Ahead of the publication tomorrow of the UK Parliament’s report into the economics of streaming, a group of performers from across Europe have endorsed the recent call from British music-makers for a remuneration right in law that applies to streams. The group of musicians, singers and actors call for similar remuneration rights for performers in all European countries.
A big focus of the inquiry initiated by Parliament’s culture select committee into the streaming business was the digital pie debate – ie the debate over how monies generated by streaming are shared out between all the stakeholders in the music community, including artists, musicians, songwriters, labels, publishers and the streaming services themselves.
Part of that is the specific debate over how streaming monies are shared out on the recordings side between artists and labels. This is currently entirely dependent on the deal any one artist has agreed with the label or distributor they work with, and can be anything from a few percent to 100% of the monies a streaming service has allocated to any one recording.
Artists on pre-digital record deals are usually worse off, because some labels still apply royalty rates and deductions that were originally agreed when the main product was physical discs. Artists and managers argue that all old contracts should be revised to bring them in line with streaming-era contracts, where royalty rates are usually higher and fewer deductions are made from artist payments.
One proposed solution to this problem is that so called performer equitable remuneration be applied to streams. Under copyright law, when music is broadcast and performed in public, performers – including main artists and session musicians – have a statutory right to payment at industry standard rates through the collective licensing system.
In most countries – Spain being a notable exception – this performer ER right does not currently apply to streams. But if it did, all performers would receive at least a minimum share of digital income when recordings on which they appear are streamed, oblivious of whatever any one record contract says.
Although there would be winners and losers if ER was applied to streams even within the artist community, many musicians nevertheless support such a move.
Various people who gave evidence to the Parliamentary inquiry backed the idea of ER being paid on streams, and – following the oral hearings in Parliament – the UK’s Musicians’ Union, Ivors Academy and #brokenrecord campaign organised an open letter to UK Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson calling for copyright law to be changed to that effect. More than 230 notable artists and musicians have now signed that letter.
The new open letter signed by a group of musicians, singers and actors from across the Europe – all of whom back the pan-European PayPerformers campaign – says that the requests in that letter to Johnson “resonate deeply with us performers throughout the European Union”.
It adds: “We face a similar plight – our music, TV shows and films getting played on streaming and downloading services throughout the world and yet most of us not earning anything from our work. As you highlight in your letter to Prime Minister Johnson, we live in a regulatory framework that has not adapted to the digital age, and which has failed to protect us as it has in the past with radio or TV broadcasting”.
The new letter then notes the debates that were had in this domain as the 2019 European Copyright Directive was being negotiated. “You have called for ‘lawful and fair treatment of music makers'”, it goes on, “a request that was heard by lawmakers in the EU back in 2019 when they approved of the new Copyright Directive. Indeed, its article eighteen states that authors and performers, in the musical and audiovisual sector, are ‘entitled to receive appropriate and proportionate remuneration'”.
That particular element of the directive is somewhat open to interpretation of course. The signatories of the new letter continue: “Our campaign has made significant progress in ensuring that this right is successfully implemented in some member states, most recently in Germany. Nonetheless, we continue our fight to make sure governments are providing a specific and adequate enough regulatory framework. We do not trust the system to adapt to our demands organically and are pushing governments to face front-on the struggles we are currently living”.
Which brings things to the idea of performers – in music and beyond – having remuneration rights in law in relation to streaming. “As you are now, we are also calling for our national governments to make us a priority, as they have with producers and entrepreneurs in the past. To that effect, we believe the best solution to the current system’s imbalance is a collectively managed and unwaivable remuneration right collected from the streaming and downloading platforms”.
“Such a system”, they go on, “would unlock a new revenue channel for us and ensure that we will be paid for our work played. It is the system that we want because we know that this system guarantees payment independent from our weak bargaining positions. Not only has this mechanism already proven to be successful in Spain, but as you might have seen, it has also been highlighted in the latest WIPO report on streaming as the best solution to our plight”.
The letter concludes: “Performers are the backbone of the cultural and creative sectors in the UK as well as in the European Union. We stand with you in your demands and assure that, cross-Channel, we will fight by your side to ensure we, performers, can live from our art”.
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