Want to know why Amateur’s House backs the #BrennanBill? These four men are worth over £3½ BILLION between them, yet they preside over an industry where a third of musicians made nothing this year – things cannot go on like this…

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…

As MPs get ready to vote on Kevin Brennan’s renumerations bill next week, will they listen to the artists who want a fairer share – or major label lobbyists who don’t?

One story that’s been bubbling away in the background over the past year or so is the #BrokenRecord campaign. The mission behind this crusade sounds like a simple one – streaming doesn’t pay artists properly, and they want that remedied. This blog wholeheartedly supports such an idea.

This campaign has decided to go down the legal route – but not the traditional legal one of suing people. No, they want changes made to the law to ensure everyone involved in the making of music is compensated fairly by streaming services. In a week where Four Tet revealed Domino Records had removed his music from such services as a petty response to a legal dispute, it seems especially relevant.

The bill itself has now been published. MPs will be voting on it next Friday, December 3rd. Having read it, I found it a good attempt to resolve a lot of problems – but this analysis by Complete Music Update is better than anything I could write. And the Association of Independent Music dismissing it before the bill was even published was beyond foolish.

But there’s one group which have remained mysteriously silent over all this – and that’s the major labels. Whilst Baron Grainge might just be excused on the grounds he’s too busy counting his money, where everyone else is remains a source of absolute bafflement. They’re not usually shy about making their views known, so what’s happening?

Could it be the threat of an anti-competition inquiry which is leaving the labels unusually reticent? A source from within one of the majors tells me that they’re feeling “relaxed” about the bill. He explains “It’s a private members bill on a Friday. Most MPs will have long gone home for the weekend by then. Unless Boris and his pals get behind it, this won’t get very far.”.

And in response to an article in Music Business Worldwide on the subject, he simply said “Let’s just say we’re content for the BPI to take the flak on this one”…

Do we need yet more reasons not to tune in? The Brit Awards tinker about with gender neutral categories – yet the biggest winners of this plaster sticking exercise will be four white men!

One of the things that bugs me about the times we live in is an increasing tendency to tinker pointlessly with the edges whilst not addressing the central problem. You see this in politics on a daily basis – Donald Trump wanted to build a wall to stop Mexicans coming to the USA is just one recent example.

Now, I’m all in favour of treating people the same. This blog doesn’t care whether you’re male, female, somewhere between the two or neither. I also don’t care about your sexuality, the colour of your skin or your religion. I’m interested in whether you’re a good person. Do you treat people fairly? Do you stand up for what’s real?

It’s with this in mind I read the news that the Brit Awards are going gender neutral next year. So no more best male and best female categories. It’ll mean a shorter show, hence why they’ve dug up the long dead Best Dance category – something that’ll have the likes of Defected’s Simon Dunmore frothing at the mouth.

The trouble is that all this messing about with side issues fails to grasp the mantle of the central problem. And what is that central problem? It’s namely that much of what consists of pop music these days is crap. And don’t take my word for it – look at the viewing figures.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, we can see viewing figures going all the way back to 1999 – nearly ten million viewers tuned in to see show that year. Since then, the trend has been overwhelmingly downwards – they couldn’t even pull in three million viewers this year. Episodes of teatime game show The Chase score better.

There’s a reason they’re not watching – and it’s not just the largely appalling music on offer. It’s also the fact the show itself is dreadful. Time was you had to watch because you never knew what was going to happen. Remember John Prescott being soaked by Chumbawumba in 1998, or Brandon Block gatecrashing Ronnie Wood in 2000?

They weren’t the most edifying of events, but at least we remember them. Can you name anything remotely interesting that happened at a Brit Awards ceremony in the past decade? I certainly can’t. The music used to be interesting, and so did the show as a result.

And tinkering with awards categories will not change one single thing. All it will do is make it harder for acts to win awards and inevitably result in uproar if more men are given awards than women. The only people who look set to win no matter what happens are those who are already very rich.

Daniel Ek, Rob Stringer, Stephen Cooper and Baron Grainge of £150million

They bring it on themselves, don’t they? Now Universal ban artists from re-recording their music for longer – whilst profiting as Taylor Swift does exactly the same thing!

There are few people more cynical in the world right now than Universal Music Group. This one is a whopper, even by their standards. In 2018, Republic Records – whom they own – signed Taylor Swift as an artist. The deal was done in a blaze of publicity and featured the explicit clause that she owned her own masters.

Since then, she’s re-recorded a number of her past songs – following a dispute over the ownership of her old recordings. An album called “Red” was re-recorded recently and released by Republic. It’s done extremely well on streaming and Universal are raking in the money. And at exactly the same time, they’ve tightened up their own contracts to stop their other artists from doing it.

I thought this was a joke when I first read it, but sure enough, it’s true. And this news came out on the week we found out UMG boss Lucian Grainge would be taking home ar least £150million this year. It looks like the increasingly greedy record baron could be getting similar amounts in future years – and all off the back of his artists work.

A source at the majors contacted me this week to complain that my criticism of UMG has been “unfair, one-sided and totally tabloid”. And he is, of course, completely wrong. With moves like this, which just make Universal look like a protectionist racket, they bring it entirely on themselves… 

Warner Music Group reached 249 million people last month on their own platforms – Spotify reached 381 million in that time… so is it time for Warner to say adios to Daniel Ek yet?

