UK government forms creator ‘remuneration working group’, unveils music streaming metadata agreement

In the UK, the world’s third-largest recorded music market, the government has established what it calls a working group on creator remuneration and in the same week has unveiled an industry agreement on music streaming metadata.

These initiatives aim to promote fair pay for musicians and enhance the accuracy and transparency of metadata in the streaming industry.

According to the Government, the new group will be composed of “representatives and experts” from across the music sector and will “explore and develop industry-led actions that support fair remuneration for existing and future music creators as part of a successful and globally competitive music industry”.

The recommendation to form the group, which was accepted by the government in March, was put forward by the Culture, Media & Sport Committee in January. The Committee’s report in January was a follow-up to its original 2021 report on the Economics of music streaming.

Sir John Whittingdale, Minister of State at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport, disclosed the plan to build a working group in a May 23 letter addressed to Dame Caroline Dinenage, Chair of the Culture Media and Sports Committee.

Whittingdale acknowledged that royalty rates in new recording contracts have increased, with average rates in new contracts now around 25%.

“Additionally, new contracts are increasingly moving away from life-of-copyright durations, in many cases allowing creators to regain control of their music after a shorter period. And these improvements come alongside increasing numbers of artists reaching substantial numbers of streams and being able to make a living from recorded music,” Whittingdale wrote.

However, he acknowledged that many creators still have concerns about how they are paid for streaming.

“While terms in new contracts are increasingly creator-friendly, those benefits are often not extended to creators still signed to older contracts, many of whom are paid at substantially lower royalty rates than their modern counterparts. Additionally, session musicians feel that they are not sharing equitably in the successes of the streaming sector.”

“The creation of a working group we have been calling for is a welcome step towards addressing the frustrations of musicians and songwriters whose pay falls far short of a fair level given their central role in the success of the music streaming industry.”

Dame Caroline Dinenage, British MP

In response, Dinenage on Tuesday (May 30) said: “The creation of a working group we have been calling for is a welcome step towards addressing the frustrations of musicians and songwriters whose pay falls far short of a fair level given their central role in the success of the music streaming industry.”

Didier Martin, the CEO of Outhere Music, in a 2021 op/ed, said the music streaming industry must adopt a “transparent, logical and fair system of revenue” in order to increase the number of subscribers.

Currently, Spotify, the world’s most dominant streaming platform, has around 210 million global paying subscribers after adding another 5 million net Premium subscribers in the first quarter.

The decision to create the group follows the request from campaigners who believed that the original working groups on metadata and contract transparency did not adequately address the matter of musicians’ payment in streaming platforms.

“The government must now make sure the group is more than a talking shop and leads to concrete change so the talented creators and performers we have in this country are properly rewarded for their creativity. The Committee will be keeping a close eye on progress and also looking more widely at artist and creator remuneration to ensure everyone who works in our creative industries can share in its successes,” added Dinenage.

In addition to the working group, the UK government has introduced an industry agreement on music streaming metadata on Wednesday (May 31).

Metadata plays a crucial role in accurately crediting and compensating music creators. The voluntary agreement sets out commitments from stakeholders across the UK music streaming industry to progressively improve metadata in new recordings.

This includes ensuring consistent and comprehensive information about songwriters, performers, and rights owners associated with each track. By enhancing the quality and reliability of metadata, the agreement aims to enable more accurate and timely payments to music creators from streaming platforms.

The agreement also calls for the establishment and support of expert working groups focused on education and technical solutions to further improve metadata over a two-year period.

This collaborative effort between industry experts and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is expected to enhance the overall quality of metadata and contribute to a more efficient and fair music ecosystem.

Commenting on the metadata agreement, Whittingdale said: “The UK is a hotbed for world-beating musical talent but as technology advances we need our thriving music industry to continue to offer viable career opportunities.”

“This landmark agreement on streaming metadata is a step towards ensuring UK musicians in the digital age are fairly credited and compensated for their contributions and creativity. Alongside the IPO I’m pleased to be bringing the industry together so we can explore wider issues around music creator remuneration more generally.”

Viscount Camrose, Minister for AI and Intellectual Property, added: “Good quality metadata benefits everyone who creates and enjoys music. The agreement on metadata is a positive commitment by the music industry to improve the quality of metadata in the UK. I am very pleased to see the wide range of organizations which are signatories to the agreement, and I look forward to seeing the further progress that industry makes on metadata over the next two years.”

