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LONDON – Some of the biggest names in the music industry have asked the UK government to change how musicians are paid when their songs are streamed online through platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.
The Rolling Stones and Tom Jones are among the 75 artists who added their names to a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to change the law on royalty payments from streaming.
Other new signatories include Pet Shop Boys, Yoko Ono, Van Morrison, Barry Gibb, Emeli Sandé and Jarvis Cocker. The total number of signatures is now 227.
“Streaming is quickly replacing radio as our most important means of music communication. However, the law has not kept pace with the pace of technological change and therefore performers and songwriters do not enjoy the same protection as they do with radio. ”Reads the letter.
“Today’s musicians get very little income from their performances – most artists get tiny fractions of a US cent per stream and session musicians get nothing at all.”
Activists – led by the Musicians’ Union, Music Producers Guild, Ivors Academy and the #BrokenRecord initiative – argue that songwriters struggle because of the “extraordinary power” of multinational corporations.
The tech giants who run the streaming platforms and generate billions in revenue are currently dictating how much artists and their record labels are paid when their users stream songs.
But activists want the UK government to amend the 1988 Copyright Act to make streaming services pay artists roughly the same as radio stations. They are basically calling for a clause in the law to be rewritten to allow fair remuneration – a figure owed to artists when a sound recording of their performance is broadcast to the public – for streaming.
“Songwriters earn 50% of radio revenue, but only 15% from streaming,” the letter said. “We believe that in a really free market the song will gain more value.”
Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Paloma Faith, Jessie Ware, Boy George, Bob Geldof, Kate Nash and Noel Gallagher also signed the letter.
The UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport has examined how the income from streaming music is distributed and whether it is done fairly. Mercury Award nominee Nadine Shah said she was forced to move back in with her parents because she couldn’t finance herself with the money she made streaming.
Apple, Amazon, Google and Spotify did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.