For the last few years, I’ve predicted that some kind of seismic shift is due in the music streaming world. The streaming sites don’t make any money, the artists don’t make any money. Only the majors seem to make any decent money out of this system.

For clues as to what could happen, I looked at the world of TV streaming. Two years ago, Disney made the decision to close down all their channels and withdraw all their programming from the streaming companies like Netflix. They then put everything on a new streaming service of their own, called Disney Plus.

And I’ve been wondering how long it would take for anything like this to happen with music streaming. So it’s with this in mind I read the following in Music Business Worldwide

“WMG has confirmed to MBW today that its owned media brands now cumulatively reach more than 249 million unique visitors each month. For context, it’s not far behind the global reach of Spotify, which was attracting 381 million monthly active users (MAUs) in Q3… and will likely generate over a billion dollars in advertising revenue this year.”

Which begs the question. Why does Warner Music Group need Spotify anymore? They could reach almost the same number of people as before whilst not having to hand over 30% of every stream to Spotify, or any of the other streaming sites. They’re in such a strong position that even a dip in traffic will still result in an increase in revenue.

I’m beginning to think in the next few years, we’re going to see the majors setting up their own streaming platforms. It makes perfect sense for them – they can sell merchandise and tickets for gigs at the same time. They also have total control of the algorithm, and no competition from the other big two.

Where does this leave Spotify? In the unenviable position of having to reinvent itself as the friend of independent labels whom it wouldn’t make sense to have their own streaming platform, that’s where. And seeing many of these same independents absolutely hate Spotify, good luck with that idea.

Mark my words – the majors could soon be heading off in their own direction. And to a real champion of independent labels who can find a solution for the rest, they too could find themselves with even more money than Lucian Grainge

Three private islands with change left over – what Lucian Grainge could buy with £150million… and now he’s got another idea on how to make even more!

Judge Judy had a long-running show of the same name which ran for 25 years. A few years ago, a legal case against the show brought the revelation that the judge – real name Judith Sheindlin – was paid $47million per year. Not bad for a job which only involves filming for 52 days per year.

The court was also told she could have earned another $20million on top by producing the show herself. When questioned at the time, Sheindlin responded characteristically by saying “How much can you eat?”. In other words, $47million – or $903,846 per day of filming – is deemed to be more than enough for Sheindlin to live on.

But Lucian Grainge appears to be even more greedy. He’ll be getting some £150million this year. Admittedly, this isn’t all in salary, but it promises to be a bumper year for him – he’s earning just over £410,000 per day. According to Payscale, the average Universal Music employee in the UK earns £36,000 per year. If Grainge works ten hours a day, he’ll have made £36k in around 53 minutes.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in Universal’s staff rooms right now. I can’t imagine they’d be exactly pleased knowing they’d take over ten years to earn what their boss got in just one day…

Yet despite having all this money, Grainge still isn’t happy. Something which is currently growing in the music industry is “name and likeness rights”. Acquiring these allow record labels to make use of an artist’s brand and likeness in order to sell merchandise or if their music is licensed on TV or wherever.

Sounds a bit mundane, doesn’t it? But if you combine owning these branding rights along with owning the rights to the music or merchandise you’re trying to sell in the process, that’s two money making opportunities. And in this age of 360 contracts, record labels find anything with multiple revenue streams hard to ignore.

You could already buy this private island three times over and have change to spare, Lucian. And if 2022 is anywhere near as prosperous, you could afford to add more to your prospective fleet of islands…

“We’ll withdraw our entire catalogue if this happens!”: the petulant threat made by major label executive after someone suggested Spotify invest into their industry – just like Netflix do…

Word reaches me in my emails of a story which I’ve had to sit on for a little while. I’m not keen on this practice – not least because it means someone else could get hold of it in the meantime – but it seemed so crazy that I wanted to verify its accuracy first.

So here it is. A few weeks ago, an informal meeting took place at one of the major labels in London. The topic of discussion soon turned to the subject of how the label would respond to the British government’s report on streaming. And the consensus around the table appeared to be by doing as little as physically possible.

But that isn’t the worst part. One person at the table said he found it odd that Spotify didn’t invest back into the music industry, saying the likes of Netflix did. This is a reference to the fact Netflix and other streaming companies in the TV world produce their own content, whereas music streaming sites don’t. They’re effectively glorified receptacles.

And one executive present at the meeting responded saying “And thank f**k they don’t. That’s our job. The moment that f***ing slaphead [a naughty reference to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek] starts doing that is the day we’re out. We’d withdraw our entire catalogue if that ever happens – they’d be f***ing nothing without us.”.

The worst bit of all this? The executive in question is essentially correct. If Spotify Records was to ever become a thing, Spotify could make even more money but at the expense of majors who got them to where they are today…

So that’s who’s making money from streaming! Universal Music Group raking in $1million per HOUR whilst artists can’t pay their bills

News came in during the week courtesy of Vivendi, the French outfit who now own Universal Music Group, about the profits of UMG. Has the pandemic badly hit the amount of money they’re making?

The figures from the report that Vivendi published the other day says not.

In the meantime, artists are being told by streaming companies that they won’t pay them any more money, and record labels are happily continuing to benefit from analogue age contracts in a digital age.

And people wonder why music is in the state it is…