Published Nov 08, 2013As of late, a growing number of artists have joined the fight against online music services like Spotify, with David Byrne recently penning a particularly notable op-ed that decried the low royalties artists receive from streaming. Now, outspoken political songwriter Billy Bragg has entered the conversation, suggesting that the blame doesn't belong with streaming services but with the labels.
According to a recent Facebook post from Bragg, streaming is here to stay, and the industry must adapt to the new format, as it has had to do in the past. The problem, according to him, 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 percent to 15 percent royalties on average." These days, the labels pay lower overheads, but royalties for musicians haven't gone up accordingly.
Bragg doesn't have a lot of data to support his argument, but he reasons, "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."
As an example of how artists should take action, he posted a link to an article in the Guardian, which explains that Swedish artists have been threatening to sue major labels over the low royalties they receive from streaming. Believing, as always, that "There Is Power in a Union," Bragg suggests that British artists follow suit.
Really, although Bragg takes a different stance than Byrne, his fundamental argument is the same. Byrne noted that labels receive large payments for catalogue listening rights, and he wrote, "The major labels are happy, the consumer is happy and the CEOs of the web services are happy. All good, except no one is left to speak for those who actually make the stuff."