Thu. Mar 4th, 2021


The next MBW op/ed comes from Tom Grey, a UK-based skilled musician and the founding father of #BrokenRecord. A social media-driven marketing campaign, #BrokenRecord requires extra of the streaming income ‘pie’ to make its method to artists and songwriters – whether or not that income comes from companies like Spotify themselves, or from file labels. #BrokenRecord has been a key agitator within the launch of an ongoing UK Parliamentary inquiry into streaming economics. Grey is a founding member and songwriter of Mercury Prize-winning band Gomez, whose first two albums – Carry It On (1993) and Liquid Pores and skin (1999) – each went Platinum within the UK. As well as, he’s a composer for films, commercials and TV reveals, together with British comedy In My Pores and skin.


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I hope you’re conscious of the #BrokenRecord Marketing campaign. It was instrumental in gaining a UK Parliamentary inquiry into the economics of streaming. (As we speak, Spotify, Apple and Amazon have been questioned by MPs.)

If #BrokenRecord has crossed your path, you’re more likely to know we need to reform the music streaming market, however you’re additionally more likely to have heard or learn some misrepresentation alongside the way in which.

The #BrokenRecord hashtag seeks to be a rallying name for anybody who desires change for artists, performers and songwriters. I can not hope to talk for everybody – nor would I dare. However, if I could, I’d wish to at the least make clear my place because the marketing campaign’s founder and, for need of a greater time period, spokesperson.

Let me pragmatically set out what I believe is perhaps achievable and sensible by means of compromise, but additionally place our trade on extra sustainable and moral floor.


I really like streaming, I simply hate the remuneration system sitting inside it. It’s a stunning home with beautiful furnishings, however with dangerously unhealthy wiring and the property agent appears to have set the value a bit low in the hunt for a fast sale.

My campaigning place isn’t solely about what’s honest, though I can’t deny a way of injustice drives me. It’s about fixing a mainly un-useful system. It’s about what we would like music and the recorded music trade to be.

“Streaming is a beautiful home with beautiful furnishings, however with dangerously unhealthy wiring.”

It’s about reconnecting artists with the audiences they construct and, in flip, rebuilding an trade as taken with artist growth as market-share.

It’s about having a mannequin that doesn’t require the discrete touring enterprise to underwrite it.

The pandemic music trade: a bar proprietor is aware of he can poorly pay his bartender as a result of she additionally holds down a job as a barista. Then, all of the sudden, the espresso store closes. The bar proprietor is like, “Hey bartender, you’re solely indignant ‘cos the espresso store is closed!” The unemployed barista seems in any respect the beers she should serve and howls.


The prevailing system financially disincentivises a broader scope of music and music style. It’s main us in the direction of a cultural vanishing level and, for particular person artists confronted with the haywire economics of a income pool divided by complete streams, in the direction of a monetary vanishing level too.

In keeping with The Trichordist, the calculable common per-stream price paid by Spotify has roughly halved in a decade earlier than inflation (though Spotify is an excessive case due to their free providing). The descent of the worldwide Common Price Per Consumer (ARPU) has accelerated this impact.

Every new person ought so as to add actual worth to the artists they take heed to as a substitute of enjoying a big half within the dilution of all income.


Too typically I’ve seen the argument that the issue is ‘we merely have too many artists now’. Nevertheless, regardless that listeners is perhaps listening to a wider vary of artists, the variety of artists every person can take heed to will finally all the time be restricted by the point they’ve.

The blame for descending funds can not singularly lie within the progress within the variety of artists on the market, however in a income pool that isn’t rising on the identical price because the variety of customers.

I don’t imagine that each single (little question proficient) particular person who has discovered a synthesiser, configured Garageband and opened an account with DistroKid ought to essentially be entitled to pay their lease from recorded music. Although I’m no survival-of-the-fittest capitalist, a meritocracy in music appears to be its pure state – there’ll all the time be live performance pianists and people of us who will solely purchase popcorn at Carnegie Corridor.

“What I need is the restoration of a bigger, safe, skilled class of artist, songwriter and performer.”

What I need is the restoration of a bigger, safe, skilled class of artist, songwriter and performer. I need youngsters to have the ability to aspire to make a dwelling from authentic music, not merely large fame or bust. I need them to have the ability to make music with their friends and there be sufficient cash to go round.

