There’s never been an easy time to be a musician, but for many in and around the industry, the 21st century has presented one calamity after another for those hoping to make a living through music. The turn of the century saw record labels implode at a staggering rate, and it would be some time before some salvation arrived in the form of streaming services, which finally offered an effective method to monetize music listening.
Examined in the harsh light of day, however, a major question emerges: Who, precisely, do these services benefit? According to the Record Industry Association of America, streaming comprised 83% of all recorded music revenue in the U.S., as of 2020. Calculating the amount of revenue an artist makes per stream can be a complex task.
Different rights holders strike different deals, and you’ve got a lot of cooks vying for that money, including publishers, distributors and labels. The commonly accepted figure for Spotify is that somewhere between $0.003 and $0.005 is paid out to artists for every stream. The figure varies widely from service to service, though it’s generally fractions of a cent. Apple, notably, revealed last April that it pays around a penny per stream — a generous figure by streaming industry standards.
Revenue rates have, of course, been a common complaint among musicians for more than a decade, but like so many other labor issues, things have come to a head during the pandemic. Two-plus years of limited or no touring have brought concerns into sharp relief. 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 workers are more reliant on streaming income than ever,” the org noted at the time. “We are calling on Spotify to deliver increased royalty payments, transparency in their practices, and to stop fighting artists.”
The union would ultimately find a sympathetic ear in Congress in the form of Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Last week, reports surfaced that the congresswoman was putting together a resolution aimed at establishing a royalty program to provide musicians adequate compensation via royalties on per-stream basis. “It was a meeting with the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers,” Tlaib tells TechCrunch. “One of the things that continued to come up was what could Congress do in supporting their efforts to be protected and also for musicians to be fairly compensated for their work. To have respect in this field, especially from so many folks in the industry that continue to monopolize and so forth. They did an amazing job, came to us with this proposal and taught my team and I so much about the ins and outs of how it works right now.”
Tlaib says her team worked closely with the UMAW on penning a draft of the resolution. “We do the same thing with our housing bills, …read more