UK Government Greenlights ‘Working Group’ on Streaming Compensation: ‘A Welcome Step in Addressing Musicians’ Frustrations’

The Palace of Westminster. Photo credit: Ugur Akdemir

After a lengthy investigation into the economics of music streaming, the UK government has officially approved “the establishment of an industry working group to examine issues surrounding fair remuneration for creators in the music streaming industry”.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee (which dropped ‘digital’ from its name last month) presented the working group in a short press release today. By way of background – and for the sake of brevity – the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport (CMS Committee) launched an investigation into music streaming back in October 2020.

More than a few testimonies, hearings, and headlines later, in July 2021, the CMS committee released a lengthy “final report” on the matter, calling for (among other things) a “complete restart” of the streaming sphere.

Notwithstanding this clearly worded request and the resulting findings, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), after leading a related “Music Streaming Market Study” in July 2022, decided not to conduct a more comprehensive investigation. Then, in November 2022, the CMA published its own final report on the subject, which is a staggering 165 pages.

“Given the evidence of positive outcomes for consumers, the lack of sustained record company profits and the declining share of music streaming revenue paid out to rightsholders, we currently believe that competition in the supply of music to music streaming services limited is not a material cause for concern,” the government agency clarified.

Undeterred by the conclusion, the CMS committee started 2023 with a claim other report that “a comprehensive national strategy for music” including the aforementioned working group is needed to ensure “creators and performers get a fairer share of streaming revenue”.

Now, according to the CMS committee, the UK government has approved the formation of this group, which will reportedly “consist of representatives and experts from across the music sector”. The multi-member company is poised to “research and develop industry-led policies that support fair compensation for existing and future music creators as part of a successful and globally competitive music industry,” wrote the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology in a letter to CMS Committee Chair Caroline Dinenage.

While specific details about the group and its impact are scarce – the authors of the said letter emphasized the “many positives” of streaming and indicated they would initiate relevant stakeholder conversations “in the coming weeks” – Dinenage welcomed the overarching development as “a welcome step.”

“The creation of a working group, which we have called for, is a welcome step in addressing the frustrations of musicians and songwriters whose pay falls far short of reasonable levels given their central role in the success of the music streaming industry,” Gosport MP said .

“The government must now ensure that the group is more than just a conversation partner and leads to concrete changes, so that the talented creators and artists that we have in this country are properly rewarded for their creativity.”

“The committee will be closely monitoring progress and will also be looking more closely at artist and creative compensation to ensure everyone who works in our creative industry can share in the successes,” concludes Dinenage.