For this to be attainable we want a remuneration graph that doesn’t flatline till it leaps sharply up for a rarefied few. Over the previous decade or so, an enormous infrastructure of music-based schooling has grown within the UK. Many hundreds of British younger adults in larger schooling pay £9k each year to discover ways to be artists, songwriters and performers.

This machine is powered by youngsters believing they will have a profession in our trade. To not be on the high of the charts, however to have a profession: longevity and affordable earnings from their dedication to the creation of music: an honest dwelling.


Nobody denies that there are some on the market who’re making near a respectable dwelling from streaming. I do know a couple of and I applaud them, however I don’t imagine I’ve met a band but whose revenue is essentially derived from streaming. I haven’t met a solo artist who isn’t on lower than a 50/50 break up with their label who has near that respectable dwelling.

These individuals exist, however any argument that they do appears to be like one for UFOs, the Sasquatch or, at finest, a uncommon chicken that pulls the world’s eyes when noticed within the wild.

So, what does exist? A number of terribly profitable artists after which a small class of solo impartial artists who’ve fortunately cracked the code of streaming success.

Nevertheless, even these doing effectively report back to me that the cheques are getting smaller. When you’ve got an viewers of a set dimension and the worth of streams is descending, you’ve acquired an issue.

A Nationwide Endowment for the Arts 2019 report confirmed that, of all individuals working within the arts, musicians are the probably to have a second job. Greater than actors. Greater than twice as possible as photographers. However we now have a technology of artists who consider recorded music revenue as purely additive, and extremely unlikely to kind the higher a part of their revenue.

“We learnt from Spotify yesterday that solely the work of seven,500 artists is incomes over $100k (£70k) per 12 months. What number of of them are unrecouped, and what number of are legacy artists with work in Commonplace Offers incomes considerably beneath 15%?”

So, listening to anybody is ‘doing effectively’ from streaming all the time comes with a pinch of salt. What’s ‘doing effectively’?

Yesterday (February 22) we learnt from Spotify that the work of 57k artists globally earn 90% of that platform’s revenues. However this can be a messy and deceptive statistic.

Mark Mulligan estimates that 98% of this high tier are in label offers and can earn round 30% of no matter Spotify states is coming their approach. Nevertheless, most main offers, which must account for a excessive proportion of higher-earning works, are nearer to twenty% (we’ve seen weeks the place near 90% of the worldwide high 50 is main label tracks).

We additionally learnt from Spotify yesterday that solely the work of seven,500 artists is incomes over $100k (£70k) per 12 months. What number of of them are unrecouped, and what number of are legacy artists with work in Commonplace Offers incomes considerably beneath 15%?

What number of are in 50/50 offers incomes £35k earlier than administration expenses and tax? If Mark’s 98% is something like appropriate, that provides us the outstanding determine of 150 artists globally who’re absolutely impartial and incomes near £70k each year (though distributors and administration want their cuts).

What number of are fully non-existent artists with faux biographies invented by the likes of Epidemic Sound to landfill the playlist system?

Maybe worse, this determine tells us nothing concerning the prices going through artists. You’d suppose from the way in which these earnings are mentioned that making music is free. The necessity for prepared cash is what drives most artists into inequitable label offers. Additionally – no shock right here – it’s why the kind of artist who can achieve streaming tends to be impartial, solo and, likely information in a house studio.

So, when individuals say these complaining about streaming are a ‘kind of artist’ I imagine they’ve the entire drawback inverted. It appears to me there’s just about just one kind of artist who’s ‘doing effectively’.


After all, some artists will fail, and a few will succeed, however – guess what – so do labels. Generally an artist can ship one thing wonderful, however their label is perhaps going by means of a administration shake-up, a budgetary problem, a scandal or another calamity and so they miss the boat. Generally they’re lazy or God terrible at their jobs.

So, in the event you’re sitting there comforting your self that failing artists are merely victims of the meritocracy, please suppose once more. An artist will not often have their rights returned on such an event. The labels don’t admit their failure and hand again the masters with a mea culpa.

In a Commonplace Report Deal, that failed label sometimes will get to take advantage of these rights unchallenged for seventy years… an terrible punishment for not being nice at your job. We all know there will likely be winners and losers within the music enterprise, however perhaps there needs to be extra winners.


Since I first coined it, I can state categorically that the #BrokenRecord hashtag has been utilized by each form of artist you’ll be able to think about.

