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UK regulator the CMA to launch music streaming market study


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The UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has this morning confirmed plans to launch a market study into music streaming, after its board agreed to begin work on the probe.

“On 13 October, the Board considered initial proposals to carry out a markets project on music streaming. They agreed that work in this area aligned with the CMA’s prioritisation principles, and that it supported a strategic goal of the CMA to foster effective competition in digital markets, ensuring they operate in a way that promotes innovation and the consumer interest,” wrote chief executive Andrea Coscelli, in a letter sent to the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee that held the UK’s recent streaming economics inquiry.

“On this basis, the Board agreed that there was merit in taking forward a market study. They also agreed, in the light of the concerns you have collectively expressed, that this work should be prioritised: that is, it should be the next market study that the CMA launches.”

As we noted before, this is *not* a full competition investigation, but rather a study to (in the CMA’s words) “examine why particular markets may not be working well for consumers”.

Such a study will be able to make recommendations to the British government for changes in policy and legislation; encourage businesses in the market under scrutiny to self-regulate; launch a deeper ‘market investigation’ or take enforcement action against individual companies; or simply give the market a “clean bill of health”.

“Over the past decade, the music industry has evolved almost beyond recognition, with streaming now accounting for more than 80% of all music listened to in this country,” said Coscelli in a separate statement this morning.

“A market study will help us to understand these radical changes and build a view as to whether competition in this sector is working well or whether further action needs to be taken.”

We’ll report on reactions from the industry as the day goes on. The news is likely to be welcomed by bodies like the Ivors Academy, Featured Artists Coalition and MMF, and celebrated by the Broken Record campaign that sparked the original inquiry.

The streaming services may well choose to zip their lips for now, and while major labels and the BPI will not appreciate the news, their public response will likely be to “welcome” the chance to continue putting their case for the market working well.

Everyone concerned will be rolling up their sleeves for the next round of submissions and lobbying involved. And, as we’ve noted before, while this is a UK-specific thing, it will be followed closely around the world: by the music industry, streaming services and other regulators and politicians alike.

Want to prepare? You can read our coverage of the UK’s streaming inquiry here, and we gathered that plus various other recent stories on streaming royalties and artist activism in a free ebook, which you can download here.


Written by: Stuart Dredge