How to evaluate a talent? A talent is worth as much as someone is eager to pay for it. Both sides, the one with the talent and the one with money, are usually extremely different. Artists just make art, companies just make money. It’s a symbiosis. But is it actually a win-win deal or for artists it’s more like a pact with the Devil? Well, rather the latter – according to the 121-page British Parliament’s report on record labels and streaming services.
Music was then spread over the internet out of artists’ and companies’ control.
Initially, streaming saved the music industry against online piracy which was growing in the very beginning of 2000s. In 1999 the music sales in the US were at their peak with over $22 billion of revenue – mostly driven by CDs (source: RIAA). The golden age of physical format brutally ended when peer to peer online services came on stage. Music was then spread over the internet out of artists’ and companies’ control. A few years later, YouTube (2005) and especially Spotify (2006) were founded to deal with the piracy by inventing new rules for sharing and listening to music. Now streaming takes 62% of global music revenues with only 4,7% for physical copies (source: IFPI).
However, sometimes a liberator turns out to be another dominator. Following the Guardian, streaming platforms take around 30-34% of revenues from a stream, record labels – 55%. Just a little rest is left for artist, publisher and songwriter to split between. In April this year 156 artists like Paul McCartney and Led Zeppelin signed an open letter to call on Boris Johson, Prime Minister of the UK, to determinandly support creators in their fight against streaming platforms practices for being fairly rewarded for their work.
In the meantime, The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee had been examining British musicians situation and eventually criticized streaming services for giving „pitiful returns” to artists and thus „impacting the entire creative ecosystem” and having „successful, critically acclaimed professional performers to see meagre returns from the dominant mode of music consumption”. It was mostly directed to Spotify that has 44% streaming market share alone. The report also criticized record labels (naming Sony, Universal and Warner Music) for abusing their position in the music industry structure for their own advantages.
The committee’s possible solution is to treat streaming music as a „rental”, like in a radio, so artists could be rewarded with royalties recouped on their behalf by a collecting society. The report also recommends the right to make changes to a contract when an artist’s work becomes more successful than initial presuppositions.
When it comes to game composers their general royalties usually depend on their individual deals with a developer, but in most cases game music isn’t performed publicly. It means that video game scores are not broadcasted unlike scores in films on Netflix or HBO. Film composers get a one-time fee for creating the score and royalties for any stream of a film with their music. On the other hand, playing a video game is not considered as „performed publicly” when someone plays the game, but composers can still get royalties for their work if the contract allows them to collect such royalties. If so, it includes any appearances in media, like streaming on Spotify.
Artists in general speak louder and louder about their relation with the music industry.
From this angle, the report gives a hope to composers of dozens of game soundtracks streamed everyday to be fairly rewarded. The music is getting spread over different sources, including social media, like TikTok or Twitch which complicates sharing royalties. However, in fact, it’s a time when artists in general speak louder and louder about their relation with the music industry and it sounds like the beginning of a revolution. Perhaps, a big change is around the corner.