A really actual unhappiness is discovered amongst digital producers and DJs; the issue weighs heavy on singer-songwriters; it’s mentioned by MCs and pop writers; it lurks in each single nook of our trade. All as a result of a mixture of inequitable file offers and the ‘income share’ streaming mannequin is snatching failure from the jaws of success.

We’ve actively defunded nearly all of musical style and, with out it, a wider swathe of artistry struggles to succeed. There could also be a couple of causes for this however there’s one I preserve coming again to: someplace between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 listeners (totally different DSPs have totally different information concerning this) are distributing the overwhelming majority of complete streaming revenues by means of ‘hyper-listening’ habits.

“It’s dampening wider tradition for no smart cause past our incapacity to vary streaming funds.”

Think about for a second that you simply, at random, let one particular person in each 5 you meet select what TV you watch, what books you learn or who you spend your time with. That tyranny is what we’re doing to music.

There’s each cause to suspect this ‘1 in 5’ particular person is perhaps a bot, however setting that apart, let’s think about them… They get away from bed, activate algorithmic playlisting and let it run all day lengthy. They hear 18 hours of music on daily basis and extract over £40 of streams from £5 of their subscription. With your subscription, you basically pay for this particular person’s music listening. No matter is of their listening will get paid essentially the most, receives essentially the most advertising and marketing spend and the wheel turns.

It’s dampening wider tradition for no smart cause past our incapacity to vary streaming funds.


As you might need guessed, I’m an advocate for user-centric fee. Searching for a method to remunerate artists and genres which have managed to construct smaller however dedicated audiences isn’t an act of charity, it’s higher for our complete ecosystem. That is the expertise pool from which stars are born and people jobbing artists I hope we can assist to thrive. Do you suppose that having fewer break-through world stars and pageant headliners within the streaming period is a mere coincidence?

The profitable, skilled tier of artists must be promoted and funded. Even when the good points are marginal from user-centric, with its related cultural diversification and reconnection of artist and fan, it’s a – and I hate this phrase – no-brainer from my perspective. The reality is the system ought to virtually actually have been user-centric all alongside.

It’s not often famous that in a user-centric system, every new listener can solely add worth with their subscription, they will’t dilute the pool (as a brand new hyper-listener may in the event that they reside in a decrease paying area and are on a household plan). And, because of making a direct monetary connection between listeners and the artists they like, we will determine actual followers and market to them. We are able to promote t-shirts, vinyl or tickets to these followers.

“Consumer-centric makes a direct monetary connection between listeners and the artists they like. In consequence, we will determine actual followers and market to them. We are able to promote t-shirts, vinyl or tickets to these followers.”

The present revenue-share mannequin largely prevents this: it spits out wild, huge information about complete streams with a little bit of geography hooked up and, with its accompanying NDA-culture; even when the DSPs know who our followers are, we’re prevented from increasing the providing. Consumer-centric is a large business alternative ready to occur – not only a rebalancing of remuneration and tradition. Amazon Music may theoretically rival Ticketmaster.

It additionally means if any of these 1 of 5 hyper-listeners are bots, any fraud is close to eradicated. That at the least some hyper-listening may also be enterprise premises cheekily utilizing private streaming accounts appears to be not often, if ever, mentioned.

However shouldn’t we nonetheless have one-hit-wonders? What about pop music having its superb transient moments? To protect that, it might make sense to have a hybrid system.

I imagine a proportion of our subscription needs to be distributed by means of CMOs through good outdated revenue-share. For these critics of user-centric who decry the way in which it’d barely redistribute to catalogue artists, right here is your easy answer. This enables for extra break-through music and can nonetheless give us our pop sensations. Streaming can nonetheless be about singles but additionally, for the primary time, equate to the album period too. And, if streaming goes to cannibalise radio listening – and the listening habits of the younger suggests it would – we have to have handled how artists and songwriters get pleasure from the identical rights and remuneration they’ve had.


Songwriters, particularly, are beginning to breathe very skinny air certainly. The music is deeply undervalued and the current dedication of streaming as gross sales is, in some ways, the foundation trigger. However the UK distribution of publishing, if not its dimension, does present us an fascinating path: half performing proper, half-mechanical. We may come to an analogous ‘half-way home’ for the entire thing. Some imagine streaming is communication and/or rental, some insist it’s gross sales. Okay, let’s break up it in two.

