Mark Seliger

The Broken Record campaign is stepping up its lobbying efforts for the British government to introduce equitable remuneration for music streaming.

A letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April was signed by the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush and Chris Martin. Now a second letter has been sent, with new signatories including the Rolling Stones, Barry Gibb, Sir Tom Jones, Chrissie Hynde, Yoko Ono, Van Morrison, Alison Moyet and the Pet Shop Boys.

As before, one of the key requests is this: “Only two words need to change in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. This will modernise the law so that today’s performers receive a share of revenues, just like they enjoy in radio. It won’t cost the taxpayer a penny but will put more money in the pockets of UK taxpayers and raise revenues for public services like the NHS.”

Meanwhile, the letter also asks the government to make a referral to competition regulator the CMA to address “multinational corporations wielding extraordinary power and songwriters struggling as a result”. It also calls for the creation of a separate “regulator to ensure the lawful and fair treatment of music makers”.

Clearly there’s a spicy situation brewing, where some of the marquee artists for the major labels (the Stones / UMG for example) are backing a change that those labels have argued firmly against.

The Broken Record campaign adeptly steered equitable remuneration to the top of the UK’s recent parliamentary inquiry into streaming economics, and with that inquiry’s report pending, it’s already hard at work trying to outflank the labels’ arguments at government level.

Although storied stars, these are not the biggest artists of the streaming era: the Stones are the 149th most popular artist on Spotify, for example. However, they are certainly the names most likely to impress government ministers.

(If this is to be a letter-writing campaign, Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran will surely be top of Broken Record’s wishlist of artists still to enlist, given their positions as the two highest-ranked – 3rd and 14th respectively – artists on Spotify.)

Label arguments against ER have focused on its potential impact on the competitiveness of the music industry: both in terms of its ability to strike licensing deals from a position of strength, and its ability to invest in artists for global success.

Exports are currently a big priority for the British government, as it tries to make a success of Brexit. But some of the biggest stars of the nation’s most famous musical exports success of all – the ‘British Invasion’ of the US in the 1960s – are calling for change. Which way will the ministers lean?

Image by Mark Seliger

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