The National:

THIS week as listeners viewed their Spotify Unwrapped statistics on who their most-played artists and bands were, musicians took to social media to describe the all-too-familiar feeling of mass exploitation at the hands of streaming platforms, and particularly at the hands of Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek.

Just this week, Ek, who had previously bid over £2bn to buy Arsenal FC, has came under fire for investing over £85 million in artificial intelligence military defence company, Helsing. The words “F*ck Spotify” echo around social media. And rightfully so.

As Kevin Brennan MP pointed out in his opening remarks: “The chairman and CEO [of Spotify], is set to receive more income this year, £153m according to industry press reports, than [what] every songwriter and composer in the UK combined will receive from the streaming of their music in this country.” Mr Brennan’s Private Members Bill comes after the DCMS select committee published The Economics of Music Streaming report which painted a bleak picture for musicians wishing to make an income from their work.

At a time when the latest Omicron variant has cancelled more live shows, musicians find themselves reliant on selling their work through merchandising and CD sales. But in a digital world where streaming is far more convenient than buying a physical CD, burning it onto a laptop and ripping it to an iPod, musicians are missing out on a vital income stream, which is not being replaced by the proceeds of streaming.

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My recent royalty report revealed that in October, I had amassed over 48,000 streams on Spotify alone, yet I was remunerated a pitiful £85. If eight people had purchased eight albums, I’d have made almost the exact same income. Thankfully, for the time being, I am an independent artist with no label, so the entire £85 proceeds of my work went to me. But if I had a label, I’d have received a smaller piece of an already small pie.

Granted, it is a bit confusing to explain exactly how streaming royalties are divvied up, but this chart from Spotify perfectly exemplifies how the most money goes to the largest labels and artists, and how emerging artists are simply not being paid fairly for their work. But are things about to change?

The National:

Today, Kevin Brennan’s Private Members bill had its second reading in the House of Commons. The bill aims to #FixStreaming and ensure musicians and music creators of all stages of their career are paid fairly for their work. Mr Brennan rightfully stated: “The desperate plight of musicians who have been unable to perform Iive due to Covid has really triggered this close scrutiny of exactly what is going on with the economics of music streaming.”

As MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael pointed out, we should see the #FixStreaming campaign as an “important part of the Levelling Up agenda”, but we must “address the imbalance of power between the big corporates on the one hand (labels, streaming platforms) and the individuals and small business (independent musicians and artists) on the other.”

As an independent musician, I do feel like the “small guy” up against a big grizzly world full of sharks, labels, and industry figures ready to exploit you for whatever you are worth, and perhaps spit you back out once they’ve chewed you enough. As Pete Wishart MP passionately cried out today: “Where would we be without the songs and the songwriters? How would we enjoy our day-to-day life and activity without songs…”?

Calling for support for the bill, Pete stated the need to adapt and develop political infrastructure around streaming that “lets talent and creativity thrive, develop, mature and make sure it can express itself.”

At the end of the day, I just want more than £85 for 48,000 streams in a calendar month.

After the four-hour long proceedings, it was decided that the bill would not pass. Kevin Brennan MP stated that he was “pleased that [the Government] has not ruled out legislation and is committed to a programme of research into the issues raised.

Whilst organisations like the Musicians Union and the Ivors Academy can continue to place pressure upon our Government to change legislation around streaming and equitable remuneration, it really is the big record labels and artists who have the power to pressure streaming platforms to change their ways. When Adele recently released her new album, 30, she persuaded Spotify to remove the shuffle button from album pages so that tracks would play in the artists preferred order. In an exceptionally tone-deaf move, Adele tweeted “This was the only request I had in our ever changing industry”.

As esteemed singer-songwriter and activist, Karine Polwart pointed out via Twitter, the shuffle button should really be the least of Adele’s worries when taking Spotify into consideration.

READ MORE: Iona Fyfe wins in having streaming giant Spotify recognise Scots language

In stark comparison, Taylor Swift, who knows all too well about the implications of artists not owning their own work, continually champions fair pay for musicians, previously withholding her music from Spotify due to the streaming service’s option for free listening.

In an open letter to Apple Music, asking them to reconsider paying artists zero royalties for the services first three months, Taylor garnered a near immediate policy change which would, albeit minutely, benefit musicians of all stages in their careers. Whilst we have big voices fighting for our cause, we still need meaningful change to be enacted through legislation and an update to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 which is not fit for the 21st century.

Despite the bill not passing today, I applaud the MPs involved in standing up for our music creators, who have helped to energise the conversation around the #BrokenRecord industry.

Iona Fyfe is a folksinger and member of the Musicians Union Regional Committee Branch of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Listen/download/buy a CD direct from Iona here: