We’ve been paying close attention to the UK parliamentary inquiry into the economics of music streaming, as our past coverage shows. This morning, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee behind that inquiry has published its latest report.
It’s a follow-on from the committee’s first report, in July 2021, which called for a “complete reset” of the streaming market. It then held a pair of follow-up sessions in November 2022 (you can read our coverage of those here and here) to gauge progress.
Today’s report is essentially the follow-up to those follow-up sessions, but it includes some new recommendations.
The big-picture one is a call for the British government to create a proper, joined-up music strategy to bolster the UK industry and its music exports abroad.
“The current approach to cultural policymaking by Government is too scatter-gun to be effective, particular in comparison to other successful countries with whom we are competing for market share,” claims the report.
It calls instead for “a more strategic approach to policymaking regarding cultural production and the creative industries” that would include setting specific directions and goals – and measuring progress – for music as well as other industries like film and television, and theatre.
This will go down well on all sides of the British music industry. Indeed, the second follow-up session in November finished with BPI boss Geoff Taylor, Broken Record founder and Ivors Academy chair Tom Gray, and Musicians’ Union general secretary Naomi Pohl agreeing on exactly this point.
Something else that jumps out from the DCMS committee’s new report won’t be quite as welcome for the BPI’s biggest members though.
The committee welcomed the news that all three major labels are now paying through streaming royalties to ‘unrecouped’ artists on deals signed long ago, but now it wants to understand the impact of these moves.
“The Committee would like to see evidence of the amount of consequential royalties that are now being distributed by all three Major rights holding groups, and request that they each provide this information to us,” explains the report. This could be very interesting.
The new report also makes an additional recommendation about working groups. These are the groups set up by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the wake of its original report, to tackle two of the key challenges around the streaming economy: transparency and metadata.
The DCMS Committee wants to expand that work, calling for the IPO to also set up “working groups on remuneration and performer rights to consider the current evidence base and
monitor developments in other countries in these areas”.
This was something that Gray and Pohl highlighted in their follow-up session in November, with the latter describing fair remuneration as “the elephant in the room” in discussions about how the streaming economy should evolve.
One more thing, which again comes from that November hearing, and the moment of grim laughter when it emerged that the list of people taking part in the first two working groups was not public. Yes, including the group literally focused on transparency.
Now those names are public, courtesy of a letter from the IPO to the committee, which is linked to from the new report.
On the transparency group: Adam Barker, Antony Bebawi, Brian Message, Chris Cooke, Colin Young, Debbie Stones, Florian Koempel, Gee Davy, Jonathan Aitken, Jules O’Riordan, Kim Bayley, Kirit Joshi, Nadia Vally (Chair), Naomi Pohl, Roger La Haye, Rupert Skellett, Sue Thomson and Tim Fowler.
On the metadata group: Adrian Lotter, Adrian Pope, Amy Thomson, Austin Jacobs, Carlotta De Ninni, David Ball, Lauri Rechardt, Magali Clapier, Mark Douglas, Mark Krajewski, Matt Phipps-Taylor, Nigel Dewar Gibb, Paul Di Lorito, Rebecca Brook, Robin Stout (Chair), Ross Greening, Stephanie Ayres, Scott Farrant and Vicky Fry.
The DCMS Committee is keen for the IPO to build on this transparency by “ensuring that its memberships, agendas and deadlines are made public and that the groups have reporting functions at reasonable, practical intervals” – for example at certain milestones or when negotiations have been concluded.
It also wants ministers and departmental officials to play a bigger role in these groups: “particularly where negotiations become deadlocked or deadlines are missed”.