The UK’s Council of Music Makers (CMM) has called out “the upbeat new year messages” from major label heads and drawn attention to the “incredibly challenging times” many musicians are facing.
The London-based organization, which counts as members the Ivors Academy, the Featured Artists Coalition, the Music Managers Forum, the Music Producers Guild, and the Musicians’ Union, just recently expressed concerns about multiple facets of the contemporary music landscape.
Closer to the year’s beginning, Warner Music Group head Robert Kyncl and Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge in internally circulated memos laid out their visions for 2024.
In brief, neither message appears to contain groundbreaking information; Kyncl explored his focus on technology optimizations, superfan and streaming monetization, and related music-side innovations.
Grainge, on the other hand, contrasted his purpose-oriented January of 2023 memo (demanding fundamental streaming-compensation changes, with subsequent efforts then ushering in the much-debated artist-centric pivot) by mainly recapping UMG’s operational high points for the 12-month stretch in question.
Prominent in both documents is a sunny view of the industry’s present positioning and path forward – an optimism that the initially mentioned Council of Music Makers doesn’t necessarily share.
“It is great that more music is being consumed than ever before and that recorded music revenues continue to surge. However, for many professional music-makers these are incredibly challenging times,” the CMM wrote, citing the results of an in-depth musician survey for 2023.
And from there, after acknowledging that it’s “always been a challenge pursuing a full-time career in music,” the text takes aim at obstacles stemming particularly from “the policy decisions made by streaming services and major record companies.”
As the CMM sees it, several key changes, among them enhanced transparency regarding artist-centric agreements negotiated by “a few major players” but dramatically affecting all creators, need to occur sooner rather than later.
“The record companies must enter into a frank and honest conversation about the inequities in streaming which are caused by their policies,” the CMM indicated, “especially those that disadvantage the music-makers behind the industry’s incredibly valuable catalogue. All music-makers must be fairly remunerated whenever their music is streamed.”
Driving home its stance, the CMM described the “secret” discussions between streaming services and the majors as being “as far from artist-centric as it is possible to be.”
At the intersection of the point and newly finalized artificial intelligence agreements, the CMM believes that “the same mistakes made in streaming are now being made in AI.”
“The major players are developing business models in secret,” elaborated the entity, “without properly consulting the music-maker community, while claiming to be champions of human creativity.”
Next, to bolster royalty matching and creator compensation, “everyone” in and around the rights sphere should “ensure comprehensive and accurate data is provided with every new release,” per the Council of Music Makers.
Lastly, returning to an above-highlighted topic, transparency must become “a top priority” for music and digital businesses alike, per the CMM.
“It is unreasonable, unconscionable and anti-competitive to force music-makers to run the digital side of their businesses blind,” the organization spelled out, “without the information they need to understand their income, audit their royalties, and pick the best business partners to represent their rights.”