Sir Paul McCartney Says Streaming Should Pay Artists More: ‘It’s Such a Small Percentage’

Paul McCartney performing in the Netherlands in 2009. (photo: Eddie Janssens)
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Paul McCartney performing in the Netherlands in 2009. (photo: Eddie Janssens)
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Paul McCartney performing in the Netherlands in 2009. Photo Credit: Eddie Janssens

In a recent roundtable discussion, two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Paul McCartney said that artists’ streaming payments should increase, besides expressing the opinion that it’s harder for creators to stay financially afloat in the contemporary music industry.

The 18-time Grammy winner (and 79-time nominee) Paul McCartney made these and other interesting remarks during a half-hour episode of a BBC Radio 4 program entitled The Price of Song.

Singer-songwriter Nadine Shah, who previously revealed that she has trouble making rent despite boasting over 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis also participated in the installment, which explored both the economic realities of streaming and the recent influx of multimillion-dollar catalog sales.

“I think it’s harder for artists now, unfortunately. It’s such a small percentage,” Paul McCartney said of the streaming royalties that artists receive, despite the fact that streaming accounted for an all-time-high portion of total recorded music earnings in the U.S. and in the U.K. during 2020.

“And what they’ll tell you is, ‘Yeah, but if you have millions of that small percentage, you’re alright,’” continued the 78-year-old. “After a while, if you’re lucky, you get some success, and then it can be your art rather than you just having to pay the bills.”

“But you’d like to see a bigger proportion of the royalties going back to the artists?” asked interviewer John Wilson.

“Well yeah,” replied McCartney, whose solo works generate north of 9.7 million monthly Spotify streams. “I’m an artist, you know, yeah. The truth of it is, John, is that the artists are the ones who make the music.

“You know, The Beatles sang and played all those records. An ordinary person would just think, ‘Well, so, you get all the money.’ Like, you know, you went to work, you did all the job, you get all the money. But as you know, it’s not the way,” he finished.

The British government in October unveiled a formal investigation into streaming royalties, and the probe aims specifically to determine “whether the business models used by major streaming platforms are fair to the writers and performers who provide the material,” according to DCMS Committee Chair and MP for Solihull Julian Knight.

Since then, UK-based acts including The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess, Led Zeppelin founder and guitarist Jimmy Page, and “Cars” singer, songwriter, and producer Gary Numan have publicly taken aim at streaming royalties – or the lack thereof. And earlier this week, SoundCloud officially introduced “fan-powered royalties,” or direct-to-artist compensation based upon actual user engagement.

In spite of the low per-stream royalty rates paid by leading DSPs, however, artists including Bob Dylan, Lindsey Buckingham, and The Killers have in recent months opted to cash out of their publishing catalogs in exchange for (substantial) once-off payments. Given that Paul McCartney previously litigated for his publishing stakes in a number of tracks, the sit down also covered his thoughts on the catalog-sale uptick and the chances that he’ll part with his own music IP.

“I’m very proud to have them. Me and John did get a bit ripped off in the early days. We signed a little contract – we had no idea what contracts were even. I remember just saying to this bloke, ‘Does this look okay?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah!’ So we signed it. It turned out later he was our lawyer. We didn’t even know he was our lawyer.

“I started to get my own songs, after the Beatles, and some of the songs from the Beatles have started to come back. I feel like I’m looking after them, so I’m not keen to sell them,” concluded the Liverpool native.

7 Responses

  1. Tom Hendricks

    Paul is right. That’s why everyone is talking about the new idea of, Pennies for Play on every click online for music and all creative content – everyone except that music media that only reports corporate press releases.
    The end of this pandemic will cancel a lot of the old guard, and music will break free in new directions.

  2. BAC

    Dylan Smith seems to think that artists get paid by their monthly listener count. That is not true.

    Nadine Shah only gets about 8000 streams a day on Spotify. That’s about $30 a day. Maybe she should sing a song that somebody wants to hear. Maybe she should do a cover of WAP or driver’s license.

    George Harrison wrote Taxman because the British government was taking 95% of their earnings. Today, a propagandist like Dylan Smith would chastise him saying that Harrison should be thankful that the government doesn’t take it all.

    Macca is old and doesn’t know what’s going on.

    Streaming is the best thing that happened to the music industry and to a lot of independent artists. You never profile those stories.

    • Paul Ramon

      Paul is wealthy and has a lot of wealthy friends. In the old days, artists would start record companies once they have reached a certain level of success (Apple Corps), and today artists start record companies so they can profit from their artistry.

      It’s a new world. Paul and friends should start a streaming service instead of a record company, and attract the best artists by paying them more. Artists don’t have to remove their content from other services, but they do have to have some exclusive content on Paul’s streaming service, as well as download and physical versions of the album sold through the streaming service. Eventually, other streaming services will adopt the model to compete for talent, and streaming royalties will go up for everyone. They will be competing for the exclusive content.

      If Paul McCartney had exclusive content on Paulify mcTunes, and that’s the only place I could order the vinyl record with that content included, I wouldn’t buy it through Amazon. I’d sign up for Paulify mcTunes.

  3. Blobbo

    If a new band came along on the order of the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix or Zeppelin, I’m sure they would be multimillionaires very quickly, although any new band with any brains will go for the new Soundcloud model and tell Spotify to stick it. They’re not really needed anymore, if you get hit with word of mouth. Then you can tell Spotify your terms to be on their Swedish Sh*t Extortion Channel, which now also does podcasts. F Eck. I hope his company goes down in a fireball of his relentless Star Trek oversized alien-head creation. The major labels should all be boycotted into submission for conniving with Eck to come up with a save them and screw the content creators, a la Youtube and Google (see how much their execs are collecting annually in bonuses).

    The Soundcloud model is the closest to what should be created, which is an international streaming non-profit which hires employees to run the largest streaming service, to which any artist can sign up to and create whatever presence they want. A small percentage is taken off the direct plays, and, TBH, people have to pay more than $10 month for all the music they want. Get real. It needs to go back to the old pay per item rate, not an everything library for pennies. This last part is a problem. Anyway, the best artists can create the best work, not sign to a label full of aholes, and keep all their lucre.

    • BAC

      Blobbo, hate to break it to you but Soundcloud has sucked so much VC dick over the years that the “investors” are desperate for a return after over a decade of burning cash.

      I’d rather get in bed with streaming companies that negotiate with the big labels than take a chance on some VC-funded house of cards. The big labels are mostly legacy catalogs and Big Names, but that’s about it. The tide has turned and their days of cocaine binges are mostly over.

  4. Johnny

    Twenty years since Napster and twenty years since the “if you don’t give us your music for free we’ll just go steal it anyway” business model was forced on to the musical community and now finally Mr. McCartney is saying something. Twenty years of people getting all their music without paying the musicians (about ONE TRILLION songs stolen in that time) and our leader who did and said nothing when Metallica were the only ones to have the balls to stand up and say what needed to be said. And so 70% of Professional musicians have already quit the music business and it is almost impossible to make quality music without losing money. And big thanks to our Unions and Politicians for doing nothing when we needed them the most. Hey fans enjoy all that techno, flavor of the month disposable junk on the radio.

    • BAC

      Johnny, maybe we should go back to the days of the record company only releasing the “single” to the radio stations, and then forcing listeners to buy the $18 CD to hear one track and get another 60 minutes of filler junk and remixes.

      Artists are getting paid, especially indies. I’m so sorry all the studios and “professional musicians” closed. Let’s blame drum machines while we’re at it. Keep voting Democrat so that mass murderer Andrew Cuomo can tell you when your club can open and how many people can be inside. Bend over and take your anal swabbing!