It’s something of a mystery to me exactly who the representatives of the record labels, the British Phonographic Industry, actually represent these days. In recent times, their voice has been entirely absent from debates over how fair streaming is – and the favourite stooge of the labels has also failed to defend Lucian Grainge from entirely deserved criticism of his obscene £150million pay during 2021.
This has all led to bizarre statements from boss Geoff Taylor about it being “hard to get [messages] across above the loud voices across the kitchen table” – apparently oblivious to the fact it’s his job to shout the loudest. Still, he’ll be celebrating his 15-year anniversary as the organisation’s boss in March – so someone, somewhere is bafflingly still happy with his performance.
Anyway, the BPI had quite a moment earlier this week, when someone actually suggested they do their jobs. And they have – by getting their message out at the start of the year before anyone else got going. One such claim being circulated is that around 2,000 artists are likely to achieve over 10 million streams this year within the UK alone. Which sounds impressive, until you think about it.
For starters, all these artists won’t be British – and before anyone accuses me of jingoism, it’s their job to represent British interests in the music industry. What the BPI appear to be saying here is that people across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will this year listen to a total of 2,000 artists over 10 million times. That’s a lot of listeners – but where will all the money generated be going?
The likes of Ed Sheeran and such might well bring benefits to some UK-based people – but the majority of these, in an increasingly global music market, will not. Then again, the message “UK listeners will help to make lots of foreign artists make lots of money” doesn’t carry quite the same patriotic ring to it, does it?
Accompanied with this revelation is, in the BPI’s own words, “for an artist, ten million streams generates at least the same royalties as 10,000 CD sales”. Curiously omitted, however, is the fact that back in the pre-internet era, selling just 10,000 copies of a CD would almost certainly mean being dumped unceremoniously by the majors. Yet today, this is somehow lauded as a success.
Also omitted is what the BPI are actually saying in this statement. In the physical era, the labels would have the expense of pressing up all those CDs, printing labels, acquiring cases, paying distributors to get them around the world and so on. In the digital era, none of those expenses exist. And since labels behave as if those costs still exist, artists earn even less money.
The BPI really must think we’re gullible idiots if they think we’ll accept this nonsense…