A2IM-Backed ‘Protect Working Musicians Act’ Aims to Help Indie Musicians ‘Negotiate with Dominant Streaming Platforms’

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A photograph of the Capitol Building’s western side. Photo Credit: Martin Falbisoner

A U.S. lawmaker has introduced the Protect Working Musicians Act, an A2IM- and ARA-backed bill that purportedly aims to “allow artists and music creators to negotiate fairer rates and terms for the use of their music online.”

Multiple parties reached out to Digital Music News with word of the new legislation, which Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced. (In June, Deutch unveiled the American Music Fairness Act, an answer to the National Association of Broadcasters-backed Local Radio Freedom Act.) According to the lawmaker’s official release concerning the Protect Working Musicians Act – the bill’s text didn’t appear to be live at the time of this piece’s writing – the measure would enable “working artists and independent musicians to band together to negotiate with dominant streaming platforms.”

Additionally, the release claims that the proposed measure has a goal of “making clear the antitrust laws are no obstacle to these negotiations” and “granting working artists and independent musicians the ability to collectively refuse to license their music to a dominant online music distribution platform that refuses to pay market value rates.”

Addressing the legislation – which, as initially mentioned, has received support from the American Association of Independent Music and the Washington, D.C.-based Artist Rights Alliance – CAKE founding member and ARA co-chair John McCrea struck an optimistic tone regarding the predicted impact on the stateside streaming landscape.

“The Protect Working Musicians Act is a huge step forward for independent artists and labels, whose livelihoods, at least in part, depend on the revenue generated from the major global streaming giants,” he said. “We must level the playing field for them and boost their streaming payouts. This bill accomplishes that, and empowers them, by using free-market tools to ensure that all artists get fair market value for their work.”

In a statement of his own, A2IM president and CEO Richard James Burgess added in part: “The Protect Working Musicians Act is crucial legislation to make sure that indie music survives as distribution on dominant digital music platforms becomes all the more necessary.

“The power imbalance must be addressed by Congress so that creators and independent labels can band together to fight for fair compensation and against anticompetitive schemes that devalue music,” he proceeded. “Year after year these platforms grow their profits and subscriber bases at astronomical rates while artists struggle, especially in the wake of the pandemic.”

On the latter front, Spotify is set to release its Q3 2021 earnings report tomorrow, but this year’s second quarter brought the Stockholm-based platform double-digit year-over-year hikes in paid subscribers (165 million at the three-month period’s end), ad-supported accounts (210 million), and premium revenue ($2.39 billion at the present exchange rate), with a triple-digit boost for ad-supported revenue ($319.22 million).

Nevertheless, data suggests that the platform’s per-stream royalty rate has declined as of late, amid an ongoing influx of new artists, music, and non-music audio content. But it also bears reiterating that Spotify pays out the majority of its revenue to rightsholders, and the service’s per-stream royalties remain higher than those of some competing platforms.

Across the pond, a UK competition watchdog one week ago revealed plans to launch “a market study into music streaming,” following a much-publicized investigation conducted by the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee last year.

10 Responses

  1. GreenOrb

    I still say, it’s the fan’s fault that indie artists are not properly compensated. They are the ones who support these major streaming platforms, and either they’re not educated about how their money is being distributed to indie artists they listen to, or they simply don’t give a damn, as long as they have immediate access to music. Today’s culture is a “Serve-me-now” culture. Years ago, Napster proved that the new generation of music fans essentially want “free” music, at all costs.

    • FEck

      You can blame the fans if you want, but young people 30 years ago took the piracy route as well if that was the their preference. However, it’s the INDUSTRY’S fault that they set up this all you can eat system for $10 a month or less. NOBODY paid $10 a month for their music in the past, when the dollar was worth 3-4x less.

      The big labels are part owners of Spotify, the venue that plays their material. The entire system should end up in antitrust court.

      At the same time, recording is much cheaper than it used to be, (with resulting loss in quality from less skilled people being involved in music curation).

      There needs to be a SEPARATE streaming location for independents. There already is to some extent, so maybe Bandcamp should just be expanded, or not.
      Live 360 and TIcketbastard need to be broken up also.

