UK will open investigation into how Apple Music and others pay royalties

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Streaming services like Apple Music dominate the US music market
Are streaming royalties fair to artists?
Photo: Apple

Politicians in the UK are opening an investigation into the streaming music giants to find out whether the likes of Apple and Spotify pay artists fairly when it comes to streaming.

According to the report:

“At present, Spotify is believed to pay between £0.002 and £0.0038 per stream, while Apple Music pays about £0.0059. YouTube pays the least – about £0.00052 (or 0.05 pence) per stream. All of that money goes to rights-holders, a blanket term that covers everything from massive record companies to artists who put out their own music, before being divided up. Often, the recording artist will only receive about 13% of the revenue, with labels and publishers keeping the rest.”

According to my calculations, 0.0059 British pounds is 0.0076 cents per stream on Apple Music. When you consider that artists may only get 13 percent of that, it means 0.000988 per stream.

The BBC reports that the investigation will also examine how “playlists and algorithms distort the music market, and whether new music is being strangled by the dominance of big names like Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande and Drake.”

Streaming royalties on Apple Music

It’s definitely a worthy endeavor, although it’s hard to see how the UK could make a bigger impact in this area — unless it forced tech giants to comply with higher payments, which triggered other countries to do the same.

This isn’t the first time concern has been raised about how much streaming services pay artists. In the very early days of Apple Music, Apple offered users a three month free trial. The problem? That it decided not to give artists any royalties during this period because, technically, no money was being generated. None other than Taylor Swift took issue with the decision and had a brief standoff with Apple. Apple ultimately reversed a policy that would have denied royalties to artists during the free trial.

Since then, the question of how much artists make during streaming is periodically discussed. The problem is that the artists most affected by the tiny revenues are smaller artists, who don’t rack up the volume of listens needed to make a decent living. They’re also the ones who, because they’re smaller names, don’t generate headlines. Things have been particularly bad for artists this year. That’s because COVID-19 has dried up live performing as a way to make money.

Source: BBC