The hammer may soon come down on digital service providers.
It's an axiom among music industry professionals that royalties generated from streaming services are abysmal. While these companies rake in record profits and lease luxury office spaces for their employees, the musicians who constitute their userbases often bemoan their business models for practices many deem to be exploitative.
Rashida Tlaib, the U.S. representative for Michigan's 13th congressional district, has written a letter to Congress proposing that musicians should be fairly compensated for their work distributed by digital service providers like Spotify and Apple Music. Tlaib says she has been working closely with the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) to advocate for royalty reform.
"While the music industry has experienced an economic revival with the success of streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music, the current lack of regulation or codified streaming music royalty program has driven a race to the bottom," Tlaib wrote, according to a press release. "Streaming music platforms' payouts per stream are minuscule, and declining each year—leaving working musicians with little of the income generated by these platforms."
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As the pandemic has continued to impact musicians, many have found themselves with nowhere else to turn but major streaming services, where their music must be available in order to market and connect with fans around the globe. But while the tech conglomerates behind the services enjoy massive profits, musicians are left in the dust, according to union organizer Joey La Neve DeFrancesco.
"UMAW has been working toward this legislation for over two years," La Neve DeFrancesco said in a statement. "Tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Spotify, and others have sent music industry profits skyrocketing, but working musicians aren’t seeing any of that money. It’s time that we get our fair share."
The direct streaming royalty which Tlaib is calling for already exists in the infrastructure of satellite radio stations across the U.S. The royalties earned are collected and distributed to musicians through a platform called SoundExchange.
UMAW has also launched a campaign to educate musicians around the country and encourage constituents to write a letter to their representatives to co-sponsor Tlaib's bill.
"This is a substantial grassroots effort that could make a permanent change to the music industry, leveling the playing field for the benefit of musicians," writes UMAW. "We need all the help we can get! We're hoping that all of you, and anybody you know who cares about music and fairness for musicians, will contact your Representative."