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French performer and label groups reach voluntary agreement regarding digital remuneration

By | Published on Monday 16 May 2022

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Various organisations representing French artists, performers and labels have welcomed an agreement finalised last week regarding the sharing of streaming monies.

That agreement follows years of negotiations between artist and label groups which first began when the French government announced an initiative in 2015 that sought an industry-led solution to ensure the ‘fair development of online music’. The later implementation into French law of the 2019 European Copyright Directive – which talked about “appropriate and proportionate” remuneration for performers – also impacted on those ongoing talks.

The so called digital pie debate – regarding how streaming monies are shared out between labels, artists, songwriters, publishers and streaming platforms – has only increased in volume since 2015, and especially in the last couple of years, when the pandemic negatively impacted pretty much all of the music industry’s revenue streams except subscription streaming. Many artists and songwriters argue that they generally receive too small a share of the digital pie.

For so called featured artists, what share of streaming income they get is entirely dependent on the deals they have done with their labels or distributors. It could be anything from a few percent to 100% of the money received by their label or distributor, which is in turn getting 50-55% of any money allocated to a track based on consumption share.

For session musicians it’s much simpler. Generally sessions musicians get a one-off fee for their time and are not cut into any subsequent streaming money at all.

Various proposals have been made for forcing changes to the system which would benefit those featured artists getting a particularly small share of streaming income – often heritage artists on pre-streaming record deals – as well as session musicians.

That includes adopting certain minimum rates across the industry that labels would agree to pay. Or having some or all of an artist’s remuneration pass through the collective licensing system, with industry standard rates applying, as currently happens with radio. There are pros and cons to both those proposals.

The French agreement is more focused on the former. According to a statement on Friday, the agreement reached last week will see the introduction of a minimum streaming royalty rate for featured artists. It’s thought that this minimum rate will vary depending on certain variables, though the lowest such minimum commitment is 10% of monies received by the label.

There will also be a guaranteed minimum advance on new deals of 1000 euros, with a special fund created by the country’s collecting societies to support the smallest labels that wouldn’t usually be able to make that commitment when signing new acts.

In addition, there are also some new benefits for session musicians, with a commitment that will increase the initial fees of such musicians, and provide additional remuneration via the label for every 7.5 million plays a track on which they appear receives.

As always, the devil will be in the detail, and it remains to be seen quite how all this works in practice. However, the artist and performer groups involved in negotiating the deal seem confident it will benefit a decent number of music-makers.

Meanwhile, with similar debates happening in other countries – not least in the UK following the Economics Of Streaming Inquiry in Parliament – artist and label groups elsewhere will be assessing the French deal too.