“The UK is a hotbed for world-beating musical talent but as technology advances we need our thriving music industry to continue to offer viable career opportunities.”

Sir John Whittingdale, British MP

The introduction of the working group and the industry agreement on metadata follows a parliamentary inquiry into the economics of music streaming and the Culture, Media & Sport Committee’s recommendations.

In October 2020, the industry called for a “complete reset” of streaming in response to issues that professional musicians and independent companies face in the music streaming sector.

The inquiry highlighted the urgent need for fair pay and better working conditions.

Tom Gray, the chair of the Ivors Academy and founder of the Broken Record campaign, sees the development as “an important step down the road.”

Commenting on the formation of the remuneration working group, Sophie Jones, Interim CEO of record label body BPI, which represents major and independent labels in the UK, said: “We are concerned the environment being fostered in the UK will disincentivise investment in our creative ecosystem at a time when labels are fighting hard to grow exports and protect the rights of artists in the era of AI.

“Furthermore, this new effort seems at odds with the Government’s ambition to grow the UK’s world leading creative industries by an extra £50bn by 2030.  Over the past three years our sector has been subjected to multiple inquiries and investigations, culminating in a CMA market study that found competition is working effectively and delivering good and improving outcomes for consumers and creators across the sector.

“Throughout that process the BPI and its members engaged positively and constructively, resulting in a raft of initiatives to improve transparency and the flow of royalty payments to artists. Numerous studies have demonstrated that streaming has benefited consumers and artists alike, with record labels paying more to artists than ever before.”

The UK Council of Music Makers (CMM) umbrella body representing UK music creators and performers, and consisting of the Ivors Academy, FAC, MMF, MPG and the MU, also issued a statement in response to the news.

“Music-maker remuneration is the single biggest issue in streaming,” reads the CMM statement. Which is why we have been calling for a working group to be convened to allow the music community to come together to discuss the different ways that we can address these challenges, including the copyright reforms that have been proposed and other possible solutions”.

Added the statement from the CMM: “We greatly appreciate the government’s positive response to this request and look forward to now getting to work. We will be publishing a new white paper later this week setting out the different elements of the music-maker remuneration debate, building on the five fundamental objectives for streaming reform that we outlined earlier this year”.

“We’d also like to again thank the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, whose streaming inquiry and ongoing diligence has ensured that various issues faced by music-makers are now being addressed. The working groups on data and transparency, which have been expertly led by the Intellectual Property Office, are set to result in a number of positive changes which, although small steps, are nevertheless important steps towards delivering a transparent, dynamic and equitable streaming business. We hope similar things can now be achieved around remuneration”.

Both organizations also responded to the news about the metadata agreement.

The BPI and our members are pleased to have worked with colleagues across the industry on this new metadata agreement and the progress it represents,” said Sophie Jones, BPI CSO and Interim CEO.

Jones added: “It sets a clear expectation of good practice within music streaming and we hope to see some immediate improvements as a result in terms of the speed and accuracy of songwriter payments.  Along with further updates on transparency to come, this work builds on positive steps taken by the industry itself, including policies to set aside pre-2000 unrecouped advances which means more legacy artists can now receive royalties from streaming.”

Meanwhile, an announcement from the CMM said: “The UK Council Of Music Makers (CMM), the umbrella body consisting of the Ivors Academy, the FAC, MMF, MPG and the MU, has welcomed today’s announcement that a voluntary pan-industry code on metadata has been agreed”.

“The metadata code is a crucial first step to ensure that the entire UK music industry comes together to set new standards and processes on how vital song, composition and recording data is collated, ingested and distributed – ensuring that songwriters, composers, artists, musicians and producers are paid with greater accuracy and efficiency.”

“Both work streams will continue to be led by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) alongside a separate working group on transparency.

“By addressing these three fundamental and interconnected areas – metadata, transparency and remuneration – and by working collegiately and on a pan-industry basis, the CMM remains positive that the UK industry can accelerate towards the five foundational changes we set out in March 2023 to deliver a new “artist-and-creator-centric” future.

“A significant amount of work has already gone into these IPO-led projects, not least from the IPO itself – however, much more still needs to be done.

“This week’s announcements constitute some important steps in the right direction – but they are small steps on a longer journey. We encourage everyone in the music industry to join the CMM in committing to continue that journey until we reach our destination.”

Music Business Worldwide