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Wed 22 May 2019
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Image: Taylor Swift 1989 Tour at Ford Field in Detroit – Wikimedia

Digital platforms greed and lack of support for music artists knows no boundaries and remains suspiciously concealed from the general public…

The increasing dominance of the small band of online entertainment platforms and streaming services that enables them to dictate their own business models with virtually no regulation.

In the last month, four of the major digital music services: Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora, have lodged legal appeals against the US Copyright Royalty Board’s recent decision to raise streaming royalties for songwriters and music publishers by 44%, even though these are currently only a misery 0.006p per stream.

“Songwriters are important business partners to Spotify, but they’re treated instead like indentured servants”

David Israelite, President & CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)

The hypocrisy of this decision is staggering. These online streaming platforms love promoting their support for musicians and songwriters, but are determined to take legal action against raising these very low rates. Indeed this stance seems to devalue the very music that is the backbone of their streaming business. Some have even tried to argue that opposing these increased payments is in the songwriters interests.

Whilst Apple is not always free from criticism, they proved to be more supportive of artists on their Apple Music platform by accepting the new proposed rates, far more willing to cooperate, by respecting artists through their acceptance of these new rates. This has been a morale boost for songwriters and Apple has been vocal in the importance of this support.

In a recent public statement, Apple claimed that challenging these reforms “Isn’t just wrong, it represents a real, meaningful and damaging step backwards for the music industry”.

This initiative seems to be more concerned with Tech companies preserving their profits rather than saving the internet, or supporting artists ability to earn money from their trade.

In contrast to Apple, David Israelite, President & CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), has been forthright in his frustration the actions of its competitors. In a recent podcast with Music Business Worldwide, he argued that “songwriters are important business partners to Spotify, but they’re treated instead like indentured servants” Of course, Spotify has contested these claims.

It would seem a pattern is emerging of Tech companies creating disinformation campaigns to attempt to convince their users of their support for the artists on their platforms while their actions appear to be directly the opposite.

YouTube demonstrated this when it launched a public assault on Article 13, another government sanctioned change seeking to crack down on under-compensation of copyrighted material, with their #SAVEYOURINTERNET campaign. This seems to be more concerned with Tech companies preserving their profits rather than saving the internet, or supporting artists ability to earn money from their trade.

As Big Tech controls an increasing amount of the media we consume, it is essential that as consumers we should stand up for the artists that create the content we enjoy. It is up to all of us to ensure that their disinformation is called out and that regulators and legislators withstand their expensive lobbyists and PR companies.

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