It’s time for big-name artists to join the new labor movement of music

This is a story without the title in bold, or at least not the genre you usually read Vanity Fair.

And it’s the story of more than 28,000 musicians and music industry employees, and some of the biggest corporations in the world.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when live music was down, a group of independent musicians and music staff began meeting weekly on Zoom to share ideas on what we could do. do to improve the difficult situation we face. From those meetings rose a new advocacy organization, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW). And among the actions UMAW has taken is a re-examination of the online music economy. Basically, you can say — what it looks like to musicians in action.

Streaming dominates the recorded music industry — it now accounts for 83% of all recorded music earnings in the United States, according to the RIAA record label association. The remaining 17% covers all other uses of recorded music you can think of: not only physical sales and digital downloads, but soundtracks for movies and TV shows as well. as well as licensing for advertising and trademarks. There simply isn’t much of a recorded music business outside of streaming.

The problem is, streaming barely pays recording artists. There are currently no direct payments from streaming platforms to musicians themselves, for example from satellite radio. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average royalties per stream that platforms pay rights holders (i.e. record labels) is $0.007, total, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research and Record labels typically keep between 50% and 85% of those revenues. As a result, it takes artists tens of millions, if not hundreds, or thousands of millions of streams to earn anything like a living wage from their streaming jobs. Many artists find the effect no longer earning from their recordings.

Meanwhile, the streaming platforms themselves are booming — their revenue has grown 24.3% in 2021, totaling 16.9 billion USD. Paid streaming is dominated by only a few companies. According to market researcher MIDIA, Spotify is by far the big player with a 31 percent market share, more than twice that of its closest rivals Apple (15 percent) and Amazon (13 percent). Add in Chinese media giants Tencent (13%) and Alphabet/Google’s YouTube subscription service (8%), and you have 80% of the total global streaming subscription income generated by just five corporations. processing, including some of the richest companies in the world.

Note that only one of these corporations even calls themselves the music business – and that’s probably only temporary. This is what Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek said to his investors earlier this year, as quoted Diversity:

“The best companies – think the names you are already familiar with – are very different today than they were when they started,” says Ek. “They made their first mark in one particular genre: books [Amazon]Search [Google]desktop [Apple]. And then they redefine the way we think about those categories by expanding their potential through innovation…. And this is the journey we are on. “

Ek’s comparisons are not random. They are his closest competitors in the American and European music streaming arena. Spotify’s recent investments in podcasting, sports, and games make it clear how music ultimately has little to do with the company — the company’s statements now refer to “audio.” not “music”.

In other words, recording musicians have become completely dependent on businesses that don’t seem to care about the future of recorded music. Those businesses are growing while the musicians are suffering.

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