British MPs Demand a Formal Investigation Into Streaming Music Royalties

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A vehicle-free photo taken at the St. James Park Station in London. Photo Credit: Matt Antonioli

Several British MPs are demanding a formal investigation into the royalties that music streaming services pay their artists.

Digital Music News was recently tipped off about the potential inquiry via an official release from the Ivors Academy, a UK-based professional association for music writers. At its start, the concise announcement reiterates that MPs’ calls for an investigation arrived following multiple months of campaigning from the Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union. In May, the organizations rolled out a petition requesting an all-encompassing review of streaming music royalties, and the document has garnered more than 15,000 signatures to date.

The release indicates that the UK government, in a newly published report concerning the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact upon the entertainment sector, recommended that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport “investigate how the market for recorded music is operating in the era of streaming to ensure that music creators are receiving a fair reward.”

This statement seems to suggest that those tasked with regulating the entertainment sphere are “acknowledging that the market could be skewed against music creators,” per the release. At the time of this writing, however, the UK government hadn’t expressly announced a formal investigation into streaming music royalties.

On Friday, we reported that leading music streaming service Spotify had firmly addressed pay-for-playlist schemes in a Q&A session, stating: “You cannot pay to get on an official Spotify playlist.” Owing to the considerable profits and exposure that often derive from placements on playlists, competition for the positioning has long been fierce. Moreover, the point underscores the high-stakes nature of streaming music royalties, which prove consequential only when an artist scores a sizable number of plays.

The UK music industry – like the music industries of nations around the globe – has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdown measures. To be sure, a Musicians’ Union survey revealed that 20 percent of British musicians fear the economic strain of the coronavirus crisis will draw their careers to a close. On the venue side of the equation, DMN covered the UK government’s $1.9 billion rescue package for local entertainment industries (music venues among them).

However, recent weeks haven’t been without positive news for UK artists, promoters, and fans. Earlier this month, the British government gave outdoor concerts the green light to resume, and socially distanced indoor concerts are slated to return in August. Northern Ireland’s (and the UK’s) first socially distanced music festival is fast approaching. And Scotland’s government is hopeful “that live events can be permitted with restricted numbers and physical distancing restrictions” in the ongoing Phase 3 of its reopening plan, though a detailed timetable hasn’t yet been established.