‘Why UK songwriters deserve 50% of streaming payouts’

The following blog comes from Vick Bain, CEO of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) – which recently launched its The Day The Music Died campaign. BASCA – whose members range from Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John to Kate Bush and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies – is calling for gross royalties from digital services to be split 50/50 between labels/artists and publishers/writers, bringing streaming payouts in line with broadcast licensing.

The British songwriter and composer has never been more important to popular music. Sadly, they’ve also never been more endangered.

It’s often forgotten, but songs and musical works are the foundation upon which every single music industry achievement is based.

BASCA is extremely privileged to represent British songwriters, a group of people who stand apart from any others when it comes to the universal appeal of their music. These Brits, we’re very happy to say, are currently at the top of their game – and at the top of charts all around the world.

But make no mistake, as Sony/ATV boss Marty Bandier said just the other week, songwriters are seriously under threat.

And although it is the treatment of our US counterparts is currently (and deservedly) grabbing headlines, the situation for British songwriters is no less desperate.

In the UK, the royalty payout splits from digital music services – whether iTunes or Spotify – were set in the Copyright Tribunal eight years ago, back in 2007. (A year before Spotify even existed.)

It confirmed that UK songwriters, composers and their publishers would receive just 8% of gross revenues from online music service providers for on-demand services. This rose slightly in 2009 to 10.5% after some renegotiation by PRS.

“Who, in all honesty, could argue that the person who created a song is entitled to just 1/10th of the profit it generates?”

But in today’s climate, where streaming services pay out 70% of not a whole lot, for a songwriter to split 10.5% of this sum with a publisher and the taxman often doesn’t leave them with enough to make ends meet; even for those with worldwide hits.

The 10.5% writer royalty was in line with CD sales at the time, but is now woefully outdated. It’s based on an era where labels would need extra royalties to help pay for physical distribution, breakages, returns etc.

The fact the courts agreed to allow this to continue this in the digital age is unreal!

It isn’t just ridiculous, though, it’s dangerous.

Who, in all honesty, could argue that the person who created a song is entitled to just 1/10th of the profit it generates? Especially when those profits are trickling down in teeny per-streaming revenue figures from streaming services? (Often hundredths, sometimes thousandths, of a penny per spin.)

This is why BASCA is calling for a fairer split of digital music royalties in our The Day The Music Died campaign.

A 50/50 split between artists/labels and writers/publishers – as currently practiced when music is licensed to be syncronised with moving images – is surely fair, and a huge step towards ensuring that writing music remains a viable career for young, unheard British talent in the future.

Expecting the creators of huge pop hits to subsidise their talent with a day job is preposterous, but that’s the situation we’re quickly heading towards.

Imagine if our Premier League footballers only had the ability to play at weekends; they would become far less skilled and the whole professional game would fall apart.

If the UK loses our professional music writers, we will be plunged into a dark age of losing our incredible status as writers of the world’s greatest hits.

The rise of the internet is threatening our strong copyright framework. And the economic model that is being created as a result it is not sustainable for writers.

But this isn’t just about those who write melodies and chord progressions. It’s about every single person working in the UK music industry today.

It seems almost ludicrously obvious, but, please, think about this fact: without great songwriters, there can never be any great songs.

And without great songs, there are no Grammy-winning albums, no stadium-filling superstars – no music business to speak of at all.

Read more about BASCA’s The Day The Music Died campaign through here. The organisation is also calling for an end to NDA culture around streaming services, and the implementation of songwriting and production credits on music platforms.Music Business Worldwide

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