Songwriters Demand a Streaming Music Overhaul — “There Is No One Single Magic Solution But Rather Several Key Changes Required”

most popular music streaming services 2021
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most popular music streaming services 2021
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The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) is calling for streaming reform. Photo Credit: Filip Havlik

The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) has officially called for “both policy makers and all stakeholders in the music sector to promote a fairer and more transparent ecosystem for music streaming.”

The ECSA, which represents north of 30,000 composers and songwriters and is co-funded by the EU’s Creative Europe Programme, took aim at the perceived pitfalls associated with the streaming space in a document entitled “Music streaming and its impact on composers and songwriters/Why we should fix streaming now.”

This more than 3,500-word-long text notes at the outset that the organization and its members had criticized the “extremely low level of remuneration coming from online exploitations – including streaming” even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, besides demanding “strong public policy actions and ambitious legislative initiatives to improve the situation of music authors and promote a sustainable future for music.”

Building upon the point, the entity describes the European Union’s controversial Copyright Directive (which EU member countries have until June 7th to implement) as “a key first step to bring[ing] more fairness and transparency” – albeit while also stating that “it will not remedy the fundamental flaws and market failures of the music streaming market for music creators.”

“There is no one single magic solution but rather several key changes required to improve the music market,” the document proceeds. “As the COVID-19 [pandemic] is dramatically exacerbating the negative impact of music streaming on music creators, there is not time to lose to change the system if we want to build a sustainable future for music streaming.”

The analysis then highlights the considerable growth that streaming has brought about in the recorded-music space (which receives 55 percent of all streaming revenue, according to the ECSA) – though by contrast, “74% of music authors could not live from the income generated by their artistic profession in the beginning of 2020,” and these earnings have further declined amid the pandemic, per the text.

After that, the organization explains in detail several changes that it maintains would benefit songwriters and composers financially, beginning with measures, like Article 17 of the Copyright Directive, “aimed at reducing the harmful impact of safe harbour provisions.”

Next, the ECSA levies criticism against the Big Three record labels for allegedly favoring “the recording rights to the detriment of author’s rights (or publishing rights)” and using “their market power to get preferential treatment and dictate the rules of the game.”

“Policy makers and competition authorities should carefully look at the impact of the majors on the music streaming market,” writes the ECSA, which is backed in part by the European Union, once again.

From there, the lengthy document requests that streaming services pivot away from the pro-rata payout system – the “pooling” method, that is – and towards a user-centric payment system (UCPS), compensating creators based upon actual fan engagement. The current “model obviously overvalues the tracks listened to by intensive streaming listeners and thus undervalues the tracks listened to by average streaming listeners,” the text specifies.

Additionally, that today’s major streaming services only pay for a stream when users listen for at least 30 seconds has forced songwriters “to come to the point way sooner, for example shortening intros from 20 seconds to 5 seconds,” per the ECSA.

The songwriter and composer representative also emphasizes that “different listening behaviour should result in different pricing” with regard to playlists and algorithm-driven streams as opposed to songs that users personally select.

Lastly, the fourth and final of the organization’s proposed streaming-reform measures concerns transparency, including in terms of the amounts that publishers receive from streaming services and the amounts that actually make their way to songwriters.

About one week back, the EU’s European Commission accused Apple of distorting “competition in the music streaming market as it abused its dominant position for the distribution of music streaming apps through its App Store.”

11 Responses

    • BAC

      The MLC is US-only and was established to issue blanket mechanical licenses and collect on those licenses from streamers and download services and distribute the money to rights holders. The MLC has nothing to do with songwriters (publishing). The MLC has nothing to do with Europe.

      • Burt

        ER…..mechanical licenses are typically split between the publisher and writer. They have a lot to do with the songwriter….remember physical product?


  1. PJ Wassermann

    It is unfair that 30 seconds of listening get the same payout as 7 minutes. Payoit should be coupled to listening time.

    • Randal Tulari

      A play is a play is a play. Time doesn’t factor in, and that’s fair.

  2. Tom Hendricks editor of Musea since 1992.

    The Musea zine concept of penny per play, would resolve all of this without the need of subscriptions. The reason it’s not talked about here or on other corporate music media, is that it’s pro musicians and anti corporations.
    Then too it’s part of a he bigger music revolution, a taboo topic on corporate media.

    • One who knows something

      And you get corporate suck-ups with a wide readership like Bob Lefsetz, worshipper of the rich, proclaiming all musicians are wannabes who don’t deserve fair compensation. Labels are the problem. Start shaming these corporate thieves and one day things might change. They’re making millions off of talent and refuse to fairly pay.

      • Tom Hendricks editor of Musea since 1992

        Yes, but there are really only 3 labels. The Big Three Labels, Warner, Sony, Universal, control 80% of the music industry directly, and the rest through, their parent media companies, suing, buyouts, RIAA, etc.
        They have ruined music for all, blocked most new music, to prop up the same few aging hit-less, pop stars year after year, all as a marketing ploy.
        The music revolution and the thousands of musicians in it are against the big three. You are now part of this positive change.

      • BAC

        Labels are the problem?

        It’s not the idiot artists who can’t do math who sign rotten contracts?

        What about the lawyers for the idiot artists?

        Quit signing rotten contracts.

        Quit subjugating yourself to the labels (big and small), hold on to your rights, and don’t sell out unless they’re going to pay dearly. No new artist, or artist in development, has that leverage.

        • Billy Goat Breath

          Yea, and go nowhere. It stinks, but you need a major to make major bucks.

  3. Will

    BREAKING NEWS: The music biz will continue to suck until it shifts from being run by accounting to being run by a 60/40 split between A&R (remember that group?) and accounting.