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Artists and songwriter groups welcome Competition & Market Authority’s streaming market study

By | Published on Wednesday 20 October 2021

Competition And Markets Authority

Various music industry organisations yesterday responded to the news that the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority will undertake a study into the music streaming market.

Such a study was recommended by Parliament’s culture select committee following its inquiry into the economics of streaming, with organisations like the Musicians’ Union and Ivors Academy in particular calling for a CMA investigation during said inquiry.

The competition regulator is yet to confirm the exact scope of its study, although during the parliamentary inquiry it was suggested that any such investigation should consider the dominance of the majors in both recorded music and music publishing, and the effect that dominance may or may not have had on the streaming market, and how streaming monies are shared out across the music community.

Announcing that it would put the spotlight on the music streaming market yesterday, the CMA clarified that market studies of this kind are “a key tool used by the CMA to identify – and, if appropriate, to consider how best to tackle – any competition and consumer issues”.

The chair of the culture select committee, Julian Knight MP, was among those welcoming the CMA’s announcement yesterday. He stated: “We welcome the decision by the CMA to urgently carry out a competition inquiry into music streaming and the dominance of the major music groups. That the CMA has made this a priority is a big result for the committee, endorsing one of the key recommendations of our inquiry into music streaming. Our investigation exposed fundamental problems within the structure of the music industry itself. This action marks a key step forward”.

And, of course, the CMA’s announcement was also welcomed by various organisations representing music-makers and their managers, as well as Tom Gray’s #BrokenRecord campaign, which was closely allied with the MU and Ivors during the economics of streaming inquiry. AIM, representing the indie sector, also welcomed the news, while record industry trade body BPI said it looked forward to seeing the actual scope of the study, and to engaging with the CMA to “inform its work”.

The CMA’s market study will happen alongside the research into and discussions about music streaming that are in the process of being instigated by the government’s Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Intellectual Property Office, also in response to the parliamentary inquiry. That includes the creation of a music industry contact group as well as two more focused working groups looking into contract transparency and music rights data.

And now, here are lots of quotes…

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union: “We are delighted that the CMA is following through with proposals to carry out a market study into music streaming. This shows a fundamental willingness and interest from government and regulators to tackle the pervasive issues around the major labels’ current market domination. Now is the time for the government to further commit to supporting reforms for equitable remuneration for musicians, to ensure that our fantastic musicians are fairly and properly rewarded for their work”.

Naomi Pohl, Deputy Secretary General of the Musicians’ Union: “It is great news that the domination of the major music groups in the streaming market will be subject to scrutiny. This marks a crucial step towards creating a fairer and more transparent UK music landscape, particularly through addressing what the [culture] select committee’s report described as ‘deep concerns’ around the dominance of the major labels. It feels like real progress is being made to fix streaming, with some of the select committee’s key recommendations already being taken forward. There are many issues with the economics of music streaming and it isn’t a fair playing field for creators and performers at present but we are hopeful of meaningful change. Many thanks to the CMA for their encouraging announcement today”.

Graham Davies, CEO of The Ivors Academy: “The [culture] select committee, the UK government and now the UK Competition & Markets Authority have listened to the concerns of music creators. They accept it is time to look into the structure, activities and market power of the major music groups. These groups control the majority of the recording and publishing markets. They do this without any proper regulation, control or separation of interests. The consumer wants a healthy pipeline of diverse music talent where fair payment is given to the creators they listen to. The CMA study will be an important step on this path”.

Crispin Hunt, Chair of The Ivors Academy: “The pandemic has allowed music creators, consumers, politicians and now regulators to look afresh at the way our industry operates. The power of the major music groups is nothing new, but the willingness to question their size, practice and dominance is. The music market has evolved, but music’s economic models have not. Consolidation is not the answer. Polycentrism, not oligopoly, will best deliver a flourishing varied and functioning music market and ecosystem: a music market that encourages competition, broadens choice, stimulates innovation and enables sustainable growth and careers. Is music streaming a ‘winner takes all’ environment in its nature… or by design? A CMA study will hopefully tell us”.

Tom Gray, founder of the #BrokenRecord Campaign: “The music market has desperately needed investigation for over a generation. Access and value for creators is dangerously low. To say this study is welcome is a huge understatement. The future for British music-makers is a little brighter today”.

Wolf Alice’s Joff Oddie, a director of the Featured Artists Coalition: “For many artists, songwriters and musicians, the growth of streaming has been positive connecting us to a global fanbase. However what we have gained in opportunities to release and distribute music has, in many cases, been hampered by archaic licensing practices and outdated economic structures. All these issues have been accentuated by the pandemic and the shutdown in live music, and it’s why this market study announced by the CMA is so welcome and so important. It represents an essential first step to finally address some of the fundamental dysfunctions within the streaming market, and hopefully lead to a fairer and more equitable deal for those who make and perform the music we all love and enjoy”.

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum: “Now running for more than five years, the MMF’s ‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ project has long-recognised a series of fundamental and deep-seated problems with how the music streaming market operates, as well as a number of ways that historic and ongoing inequalities could and should be addressed. It is vital that regulators and policy makers are able to take evidence-based decisions – which is why today’s announcement from the Competition & Markets Authority is so important. The MMF wholeheartedly welcomes this vital first step of a market study into streaming, alongside the work being led by the Intellectual Property Office to further research legislative solutions and develop a code of practice for the sector. We look forward to collaborating on a process that delivers real change to the lives of artists, songwriters, performers and producers”.

Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association Of Independent Music: “AIM stands for an inclusive and open market that offers genuine opportunity for all. Concerns around hyper-concentration of power by the majors who control 75% of the market and the dynamic between music and technology companies are some of the topics that could well benefit from this CMA market study, which could help build understanding and confidence for all stakeholders in music, from creators to consumers”.

A spokesperson for the BPI: “The BPI welcomes the CMA’s study into the music streaming market. We look forward to seeing the scope of the project in due course and engaging with the CMA to inform its work”.

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