In UK publishing, it may be noticed that the negotiating problems with a blanket license (sometimes troubled by competitors regulation) will be partly corrected by its worth following the extra unfettered publishers’ mechanical rights. If we did the identical for recordings, the related unique rights could possibly be distributed through user-centric accounting for 50% of remuneration.

A blanket license for public efficiency would mirror and comply with these unique rights however be distributed through ‘Equitable Remuneration’. Within the UK this could imply an excellent break up between performers and labels, and, for the primary time, artists incomes one thing from their streams regardless of label debt. Backing musicians would sigh with aid on receiving a royalty for the primary time too.

Underneath this hybrid ‘half-way home’ system 75% can be paid to rights-holders and 25% to performers: a real rebalancing nonetheless reflecting the danger taken by labels – even when I personally discover the phrases of most recoupment offers dismal and regressive.


You see, the key music teams have been unreliable narrators on this story. Those that work for them will not be unhealthy individuals – removed from it. Only a bit… self-deceiving.

Streaming isn’t merely a ‘gross sales system’ regardless of how a lot you stubbornly keep on message. A baby can see it’s part-rental, part-communication and perhaps somebody can persuade me it’s part-sales too. Labels could need to lose some share of the streaming pie, however in recognition of what streaming is, not what we’ve tried to pressure it to be.

If streaming goes to develop to almost thrice its current worth over the subsequent decade, why wouldn’t we rebalance? Isn’t having barely much less of a a lot larger pie a suitable trade-off particularly when these new alternatives seem?

“there’s greater than sufficient cash to go round and a broader, economically safe, skilled class of creator is well achievable have been there a willingness to vary.”

The main rights-holders are making extraordinary income whereas the platforms seem to not be.

Warner Music’s inventory bonus following its IPO – paid to simply 6 executives – may have paid all 50,000 musicians within the UK round £12k every. Think about if Warner had used such a windfall to settle their roster’s unrecouped money owed. The manager pay is eye-watering, ill-judged and out of contact with actuality. One thing deeply incorrect is occurring and it’s been simply employed to get the eye of UK legislators.

The majors ought to instantly signal as much as the Honest Digital Offers initiative that was laudably adopted by a lot of the impartial sector a couple of years in the past. So clear a toddler can see it: there’s greater than sufficient cash to go round and a broader, economically safe, skilled class of creator is well achievable have been there a willingness to vary.


Lastly, there’s the difficulty of worth. Streaming is a bit low cost. The household packs and different bundle offers are too beneficiant with the variety of accounts they low cost – driving down that ARPU once more.

Consumer-centric does a number of the work of stopping the downward spiral within the worth of every stream, and thereby the returns to every particular person artist, however we will’t get caught on a pricing which suggests music is deflating year-on-year.

I’m sorry Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Deezer and so on however you could have a duty to music in addition to your business enlargement. The few £ you’ll lose from going to £10.99 (from £9.99) will possible be coated by the value hike. The connection of the fashionable human and their direct banking is extra complicated than the buyer making a selection at a counter. Have a bit of religion in your providing, the algorithms you’re keen on a lot, the worth all of us placed on music and that financial reality you’ve been ignoring like an indignant e mail: worth elasticity.


The query I’m requested most frequently is “do you anticipate something to vary?” to which I often reply, “I don’t have cause to be hopeful, however I’m a contented soldier.”

The rationale I say it is because what I, and so many others are asking for, although painfully affordable, appears wildly optimistic. I’m unhappy to say we’ve learnt to carry low expectations in lots of components of our trade. However this is the reason I turned my marketing campaign to regulation and laws. I, like a lot of my friends, are bored with being listened to however ignored. We’re bored with testing the vagaries of contract regulation within the courts. Regulation is what we’ve been left with and I think it’s what the trade fears essentially the most.

If I used to be accountable for one of many main music teams, a giant indie, a distributor or a streaming platform, I’d take a look at what #BrokenRecord has managed to attain in lower than a 12 months and marvel if I can navigate what occurs when creators efficiently seize the political house and inform industrial coverage. I might not await a nationwide authorities to determine to reclassify the entire of streaming – that’s the place my employer would stand to lose essentially the most. As an alternative, I’d begin making calls… my cellphone is on.Music Enterprise Worldwide





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