Indie Label Wagram Music ‘Signs Up’ for Deezer’s ‘Artist-Centric’ Model — Raising Additional Eligibility Questions

deezer artist centric model
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deezer artist centric model
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A live performance from Ayo, who released her latest studio album via Wagram’s 3ème Bureau. Photo Credit: Aurélien Le Roch

Indie label Wagram Music has officially inked a deal to tap into the much-debated artist-centric model that Deezer developed with Universal Music Group (UMG), according to preliminary details confirmed to Digital Music News. Sounds like a step forward, though the pact is raising additional questions about exactly which creators are eligible for the retooled royalties structure. 

Deezer and Wagram Music, a division of Paris-headquartered Wagram Stories, detailed the agreement in a concise email to Digital Music News. Wagram Music itself consists of eight labels, among them Cinq7 and Chapter Two Records, while Deezer initially partnered with mega-major label Universal Music Group on a streaming-reform initiative during Q1.

Against the backdrop of artificial intelligence music’s growing prevalence and listenership, Universal Music has been zeroing in on streaming compensation – and the perceived shortcomings of the present system – since 2023’s beginning. The likes of Tidal and SoundCloud are also exploring different royalty frameworks in collaboration with the leading label, and the other majors, Warner Music and Sony Music, have followed UMG’s lead by voicing their own calls for streaming pivots.

But the Deezer-UMG partnership was the first to produce a concrete proposal, in the form of the aforementioned “artist-centric” model. Expected to go live in France later in October, this model will according to the involved parties boot royalty-bearing white noise uploads from the service (which again upped its prices last month) and enhance fraud detection.

More significantly, though, UMG and Deezer said that the artist-centric model will afford “professional artists” – described here as those with at least 1,000 monthly streams from north of 500 listeners – “a double boost” on the royalties front, on top of another “double boost for songs that fans actively engage with.”

Beyond questions related to the specifics of “active engagement,” however, many have inquired as to the compensation associated with the artist-centric offering, besides topics pertaining to eligibility, enrollment, and long-term effects. Needless to say, the commercial reach of Wagram’s roster pales in comparison to that of UMG.

Keeping the point in mind, when asked what Wagram’s payouts will be under the tie-up, Deezer told DMN: “The royalty payments for Wagram artists will be the same as any other artist using the artist centric model.”

Of course, the overarching announcement, complete with a formal release, suggests that companies may be required to score a special deal in order to benefit from “artist-centric” royalties; it’s unclear precisely how unsigned acts will attempt to capitalize upon the system.

In any event, Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira touted the Wagram agreement and the appropriate model in a statement.

“We’re very happy that Wagram Music, its labels and artists are joining the launch of the artist centric model in October. This will benefit all producers, as well as majors and independents,” Folgueira communicated in part.

Ahead of the launch – which, UMG and Deezer indicated, will be followed by as-yet-undefined adjustments – some are expressing concerns about said model’s potential to render it increasingly difficult for emerging artists to make ends meet.

Paris-based Believe promptly took aim at the “unfair ‘reverse Robin Hood’ system,” for instance, emphasizing also the distinct possibility that the above-highlighted double-boost thresholds will rise down the line.

IMPALA then noted that the streaming platform (which belongs to Warner Music parent Access Industries) and today’s largest music company had developed the model “in a vacuum,” and AIM urged “more collaboration and transparency.” A2IM, on the other hand, provided a supportive statement, pointing to Deezer’s purported “plans to ensure that emerging artists are not disadvantaged.”