Spotify royalties: 'Problem lies with labels - not streaming services', says Billy Bragg

Spotify royalties: 'Problem lies with labels - not streaming services', says Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg has called on UK artists to "take action" in order to get better royalty streaming rates from the major labels - as he defends Spotify against criticisms related to its payments to performers.

In an open letter released today, Bragg suggests that artists "railing against Spotify" is unhelpful to the music industry and fellow musicians. His comments come after the likes Thom Yorke and Placebo's Brian Molko publicly attacked Spotify this year for the income it provides performers.

Bragg says that contracts signed before the streaming age are the key problem for many artists, leaving them with just 8%-15% of the total revenues collected by labels from Spotify - a rate that would historically take into account costs related to physical products.

Not all labels follow this trend, however: Beggars Group, for instance, pays artists 50% of all streaming royalties on a licence (rather than a sales/download) basis.  And it's not only independent acts that benefit from such a contract: Robbie Williams' contract with Island - technically a services/distribution deal through his own label Farrell Music - is understood to ensure he gets paid a similar rate.

Said Bragg today: "I've long felt that artists railing against Spotify is about as helpful to their cause as campaigning against the Sony Walkman would have been in the early 80s. Music fans are increasingly streaming their music and, as artists, we have to adapt ourselves to their behaviour, rather than try to hold the line on a particular mode of listening to music.

"The problem with the business model for streaming is that most artists still have contracts from the analog age, when record companies did all the heavy lifting of physical production and distribution, so only paid artists 8%-15% royalties on average.

"Those rates, carried over to the digital age, explain why artists are getting such paltry sums from Spotify. If the rates were really so bad, the rights holders - the major record companies - would be complaining. The fact that they're continuing to sign up means they must be making good money.

"Here in Sweden - where I'm doing a show tonight in Malmo - artists have identified that the problem lies with the major record labels rather the streaming service and are taking action to get royalty rates that better reflect the costs involved in digital production and distribution. UK artists would be smart to follow suit.


Tags: spotify, billy bragg

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