Artist revenue and “equitable remuneration”

  • One of our members’ jobs is to earn as much money as possible for their artists. This is part of what labels do that’s indispensable alongside risk taking, providing stability, scale, investment, brand, experience, as well as the all important “belonging“ or identification with what a label stands for which adds huge value to creators. It is vital that the role of these structures in today’s music ecosystem is understood. As mostly small businesses, they need the right market and financial conditions to grow.
  • In October 2022, IMPALA published a call for renewed collaboration across the whole music sector to grow revenues, address fairness across the digital market, and develop a clear strategy on risk-taking. IMPALA also calls on governments to introduce new investment measures across Europe. The main requests are to:
    • Grow revenues: reappraise the value music and close the value gap.
    • Address fairness across the market: pay fair contemporary digital royalties and oppose so-called equitable remuneration.
    • Focus on growing the investment stream across Europe: every country to put place a system of tax credits, favourable loan guarantees and other fiscal tools to boost investment and have a strategic approach to growth.
  • The whole question of remuneration for artists is key and we are very engaged in the debate around streaming. We want to see reform of streaming to help improve revenues, but it doesn’t mean we agree with all proposals put forward by the artist community. Our ten-point plan (infographic here, full plan here) has various recommendations:
    • We ask all record labels to pay artists a fair contemporary digital rate.
    • Our plan rejects so-called “equitable remuneration” (for performers to negotiate with services for a parallel fee), in line with the outcome of the EU copyright directive. We believe it runs counter to our job of earning more for our featured artists and hampers our ability to take risks with emerging artists (see more below). This also links to our work on equity, diversity and inclusion, which is flagged in IMPALA’s second annual report on this area, see more below.
    • Differentiation in rates by services is one of our main priorities. There are several proposals for services to explore, which would shift how revenue is generated and allocated – Pro Rata Temporis, Active Engagement, Artist Growth, User Choice (all explained in point 3 of the plan).
    • Coming out clearly against reducing royalties for plays or privileged treatment in algorithms or other features is also there, because we see this as payola.
    • Our plan is underpinned by a call for an end to safe harbour privileges and to avoid new loopholes. With the EU copyright directive being implemented at national level, we don’t want any new value gaps through short clip exceptions for example. We urge countries to “protect their creative artists – not timidly, but fiercely.”
    • We also have a whole host of other recommendations for services to really boost local markets in Europe.
More on “equitable remuneration”
The debate in some countries around performer remuneration tends to centre around whether artists should have a new right to “equitable remuneration”.  As explained above, this is something we don’t support because our assessment is that it would deplete value from the commercial market, would reduce capital for investment in new artists and projects and would certainly not result in greater pay-outs to artists. The model on which equitable remuneration is based pays up to 200 times lower than streaming. The system would be far from equitable, especially for emerging artists. For more on this, read our note on artist revenue and equitable remuneration as well as a note on why equitable remuneration got rejected during the negotiations on the copyright directive. Proper royalty deals is the answer, plus differentiation by streaming services to reallocate revenues meaningfully. Streaming is core business, not radio!
IMPALA’s Executive Chair Helen Smith spoke of how the independent sector aims to maximise artist revenues and what it sees as the solution in an Op-Ed for Creative Industries Newsletter entitled ‘We don’t believe equitable remuneration is equitable at all’. IMPALA also published a statement pointing to streaming reform and to national negotiated sector agreements as the way forward, in contrast to the Belgian copyright rules adopted in June 2022 which include “equitable remuneration” provisions. As we explain in this statement, IMPALA is fully supportive of the full performer package in the Directive but does not agree with grafting on additional rights such as “equitable remuneration”.
Commenting on the question of equity in streaming reform in a section of IMPALA’s annual equity, diversity and inclusion report from October 2022 entitled “Cutting the digital pie – what is equitable?”, Ben Wynter – AIM Entrepreneur and Outreach Manager, co-founder of POWER UP and founder of Unstoppable Music Group – said: “For people from a low socioeconomic background and particularly people of colour, streaming has been a game changer. Whilst there is no doubt that streaming reform would benefit many, my concern is that in any reform there will always be a loser. The majority of solutions that I have seen would have a detrimental impact on those from low socioeconomic backgrounds as income would be repurposed from their share elsewhere, threatening to dismantle the democratisation that exists. This is why I find it hard to support solutions such as “equitable remuneration”. When searching for a solution, it is important to take into account the wider impact on ALL creatives that changes to streaming would have.” Ben further commented: “We have to be honest about who the winners and losers would be and the long term impact those changes would bring. We need to ask ourselves what the long term effect will be on business, investment, creativity and innovation. For example “equitable remuneration” would inevitably lead to smaller label advances and lower royalty rates, which disproportionately affects certain groups. We need more resources for investment in new artists and projects, not less. We also need to think about artists who prefer to own their rights. Exclusive rights are essential for artists and labels and trying to pour everyone into a single mould is simply not an inclusive approach.”
