Covid-19 has been very bad news for songwriters and composers: this we know already from the figures (and warnings about future figures) published by collecting societies in various parts of the world.
Now the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) has used the latest study – reporting a 35% fall in royalties collected by PROs – as the hook for a manifesto of sorts on “why we should fix streaming now”.
It’s the latest salvo in the ongoing debate about how streaming pays off for musicians, sitting alongside campaigns like Broken Record in the UK and Justice at Spotify in the US, although in this case it zeroes in specifically on what ECSA thinks would improve the lot of songwriters and composers.
“Adequate implementation” of the European Copyright Directive, including its elements limiting safe harbours for user-generated content platforms, is one of the measures called for. ECSA also wants to “restore the value of authors’ rights” in the streaming economy, and it wants politicians and competition regulators to “carefully look at the impact of the majors on the music streaming market”.
This relates to one of the talking points of the UK’s recent music streaming inquiry: whether the reason songs take such a low share of streaming royalties compared to recordings is because the major label groups keep it that way (“they make more revenues out of recordings, where only a small share is usually paid to the performers, compared to publishing rights, where the publisher usually receives a minority share of income,” is ECSA’s reminder of that argument).
The body also backs the introduction of user-centric payouts for streaming; wants to change the 30-second threshold for a stream to generate royalties (which it thinks is leading to “a white washing of current chart music” as songwriters are forced to work to the format); for DSPs to “build different values and subscription tiers” for lean-forward and lean-back listening; and to look at the ‘artist growth’ model recently mooted by UK indie body Aim, where “the first number of streams could be valued more and after a certain number the revenue would fall into a lower tier or rate system”.
More transparency is also on ECSA’s agenda. “None of those issues can be looked at in isolation: policy makers and music stakeholders must adopt a holistic approach in this key debate about nothing else than the future of music,” it suggested.