Yesterday was quite a day for Music Ally on social media: our piece exploring how streaming services can generate more royalties for artists was shared approvingly by both Daniel Ek and David Lowery – surely a first, and hopefully a sign that we approached the subject in a constructive and respectful way. Other industry figures continue to add their views to what (in the UK at least) is coming together around the #BrokenRecord campaign.
MMF boss Annabella Coldrick published some thoughts yesterday for example, suggesting that the Covid-19 crisis might be the opportunity to “re-evaluate streaming shares”. The potential to switch to ‘user-centric’ payouts is one of her key points. “The drive to reconnect what a subscriber pays for and who receives their subscription fee appears more compelling than ever. Not only economically, but also psychologically and even morally,” she wrote, later adding: “The counter arguments to reform, and to reevaluate licensing blueprints established in the mid-2000s, are almost laughably obtuse, and it feels there are few incentives for winners under the current system to upset the status quo and commit to a rigorous study of other – and potentially fairer – licensing and payment models.”
Also see Midia Research boss Mark Mulligan’s latest blog post, digging into the economics of streaming and some of the levers that might be pulled to alter them. He is blunt about some of the hoped-for changes. “Streaming royalties can be increased meaningfully if prices are increased and rates revisited but it may slow the streaming market. Now is probably not the best time to be increasing streaming prices for consumers. Even a big increase is not going to offset the fall in live income,” he wrote.
Mulligan’s ‘blended, pragmatic solution’ involves increasing royalties at a “middle option rate” but only after the upcoming recession; artists encouraging fans to buy their music from platforms like Bandcamp; progress to “professionalise and commercialise the livestreaming sector, with a strong focus on charging for events in order to create some live income”; and creating more “virtual fandom products to drive new, additional income streams”.
Nobody has a silver bullet, but the fact that more people are accepting this and thinking around the challenges pragmatically is a good step forward in itself. The key task will be turning this talk into meaningful action.