The results from a study in the UK done by economic experts Will Page and David Safir for AIM and co-funded by IMPALA are also interesting. The study focusses on the Artist Growth Model (a proposal put forward by AIM, which is also one of the suggested approaches in IMPALA’s streaming plan). The authors summarised their conclusions on impact of this model alongside the status quo and the likely impact of equitable remuneration in the table below.
They concluded that equitable remuneration would lead to:
  1. Significant upside for DSPs with less value flowing through the industry and to artists
  2. Increased administration costs to be borne by industry – and ultimately artists
  3. A decrease in transparency for artists
  4. A decrease in investment in artists – and particularly new artists
  5. A potential loss of choice for artists – particularly if equitable remuneration results in a drift towards blankets
This assessment was substantiated by the findings of a significant AIM member who submitted an outline impact assessment of equitable remuneration on streaming.
Option Appraisal  Status Quo Equitable Remuneration Artist Growth Model
Impact on Label Return on Investment Investment likely to increase in line with UK revenue growth Less investment in UK artists as ROI falls and foreign competition increases Increased investment in more diverse and niche content
Impact on DSP Cost of Goods Likely to edge downwards (increasing DSP leverage) Increased downside risk for labels under compulsory blanket licensing Negligible – labels will have marginally different agreements with DSPs
Impact on Economies of Scale Indie share increases with prominence of Merlin and DIY PPL licensing shifts costs but mainly benefits larger labels More equitable allocation of costs and benefits
Impact on Transaction Costs Likely to fall as systems are re-engineered Likely to increase due to legal implications of ‘switching costs’ One-off increase in transaction costs to calibrate scales
Impact on Artist-Label Contracts More transparency as artists negotiate more confidently Less transparency accompanying increased switching and auditing costs Potential for less transparency as complexity increases
The UK study is based on real data supplied by the Entertainment Retailers Association on the top 10,000 tracks over 4 months. The figures are taken from March 2021. You can watch here a recording of the webinar organised by AIM where Will Page and David Safir presented their research results. On the same page, you will find links to the experts presentation and to an extended Q&A.
Will Page and Dr Hayleigh Bosher, Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law and Associate Dean at Brunel University London, also joined a podcast in October 2022 by Music Ally on the topic of equitable remuneration, you can listen to it on YouTubeSpotifyApple or any other podcast platform.  
 The UK DCMS parliamentary committee has been looking at streaming and the question of remuneration. Its report was published on 15 July 2021, and recommends equitable remuneration and other proposals. IMPALA reacted in a statement entitled “IMPALA’s reaction to UK parliamentary committee on streaming – right conclusion, but other reforms better adapted for independent sector’s work with emerging artists”.  Our view can be summarised as follows:
  • The report is a set of recommendations, not legislation.
  • It is normal that the UK is looking at these issues, because it is not reforming its copyright in line with the EU directive following Brexit. That is why the DCMS report also looks at certain Article 17 type questions. The rest of Europe already concluded on these issues.
  • The question of equitable remuneration was examined in the negotiations on the European directive and was rejected by all three institutions in favour of other reforms (which IMPALA supported in agreement with featured artist organisations). Our one pager on artist revenue and equitable remuneration is here.
  • We do not agree that revenues between different parts of the sector should be reviewed (including for example publishing and recording) without a change as regards risk taking.
  • We ask UK decision makers to fully map the question of how risk works in the music sector as well as the key role of labels in the ecosystem before any further decisions are taken.
  • Our members continue to be inundated more today than ever before by artists looking for label partners to believe in them and take a risk. Our job is to make sure we can continue this work and get our artists the best deals, earn them the most money and ensure their creative works are properly recognised.
  • That is why we believe IMPALA’s streaming plan with multiple proposals is the answer. Whilst it is tempting to believe that there is a silver bullet, the reality is we need cumulative action on multiple levels to achieve real equitable reform of streaming revenues. If you are interested in working with us on this, please let us know! 
Other work to boost artist revenues

Other areas we work on to improve artist remuneration include performance rights. Here we have various working groups, including one looking after the vital question of whether countries that don’t have their own performance rights can claim revenues from European performers and labels. This could cost 125m euros a year just for the USA, see more here.

Finally of course we have the WIN Fair Digital Deals Declaration where labels committed to sharing new types of revenue with artists without any contractual obligation. This is another example of the independent sector leading the way on reform of artist remuneration.

IMPALA – Independent Music Companies Association

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