Streaming royalties are broken, Rashida Tlaib thinks Congress can fix them – TechCrunch

This has never happened before An easy time for musicians, but for many in and around the industry, the 21st century has brought disaster after disaster for those hoping to make a living through music. By the turn of the century, record companies were imploding at breakneck speed, and it would be some time before salvation arrived in the form of streaming services, which finally offered an effective way to monetize listening to music.

Viewed in the harsh light of day, however, a big question arises: who exactly are these services for? According to the Record Industry Association of America, streaming accounted for 83% of all recorded music revenue in the US in 2020. Calculating how much an artist earns per stream can be a complex task.

Different rights holders strike different deals, and there are many chefs vying for that money, including publishers, distributors, and labels. The generally accepted figure for Spotify is that artists are paid out between $0.003 and $0.005 for each stream. The number varies widely from service to service, although it’s generally fractions of a cent. Apple, in particular, announced last April that it was paying about a cent per stream — a generous number by streaming industry standards.

Income rates have, of course, been a common complaint among musicians for more than a decade, but like so many other work issues, things have come to a head during the pandemic. More than two years of limited or no touring has highlighted the concerns. In late 2020, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) launched the Justice at Spotify campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

“With the entire live music ecosystem in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic, music creators are more dependent than ever on streaming revenue,” the organization noted at the time. “We call on Spotify to provide higher royalty payments, transparency in their practices and to stop fighting artists.”

The union would eventually find a sympathetic ear in Congress in the form of Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Reports surfaced last week that the congresswoman was putting together a resolution aimed at establishing a royalty program to provide musicians with fair compensation through per-stream royalties. “It was a meeting with the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers,” Tlaib tells TechCrunch. “One of the things that kept coming up was what Congress could do to support their efforts to be protected, and also get musicians fairly rewarded for their work. To have respect in this area, especially from so many people in the industry who continue to monopolize and whatnot. They did a great job coming to us with this proposal and taught my team and I so much about how it works now.”

Tlaib says her team worked closely with UMAW to draft the resolution. “We are doing the same with our housing bills and trying to address the economic divide in our country. We let them guide us. I work for them, help them and stand up for them. They teach me so much about monopoly in the industry and how specifically Spotify is acting in bad faith in many ways.”

Musician and UMAW member/organizer (and musician/newsletter writer) Damon Krukowski said in a statement to TechCrunch:

Currently, music streaming is building fortunes for streaming platforms at the expense of musicians. UMAW is working to correct this imbalance. Rep Tlaib’s proposed legislation would guarantee a minimum payment from platforms directly to the musicians who play on streamed recordings. The infrastructure for such payments is already in place as they are already required by satellite radio. The same principle must be applied to streaming for fairness and sustainability of recorded music.

Tlaib’s decision provides for the non-profit royalty group SoundExchange and the Copyright Royalty Board to be responsible for calculating and distributing the royalties. The two bodies already serve a similar function for webcasting and satellite radio. This would effectively work under a complementary model tailored for streaming.

When news of the resolution broke out at the end of July, word got around in the industry. Tlaib said she hasn’t spoken directly to Spotify yet, stating, “I understand they’re aware of that.” She adds, “My priority isn’t with the companies. It probably never will be. They have their lawyers, they have their lobbyists, they have their resources to run ads and summon people to say that whatever things they say will happen if we keep pushing this thing forward. My priority is to do everything right and not be traded fairly in this market.”

TechCrunch has reached out to Spotify about the story, but hasn’t received any comment yet. CEO Daniel Ek has made waves in the past when he suggested that the streaming model just couldn’t — or wouldn’t — support musicians the way record sales have historically done. “Some artists who have done well in the past may not do well in this future landscape,” he said in a July 2019 interview, “where you can’t record music every three to four years and think that’s enough becomes .”

Tlaib’s resolution has begun to gain momentum among peers in the House. Most recently, New York Representative – and another squad member – Jamaal Bowman endorsed the bill, which awaits review by the House Legislative Counsel.

Tlaib tells TechCrunch that she believes such legislation could find bipartisan support in Congress as well.

“I think what’s happening is that people don’t realize that a lot of the people who are being affected by what’s happening live across all congressional districts. I don’t think you could go to a district that either isn’t affected by this or doesn’t understand how incredibly unfair it is. I know that we will be able – especially with the work that the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers is doing outside of Congress – to make this a viable law.”

Tlaib’s own district — which includes West Detroit — can certainly lay claim to that influence.

“Detroit is a global music capital of the world: Motown, techno, jazz, gospel. I wanted to honor that and respect this incredible work that has played a huge part in the movement’s work,” she said. “Music played a big part in growing up in the social justice movement. It was a way of bringing people together to try to understand not only human pain, but the possibility of being “better.” When I think of these great musicians coming together like this, it’s incredibly inspiring. And why not? Why don’t they deserve Spotify and other big people in the industry paying them what they deserve?” Streaming royalties are broken, Rashida Tlaib thinks Congress can fix them – TechCrunch

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