It’s been a long time coming, but the UK government’s response to a recent report on the economy of music streaming has finally arrived. However, anyone who expects a clear conclusion to the heated debate labeled against artists and lyricists will be disappointed.
In fact, if it was a soccer match, it would be heading for extra time after an entertaining, high-scoring tie. And both sides will still believe that they can ultimately claim victory, even if it takes the music business to be the equivalent of a penalty shoot-out for them.
After a lengthy investigation, the Parliamentary Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sports issued a fatal report in July, demanding a “complete restoration” of the sector. But, while describing the report as “an important moment for the music industry”, it is clear that the government has not yet been persuaded to take such a radical step – although it does not deny that it will take any time in the future.
The committee also referred the case to the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) for a market study on the economic impact of what three so-called labels call “market dominance”. It sounds dramatic – and indeed the DCMS Committee’s statement praised the acceptance of the recommendations of an original report. But, in fact, the CMA – an independent body – will decide for itself whether such a study is needed. A market study, it should also be noted, will be somewhat far from a complete market investigation.
The official response says, “A market study may have value,” but the CMA will have to decide how its resources can be used to deliver its objectives in order to make the market work better for consumers and businesses. “
With that buck going through, the government also seemed keen to kick several more recommendations into the long haul. An important call for the introduction of a fair digital music remuneration – which would increase artists’ share of the cost of labels – was deemed worthy of further scrutiny, with the government promising to “work to better understand the issues of fairness” in the case of producer and actor remuneration. ”
“As part of this work, the government will evaluate different models, such as fair remuneration and artist growth models, how they can affect different parts of the music industry and how they can be achieved, through possible legislation,” the response said. The government expects an update on progress in the spring of 2022.
There will also be more research in various areas such as contract reform; Securing a large portion of the pie for the lyricists; Royal transparency; Industry metadata values; And the effects of streaming algorithms.
The government promised to look into the lessons of implementing the European Copyright Guidelines – which, thanks to Brexit, does not apply to the UK – to look at possible British law along similar lines. This could sound a danger signal on YouTube, which has long benefited from the ‘safe haven’ rule around user-created content although, again, the actual law will probably be far away.
So for now, the only definite step is that the government will soon publish its “Earnings of Creators in the Digital Age” study. It closely monitors how much artists and writers earn from streaming, and hopes the DCMS committee will “confirm what artists and musicians told us” about their “pathetic” streaming revenue.
To further examine the committee’s recommendations, the government will set up a “music industry introductory group” with representatives from the industry. And it will launch a research program and two technical stakeholder working groups.
Despite the lack of specific action, DCMS Committee President Julian Knight MP welcomed the response.
“Our investigation into music streaming has uncovered fundamental problems within the structure of the music industry,” he said. “The testimony of all those who have provided evidence of our investigation is that the government has acknowledged our report as an‘ important moment ’for the music industry.
“Importantly, the ministers have adopted a key recommendation to mention the dominance of major music groups to the competition and market authorities,” he added. “Our report reveals the unqualified position these companies have achieved. We have shown deep concern that their dominance is distorting the market.
BPI, however, which represents both major and individual labels, also seemed fairly happy.
“We note the government’s response that the CMA is an independent regulator and any decision to conduct market research is up to them,” the statement said. “If CMA conducts a study, we look forward to detailing the role of labels in supercharging British talent carriers in a complex and dynamic ecosystem.
“We welcome government recognition for a better understanding of the complexities of the music streaming market, and industry action to address concerns is preferable to legal intervention that could negatively impact performers, jeopardizing a difficult return to growth year after year. Fall – and the loss of music producers and the global competitiveness of UK music.
“We look forward to further research on transparency and metadata and to actively participate in industry working groups.”
But the #FixStreaming and #BrokenRecord campaigns are not discouraged. Although they have not yet officially responded to the official statement, various sources say that promoters are happy that the law has not been repealed, while calling for more research and potential CMA market study will save the debate and give artists and songwriters more opportunities across their points.
In other words, we are still far from the final whistle. Roll in the spring of 2022 …