20 May 2020: Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) CEO Kim Bayley has welcomed a growing debate about how to make the recorded music business work better for artists and songwriters as the coronavirus pandemic results in the continuing closure of the live concert business. 

Under the hashtags #BrokenRecord and #FixStreaming the past weeks have seen a passionate debate among musicians arguing the status quo does not work for them. 

In a personal blog for members including virtually every digital service and entertainment retailer in the UK, ERA CEO Kim Bayley said today, “The effective closure of the live music business has robbed many musicians of their biggest single source of revenue. It is no wonder that this has focused attention on the relatively low returns many feel they see from the use of their recordings on streaming services. 

ERA is a strong supporter of artist’s rights. Putting the interests of creators as well as consumers at the heart of all we do is one of our five key priorities. But DSP's cannot change current practices alone as their contracts are not with the artists.  The whole music industry needs to work together and recognise the value each part of the industry brings to the table.”

 And Bayley warns that the current debate is being distorted by misleading claims 

“The streaming revolution saved the record business,” she said. “It would be short-sighted and self-defeating if in attempting to #FixStreaming, we ended up undermining it. You don’t mend a #BrokenRecord by smashing the record player.”   

Among the distorting claims she identifies is the complaint that streaming services pay “only” around 70% of subscription fees for the music they offer. 

“The reality is that this is almost identical to the percentage of revenue paid for downloads and that in turn is little different to the margin on physical sales,” she said. “If it is “fair” to reduce the money Amazon or Deezer or Spotify, for instance, retain to run their businesses, it must be equally fair to do the same to iTunes, HMV and even Rough Trade, and no one is seriously suggesting that.”

 She said that the fact some artists have relatively low earnings from streaming is not in itself evidence of unfairness. She points out that the biggest physical record store in the world stocks no more than 100,000 albums, while the biggest streaming services have the equivalent of more than four million. 

“The fact is that the larger the number of tracks, the larger the number of low earners as well as high earners,” she said. “An easy way to increase the average earnings of musicians on streaming services would be to dramatically cut back the number of tracks on those services, but no one is suggesting that.”

 Bayley highlights the success of streaming services in defeating piracy and reviving the music industry. 

“The UK record business is a billion pounds a year better off because of the innovation and investment of digital services. Artists and songwriters who would be receiving nothing for their work are now earning money,” she said.  “Driving growth, encouraging new users and persuading people not currently paying to stream music to do so, is our number one priority. That as much as anything is the guarantor that artist and songwriter incomes will continue to rise.”



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