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Intellectual Property Office publishes report on music-makers’ earnings

By | Published on Friday 24 September 2021

Just one day after the UK government responded to Parliament’s big report on the economics of music streaming, its Intellectual Property Office yesterday published a new report called ‘Creators’ Earnings In The Digital Age’, putting the spotlight on how music-makers make money.

The research for this report was already underway when Parliament began its headline-grabbing inquiry into how music streaming works and how the music industry’s digital revenues are shared out between labels, publishers, artists and songwriters. Overseen by a steering committee that included an assortment of industry trade bodies, the academics who produced the report interviewed a diverse mix of people within the music community and crunched a stack of data along the way.

The report echoes a lot of what was said by artist and songwriter groups during the parliamentary inquiry regarding the challenges music-makers face in generating a living from their music-making. And it confirms that music-makers generally rely on revenues beyond digital – and in some cases beyond music – in order to make enough money to get by.

However, the report doesn’t really embrace the popular narrative that – when it comes to the streaming boom – the digital services and record labels have cashed in big time, while everyone else has been left with little to nothing. Which isn’t to say that the challenges, issues and controversies are ignored, but record labels in particular will likely feel their perspective is better represented in this report that in that published by Parliament’s culture select committee at the end if its inquiry back in July.

The government’s overall response to that select committee report, of course, was basically “good points raised, well done everybody, but we think more discussion and research is required before there are any major changes to policy or copyright law”. And to that end a music industry ‘contact group’ and two working groups are now being formed to consider the practicalities and potential impact of some of the committee’s recommendations. This IPO report, as much as the parliamentary report, is likely to inform that next phase of the process.

In his foreword to ‘Creators’ Earnings In The Digital Age’, IPO boss Tim Moss writes: “Not only has digital technology revolutionised the way we access music, it has also transformed how artists earn money from music. These changes have been rapid, meaning that there has been limited evidence and data that would show how money is made and distributed. This has in no small part led to a high profile and highly polarised public debate, with this lack of evidence and data contributing to misunderstandings and confusion”.

“Intellectual property, especially copyright, trademarks and brands, provides creators with the tools to allow them to make money and protect their creativity”, he adds. “The Intellectual Property Office has a role to play in understanding how those IP rights support the creative value chain”.

“As such, the IPO has led the way by working in partnership with the UK music industry to commission this study to deliver robust and independent evidence. [This report] is the most comprehensive piece of research on this topic, to date. I am confident that it will inform decision-makers nationally and internationally in supporting one of the UK’s greatest exports – creativity”.

Reps for various music industry trade groups have responded to the new report, including all of the following…

Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies: “Digital continues to change how music creators are paid and yet there has been a notable lack of publicly available data and research to guide opinion and policy. The Ivors Academy has led calls for objective research and thanks the IPO, and universities of Ulster, Middlesex and Leeds, for this important report. The Academy also welcomes the government’s commitments to further research but, if the music industry is to meet its obligations for trust and transparency, far more data must be made available by those who license, collect and distribute royalties in future”.

MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl: “Thank you to the researchers and IPO particularly for their time and dedication to the extremely complex and controversial issue of creators’ earnings from streaming. The information they have made available in their report will help to fuel the debate and focus minds, as well as informing government policy in this area”.

A spokesperson for BPI: “The report clearly shows that the market is more competitive than ever, and that artists and songwriters have seen their earnings rise much faster than record labels, taking a larger share of streaming income than previous formats”.

Association Of Independent Music CEO Paul Pacifico: “This is a really important first step in terms of setting out the research needed to underpin a fair music ecosystem system that balances the competing interests of stakeholders across the value chain – from creation to consumption”.

You can download the new IPO report here.