Will Page

Music industry economist Will Page has been ruffling some feathers with his latest report. It’s an examination of potential equitable remuneration (ER) models for streaming, which would increase the share of royalties paid to artists.

Page presented his study at a recent session of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) standing committee on copyright and related rights.

The report considers three potential ways to implement ER: using it for all music streams; only using it for the most radio-like ‘push’ streams served up by algorithms and playlists; or a model that’s already used in Spain that levies a top-up fee on streaming services that is then paid to artists.

Page’s report isn’t just a description of these models: it’s an effort to set out the “unintended consequences” of implementing ER.

“The logic here sounds simple: if we consider Spotify analogous to radio, then why not treat it like radio is treated in many countries, and give the artist 50% of distributable revenue?” he wrote.

“Were such ‘equitable remuneration’ implemented, the artist’s gain would be the label’s pain: not only would the labels receive less, but their ability to invest would be significantly diminished. What appears to be a simple remedy to the criticisms artists have levied against labels in fact opens up a can of worms.”

The report offers some modelling of how that can of worms may shake out. However, it has already sparked controversy among pro-ER campaigners, who disagree with the report’s premise and methodology.

Performers’ rights body AEPO-ARTIS criticised the report in a series of tweets, including disputing its interpretation of the recommendations made by the UK’s parliamentary inquiry into streaming economics.

“They didn’t recommend to ‘Extend the current ER regime to On Demand streaming.’” claimed the body, quoting Page’s report. “They recommended to ‘apply ER in a similar way to rental. As such, an ADDITIVE ‘digital music remuneration’ payment would be made to performers through CMOs’”.

Broken Record founder Tom Gray also criticised the report. “NO ONE IS PROPOSING THE BROADCAST MODEL FOR ER IN STREAMING,” he tweeted. “So why do experts keep examining it when it wrongly infers labels will lose rights? Because it is a STRAW MAN against streaming ER? @CommonsDCMS recommended an ADDITIVE right.”

This additive approach sounds more like the third model which was modelled in Page’s report, so there’s a bit of talking at cross purposes here. But the debate (including a sometimes-stormy Q&A after the former Spotify chief economist presented his study at the WIPO session) is a useful insight into the current talking points around ER.

It does strongly highlight the key question. If artists are to increase their share of streaming revenues, does that come from the existing share of the labels, or of the streaming services?

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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