If you read this blog regularly, you’ll have no doubt seen the above photo a few times. It features Daniel Ek, Rob Stringer, Stephen Cooper and Lucian Grainge. They are the CEOs of Spotify, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group respectively.
And it’s no exaggeration to say these four men are incredibly wealthy. Whilst it’s hard to say for certain how much they’re worth, estimates from my research in this article vary between £3½ and 4 billion. If these men presided over a booming industry where people were paid fairly from top to bottom, their insane wealth is something this blog would be very relaxed about.
But the simple truth is they don’t. In the UK during the week, a charity called Help Musicians revealed their research had told them a third of musicians had still earned nothing after lockdown restrictions were lifted in the summer across Britain. Almost 90% earned less than £1000 a month and 22% wanted to quit altogether.
It’s a damning indictment of an industry which has failed abysmally to look after its people at a time when they needed it the most. The majors make over $1million each hour of the day from streaming – once you allow for currency conversion, it means they get the £1000 that the 90% of musicians make a month within around four seconds.
The truth is they can quite easily afford to pay out more money. Lucian Grainge, the
baron boss at Universal, is set to make at least £150million this year. They benefit from legacy contracts which continue to pay out the same royalty rates as they did 40 years ago, despite the fact music is now largely digital than physical.
And whilst this situation persists and these men’s bank accounts get fat off the hard work of others, they’re still too stupid to realise they’re slowly killing the industry which made them filthy rich. Because if the next generation cannot make enough money from music to pay their bills, what incentive is there for anyone to enter the industry?
This is ultimately why I’m throwing my support behind the Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians etc) Bill, to use its full name. Is it going to resolve all the problems musicians face? Certainly not. Is it one hell of a good start? Yes.
The record labels – mostly the majors, but some independents too – have been given long enough to resolve this problem. Seeing that they directly benefit from it, they’ve decided they don’t want to. And if this bill was to become law, they’d only have themselves to blame…