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UK competition regulator announces market study into music streaming

By | Published on Tuesday 19 October 2021

Streaming services

The UK’s competition regulator, the Competition & Markets Authority, has this morning announced that it plans to launch a market study into music streaming.

Such an investigation was one of the big asks of the Musicians’ Union and Ivors Academy during the inquiry into the economics of streaming undertaken by the UK Parliament’s culture select committee.

In the context of the inquiry, a CMA investigation was mainly raised in relation to the debate over whether or not the three majors being so dominant in both recorded music and music publishing has skewed the digital music market in any way. And, in particular, whether that fact has impacted on how streaming monies are split between the recording rights and the song rights.

In its final report, the culture select committee recommended that “the government refer a case to the Competition & Markets Authority to undertake a full market study into the economic impact of the majors’ dominance”. Responding to that report last month, the government said it had written to the CMA requesting that it consider the committee’s proposal.

In its statement this morning, the CMA implied its study into the streaming market could actually go beyond what the select committee recommended. The regulator’s CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “The UK has a love affair with music and is home to many of the world’s most popular artists. We want to do everything we can to ensure that this sector is competitive, thriving and works in the interests of music lovers”.

“Over the past decade, the music industry has evolved almost beyond recognition, with streaming now accounting for more than 80% of all music listened to in this country”, he added. “A market study will help us to understand these radical changes and build a view as to whether competition in this sector is working well or whether further action needs to be taken”.

The regulator’s statement also clarified that its market studies are “a key tool used by the CMA to identify – and, if appropriate, to consider how best to tackle – any competition and consumer issues”. Having decided to undertake such a study in relation to music streaming, the CMA added that it “will now carry out work to consider and develop the final scope of the market study, before formally launching it as soon as possible”.

In terms of the dominance of the majors specifically, the CMA is already doing some work in that domain via its formal investigation into Sony Music’s acquisition of the distribution company AWAL.