Musicians are earning “multiple millions” from streaming, if their songs prove sufficiently popular with listeners, record industry bosses claimed during a stormy grilling by MPs.
Appearing before the Commons Culture select committee, the heads of the UK’s “big three” major labels – Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music – were asked why the share record companies took from streaming revenues was three times that paid out to artists.
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The MPs quoted indie singer Nadine Shah who said she was an established artist but unable to pay the rent from her meagre streaming income.
Profits ‘fair reward’
The CEOs argued that their cut was a fair reward for the risks involved in developing artists, recording, marketing and distribution.
Tony Harlow, chief executive of Warner Music UK, said an artist could receive £1,000 from one million streams on Spotify. But he said Warner, home to Ed Sheeran and Pink Floyd, was home to four acts that racked up 10 billion streams last year, earning those musicians “multiple millions.”
David Joseph, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music UK, said the entire streaming system should not change because some artists, with smaller but more devoted fanbases, had suffered more due to the live shutdown.
Addressing her comments, Mr Joseph said: “I think Nadine Shah is a wonderful musician. She is a wonderful songwriter. But the amount of money an artist gets from streaming is determined in certain parts by popularity.”
He said artists with a “relatively small” but “passionate” fanbase had been hard hit but said it was “not possible and not logical” to instantly replace the money they would have made through other income streams such as streaming.
‘Oligopoly’ claim denied
Committee chair Julian Knight accused Mr Joseph of “dissembling” during fractious exchanges over the terms of Universal’s licensing deal with Spotify.
At the suggestion the major labels were operating like an “oligopoly”, Jason Iley, chairman and chief executive of Sony Music UK and Ireland, said he saw more competition today than in the last 30 years.
Record labels and new artists face “massive competition” from established acts such as Queen and the Beatles due to the advent of streaming, the MPs heard.
Peter Leathem, chief executive of Phonographic Performance Ltd, said that performers were “struggling” to make a living from their music in part due to the competition they face for plays and revenue.