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Nile Rodgers repeats call for fair distribution of music streaming royalties


Speaking at the Hampton Court Palace Festival on Sunday, Rodgers called for changes in the way in which artists and songwriters are paid for their work

Nile Rodgers, the guitarist, songwriter and producer best known for his work with the band Chic, has again called for songwriters and artists to be more highly valued.

Speaking at the Hampton Court Palace Festival on Sunday, Rodgers called for changes in the way in which artists and songwriters are paid for their work, reprising many of the arguments he gave to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee last month.

“My manager and partner Merck Mercuriadis and I, through our company Hipgnosis Songs Fund (LSE:SONG), have been leading a fight on behalf of songwriters and artists to take them from the bottom of the economic equation to the top where they rightfully belong,” said Rodgers, addressing the crowd at Hampton Court.

“When we started this advocacy four years ago, we could never have dreamed that it would be politicians who would be able to clearly see the problems in the music industry and, through the DCMS Select Committee, make incredibly strong and astute recommendations to the Government on behalf of songwriters and the artistic community to make the streaming economy fairer and more equitable.

“We are intent on ensuring that songwriters are recognised and remunerated properly,” Rodgers said.

The DCMS has been looking into the revenue distribution surrounding the streaming of music. Many pundits have suggested the popularity of streaming has been good for the music industry but harmful for the majority of recording artists – basically the ones that are not international superstars, although the DCMS Select Committee concluded that even successful artists are seeing “pitiful returns” from streaming.

Equitable remuneration is a performer right where performers (including non-featured performers such as backup singers) have a statutory right to share in recording revenues of a song, regardless of their royalty rates and their outstanding debts; however, streaming means that performers are paid according to the terms of their record deal. Depending on when they started out in their careers, their royalties could range from 20% (for the average modern artist) to as little as 2% for those with historic contracts, the committee noted.

The current revenue share from streaming gives the record label the majority of a track’s revenue, a practice that dates back to the days when most music was sold via physical media (CD, vinyl record, cassette tape etc.), when the record labels had overheads such as manufacturing, storing and transporting the media.

Music creators and music publishers argue that this model is outdated and unfair as these overheads don’t apply to digital music production.

“The way the system is set up now, with all of these relationships between the labels under NDA [non-disclosure agreements], we can no longer see. We don’t even know what a stream is worth. Does anyone? Can anyone tell me what a stream is actually worth? You can’t and there is no way you could even find it,” Rodgers said in his statement to the House of Commons committee.

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