming platform, has been the target of much criticism over what fans and artists claim are unacceptably low royalty payments. However, in addressing their record companies, the disaffected German artists appear to be shifting the focus from streaming-royalty payouts themselves to the portion of these payouts that record companies distribute.  

Already, BMG has issued a response to the letter — and taken its own jab at the majors.

“We strongly welcome this attempt to highlight some of the inequities of the traditional record deal,” the company stated. “This letter is signed by some of Germany’s most respected music managers, and should be taken seriously.

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“We need a sensible, grown-up debate. We do not find it justifiable in a world in which record companies no longer have the costs of pressing, handling and delivering physical product for them to try to hold on to the lion’s share of streaming revenues.

“The world has changed. It is time for record companies to change too.”

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