DCMS music streaming mark sutherland

UMG CEO earned more than every single British songwriter combined in the UK last year

A report by the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office last month revealed the aggregate earnings of UK songwriters from on-demand streaming, downloading and physical sales in 2019, totalled £150m in 2020. Yet Lucian Grainge of Universal Music is reported to have earned £152.7m this year.

Sir Lucien is therefore likely to earn more than this week’s Number One album seller Elton John, singles seller Adele, Dua Lipa, Stormzy, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Coldplay, David Bowie and thousands more combined earn from their songs. Grainge, 61, is employed as Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group. He earned £43m in 2020 and last month became entitled to a bonus of £123m after the flotation of the company.

The Intellectual Property Office Report suggests more than a third of musicians (37%) reported earnings of £5,000 or less from music in 2019 and nearly half (47%) earned less than £10,000. Median reported income for those currently signed to major record companies was £51,816.

The report has exposed the significant disparities and inequities that exist within the UK’s streamed music market, with the majority of revenues going to international corporations rather than UK performers and Britain’s arts sector. This has prompted calls from senior MPs across Parliament to “fix streaming so that it pays more like radio”.

Clear solutions exist to reform the UK’s outdated system; solutions which have already been implemented in major economies across the world. Equitable renumeration for performers is already in effect across Europe in countries such as Germany, while British creators continue to pay the price for the UK’s failure to reform.

A Private Members’ Bill led by Kevin Brennan MP is due to be presented to Parliament on 3 December and will present legislative solutions to ensure artists get the rewards from their work which they deserve. The reforms included in the Bill have been recommended by the cross-party group of MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, showing the extent to which this issue bridges party divides and unites MPs on all sides of Parliament.

Indeed, in a recent joint letter to the Prime Minister, over 40 Conservative MPs called on the Government to fix streaming and ensure musicians get a fair share of revenue from their streamed music. The letter highlighted the ways in which reforms to copyright laws to create a fairer system for musicians would contribute to the Government’s wider levelling-up agenda, while also supporting performers who have faced an incredibly difficult 18 months during the pandemic.

The Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy are calling for a rebalancing of streaming revenues so the people who actually make the music receive a greater share.

The Rt Hon Esther McVey MP – who has been leading the charge to fix streaming, and who organised the letter signed by 44 Conservative MPs calling on Government to implement a two word change to the law – said:

“It’s shocking that record label owners are earning more out of artists’ works than the artists themselves.  Those who create and perform music should reap the rewards of their talent and hard work. We’ve got to put this right, to fix streaming so that it pays more like radio and get back to the notion of fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

“And we can do this by implementing a really simple fix that changes two words in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.  It won’t cost the taxpayer a penny, will give British artists a bigger share of the proceeds of their talents, and put more tax revenue into public services like the NHS.

“Two words – that’s all it will take to put more money in the pockets of British musicians, to strengthen our world leading cultural sector, and to allow the market for recorded music to flourish for listeners once again. British cultural heritage is under threat, and it’s time to step in and put it right.”

Jo Stevens MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“When music lovers stream their favourite tracks, they expect those who made the music to be fairly paid.

“But the reality is artists get a pitiful amount while streaming sites and record companies cash in.

“It’s clear that the industry has failed to reform the system and the government has acquiesced in this. So we need legislation and that’s why Labour has supported the Musicians’ Union, The Ivors Academy and Broken Record campaigns to fix this.”

Crispin Hunt, Chairman of The Ivors Academy, said:

“This is evidence of a business which is completely out of control. For songwriters who are struggling to make a living, there’s only one word for it – obscene.

“The music industry has a problem and creators, the public and politicians know it. That one music executive earned more than all the songwriters in the UK last year tells us that this problem is getting worse. We have been warning about a lack of balance where major music labels make unwarranted profits and this latest boomtime announcement reinforces this message. Songwriters, composers and musicians are the true providers of the music economy, without them there are no jobs and no salaries in music.  Music’s creators are being exploited.”

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said:

“The status quo in the music streaming sector – where most revenues go to the record labels and multinational music groups – has been exposed as indefensible. To the best of my knowledge Sir Lucien has never played or written as much as a note of music. No one buys his records or queues for his gigs yet he enjoys rewards and riches beyond the wildest dreams of even our most popular artists and writers. There is no other industry anywhere in the world that would tolerate this gross unfairness and it has to stop now.

“The domination of the major music groups in the streaming market is transparent and runs counter to the interests of our fantastic British performers. Now is the time for the Government to address these imbalances in the sector.

“Reforms such as securing equitable remuneration for performers, improving contract terms, and increasing the music publishing share of streaming revenue would go a long way to transforming the UK into the best place to be a musician, songwriter, or composer in the world. What is needed is a complete reset of the system to ensure that our brilliant musicians are fairly and properly rewarded for their work.”

PPL CEO Peter Leathem: “Organisations like the Musicians Union have noticed that some members were having to leave the profession just to make money”