The UK’s Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy have teamed up for a campaign called ‘Keep Music Alive’ which the two organisations say “aims to ‘fix streaming’ and calls for industry stakeholders to come together to agree an equitable, sustainable and transparent model for royalty distribution in the streaming era”.
It kicks off this morning with an online petition calling for the British government to “urgently undertake a review of streaming” to “ensure that the flow of money is transparent and fair for the whole music ecosystem”. It’s already closing in on its initial target of 1,000 signatures, after being emailed to musicians this morning.
The campaign is related to (although also distinct from) the #BrokenRecord movement that’s been building a head of steam in the UK in recent weeks, started by musician Tom Gray, who’s also on the songwriter committee of The Ivors Academy. Note, the ‘Keep Music Alive’ campaign is aimed at labels as much as it is at streaming companies.
“The recorded music industry must play its part in shoring up the individuals on whose talent and creativity it so heavily relies. We have been asking for a fairer deal on streaming for years and it is long overdue. Our members can no longer accept the record labels taking the biggest share of income. We have to fix streaming now,” said MU deputy general secretary Naomi Pohl.
“Music creators are clear that the industry must change. The current models are broken. It is wrong for a few corporations to make billions from streaming while thousands of creators seek hardship support as their livelihoods evaporate,” added Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies.
The Guardian has interviewed some of the artists and industry figures who are backing the campaign, including Ivors Academy chair Crispin Hunt’s idea for splitting streaming revenues equally between DSPs – something he went into in more depth in an interview on website Live4ever.
“The ten quid that gets divided at the moment goes: £3 Spotify, £1.20 to the songwriters and the rest to the record labels. I think, personally, that it needs to go four ways: 25% to the platform, 25% to the song, 25% to the singers and 25% needs to go the sellers. The other answer is to raise the price. You either divide the money fairly so that it’s more proportional, or you raise the price.”
Alongside today’s announcement, there’ll be a #BrokenRecord Festival on 24 May, based around musician Tim Burgess’s #TimsTwitterListeningParty tweetalongs. Boy George, KT Tunstall, John Grant, The Shins and Pins are among the artists taking part.
— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) May 11, 2020
There’s also a ‘Tim’s Twitter Listening Party #BrokenRecord Appeal‘, raising money to be split equally between the PRS Emergency Relief Fund and the Musicians’ Union Coronavirus Hardship Fund.
At this point, this is a UK-focused campaign, but it’s one that has the potential to spread to other parts of the world. Two things are particularly interesting to us about the nature of the current protests. First, that it’s not just a case of musicians criticising streaming services as it has been in the past – labels are now firmly in their sights too. Perhaps this will draw more labels into the debate in a constructive way, which would be positive.
Second, that the campaigners are not just calling for royalties to be higher, but are talking about how they think/hope this could be accomplished. That’s a point we were making too in our analysis of streaming last week. Calling for systematic reform carries more weight when you’re starting off by suggesting what some of those reforms might be.