      • Tony van Veen

        You are correct. Streaming platforms are already paying out 60-70% of their gross revenues to rightsholders. That is a pretty large percentage. The problem is that they’re not charging the consumer enough for the privilege of eating at the unlimited music buffet. Now, we can argue that for $30-40 a month there would be many less paying music subscribers — and this would be true. And that there would be more piracy — also true. But in that exchange of punts, would artists win or lose? I don’t know, and the industry — who benefits nicely from the current economic equation — is not interested in rocking this boat… at the expense of the independent artist’s livelihood.

      • Billy Keds

        The industry’s fault? Cmon, get real. How was the industry supposed to put the genie back in the bottle after Napster and others let it out and trained consumers that music and other content has little to no value? The industry did what it could to reign things in and forge legit deals that brought in revenue (damage control). Some revenue and a foundation to build on that is better than a broken system with continued diminishing revenues.

        • Irene

          You’re right, but those who steal music are to blame also. Do those same people view the value of a banana as zero because they already ate it? Pay for your shit, people!

  2. Electribe

    I’m an indie artist who can pay for my lifestyle with just the royalties I receive from streaming services. I know not every indie artist can do this. It depends on a lot of factors.

    I didn’t sign a contract with any label, major or minor, so I get 100% of what’s paid out, including my mechanical, publishing, and whatever the percentage is that I’ve agreed to with syncs. I use multiple distribution services. I’m on Bandcamp, too.

    I don’t think there’s a problem with “indie artists” and streaming services. It’s certainly better today for indies than 10 years ago, and definitely 20 years ago.

    My uncle was in a band in the late 70s / early 80s and I know all the stories of what it was like to press records with indies and go on tour in a van and eat nothing. They didn’t get paid for anything, and neither did any of their friends who “got signed”. That is, until they bought the rights back to their music and re-released it independently on streaming services in recent years. My uncle told me that he and lot of his buddies never got a royalty check of any kind for recorded music they made until the streaming era.

    Most indie artists of my age who I know today would rather spend their days sleeping in, smoking weed, and screwing around. So it makes sense that they would complain that life isn’t being handed to them on a silver platter. It’s all Spotify’s fault, or the label, or the listeners who pay $10 a month. I don’t get that way of thinking. You seem to hate everybody, including the fans. But you’ve got all the answers on how to “reform” the music industry. Yeah, sure, right.

    • JAS

      Electribe, how do we find out a little more about you? Curious about your music and your methods.

      Neither of us want to post contact here for spam reasons but a cryptic
      c h a n n e l or something. Also want to know more about your uncles band! I am 70’s rocker, but also like all kinds of music.

      Glad to here you are doing well, and I am looking for ways to be inspired to pursue music harder than I have. Covid killed my business, so if I have to climb the hill again it might as well be with my first love, music.

      Currently just street performing covers, but it pays pretty well!

      – Cheers

  3. JAS

    Billy, there is a bit of truth in all of these comments including yours, BUT the industry has been hosing artists since day one. By some accounting ‘magic’, some albums NEVER recoup.

    Same with Hollywood. Every single billion dollar grossing movie ‘lost’ money. Any deal that paid a % of the ‘profits’ ALWAYS pays 0.

    .0000000000000001% of the gross, pays higher than 99% of the ‘net profit’. Hint: Movies NEVER make a profit, nudge nudge wink wink,…..

    The state of the industry is MOSTLY due to the major players, who never play or pay fair.

    Best thing for independents is to have really cool merch, and build a small but loyal fan base. The world doesn’t owe us a living, but it also should work so hard to screw with us. – Cheers

    • Geronimo

      Yet for all the decades that the traditional music biz has been around there have been artists suing their labels and thousands of stories about accounting irregularities, unfair contracts, money mis-management and outright scams by the labels to cheat artists out of their money…yet artists still continue to seek out the machine. Why? Because it actually makes a difference to be on a label vs going it DIY. There are very few artists who make it (or make a living) going the DIY route compared to those on a label (in percentage terms).

      With the democratization of music platforms to post compositions and songs, as well as the technology at a reasonable cost, every thinks they’re the next big thing. It’s really a shame, there’s no filter to weed out the majority of terrible music.