Musicians and music industry folk in the UK will be holding their breath today as the Copyright (Rights and Remuneration of Musicians, Etc.) Bill receives its second reading, including a debate and a vote, in the Parliament’s House of Commons. It started around 9.30am GMT on Friday 3rd December and you can access it here.
As we reported last month, the private member’s bill tabled by Kevin Brennan MP is based on the findings of the UK streaming economics inquiry, on which he sat. Equitable remuneration (ER) for streams; transparency obligations for rightsholders; contract adjustment; and a right of revocation for musicians are its key provisions.
Will today be a seismic moment for the music industry? Probably not. We won’t know until the end of the debate whether the bill will be proceeding to the next stage of legislation via a vote. And if it does, that next phase is the ‘committee stage’: a line-by-line process of amendments, insertions and removals that could wreak considerable changes to the bill as it currently stands.
If the bill doesn’t pass, it’s clearly not the end of the story either. Campaigners and industry bodies alike are gearing up for competition regulator the CMA’s market study of the music industry, which might recommend changes that carry more weight with the British government.
Brennan’s bill and today’s debate may thus play a role of seeding some of the key issues in the minds of those policymakers, ahead of whatever the CMA findings turn out to be. It’s an important moment, wherever your alignments lie in the streaming economics debate, but it’s just one moment in a much longer process of analysis and change.
And arguments, of course. Indie body AIM published an open letter to MPs summarising its criticisms of the bill yesterday, Broken Record founder Tom Gray hit back at talk of ‘unintended consequences’ with his own list of ‘intended ones’, campaigners rallied in London, and industry bodies continued their lobbying of MPs who may be voting on the bill today.
This is all as you would expect on the eve of this kind of legislative proposal. Remember, though, that the real work to ‘fix streaming’ may well come behind closed doors in the coming months, through the “music industry contact group” that the government has already announced plans to create.
Who’ll get to be in those meetings? Will they be able to work constructively together in private after the last few months of public (and often very heated) arguments? Will they truly have access to all the data they need to plot a path forward?
The answers to these questions may well be as important for musicians and the music industry – well beyond the UK, given the global interest in this process – as the outcome of today’s House of Commons debate.