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Deezer and Universal Music Group’s partnership on a new ‘artist-centric’ streaming payouts model has certainly got the music industry talking. Four veterans of the independent music sector are the latest to comment.

Martin Mills of Beggars Group, Darius Van Arman of Secretly Distribution, Stephan Bourdoiseau of Wagram Stories and Emmanuel de Buretel of Because Music have co-authored a guest column for Music Ally welcoming some of Deezer’s plans, but expressing concern about others.

“There are some problems with what they propose, but there are solutions to those problems, and if they are addressed, the new system has the potential to be revolutionary,” wrote the execs.

“Although Universal and  Deezer deserve credit for kickstarting this initiative, this should not just be an arrangement between one supplier and one DSP, formed in a vacuum.  This should be universal with a small ‘u’, and should determine which side of the road we all drive on. The data which has driven this thinking needs to be made available to all those that need to buy in to this model.”

They continued: “Furthermore, in an environment where the current system has been criticised for not fairly or adequately supporting non-superstar artists and releases, any solution brokered by the biggest music company that appears to further consolidate revenues in the music industry has to be given a rigorous review by other rightsholders.”

Mills, Van Arman, Bourdoiseau and de Buretel welcomed Deezer and UMG’s determination to crack down on streaming manipulation and fraud, as well as their move to remove ‘noise’ audio content from the music royalties pool.

They also offered some potential additions. “It is normal in many walks of life for those who do well to subsidise those below them on the ladder,” they wrote.

“A  limitation on payable streams, akin to  a system of taxation, could be applied to the top ranks of streaming beneficiaries to flow a slice of incremental income into the pot, to the benefit of those newcomers that need time to create a fanbase. This would in turn support the ecosystem that makes the success of future stars possible.”

They also suggested that streaming services might “charge a small flat amount for every track delivered, same to everyone, with that money going to the pot to recognise that there are costs to uploading and storing tracks that do not create value for the service”.

You can read the full guest column here.

The four execs are just the latest members of the independent music community to voice mixed feelings about what Deezer and Universal Music group are working on. Announced in September, their model would give ‘double boosts’ within the royalties pool for artists who get at least 1,000 monthly streams from at least 500 unique listeners.

Songs that are actively chosen by listeners, rather than served to them by a recommendation algorithm, would also be double-boosted in the system. Deezer will also replace ‘non-artist noise content’ like white noise tracks with its own versions, which will not generate royalties, while developing a stricter anti-fraud system.

Believe Music criticised the model as a “reverse Robin Hood” plan a few days later, suggesting that emerging artists might lose out. European indie body Impala expressed similar wariness about the first of Deezer’s double-boosts, as did UK independents body AIM.

As with today’s piece, however, they also welcomed other elements of the proposed model, particularly around fraud and non-artist noise content.

For its part, Deezer has defended the plans. CEO Jeronimo Folgueira said that “if an artist doesn’t get to 1,000 streams and 500 listeners a month, they cannot make a living regardless of what the payout of the model is… And any up-and-coming artist that is rising up gets to those levels pretty quickly.”

The company is hoping that “a big chunk, if not more than half” of its content will be on the new model by the time it launches in France this October, with a global rollout planned for 2024.

Today’s intervention by four key figures from the independent music community may increase the pressure on Deezer and UMG to be even more transparent about how the new model works, as well as the calculations that went into devising it.

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