Music Artist – Drake racked up over 5 billion streams last year – more than any other artist worldwide. Photo: Ross Gilmore/Getty Images
With the streaming revolution breathing new life into a music industry once moribund under CD sales and rampant piracy, the world’s biggest record labels – Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music – have regained their financial power Is.
After facing financial ruin a decade ago, the trio that control the vast majority of the world’s biggest hits with a talent roster that stretches from Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay to the Beatles, Adele and Korean megaband BTS are now worth The streaming boom’s biggest winners are titans like investor banks combined with $100bn (£73.8bn).
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“Basically, music is a superstar business,” says Mark Mulligan, analyst and managing director at Midea Research. “The streaming economy works really efficiently in a lot of ways. Music is now considered stable, so big institutional investors are flooding into the sector as they see streaming as a safe and predictable asset. But they want to invest in the biggest companies and the big labels have that market share, they have more artists – the biggest – they have more streams, and everything.
It’s a relentless gold rush that has sent shares in Universal Music – the world’s biggest music company launched earlier this month by French parent Vivendi – valuing the deal at €45bn. Warner Music, the world’s third-largest music company, which was bought by Sir Leonard Blavatnik in 2011 for $3.3 billion, has grown to a $22 billion market capitalization since its launch last year.
The big music companies have been able to use their power to secure increasingly profitable streaming royalty deals with major platforms like Spotify. The power of that conversation was highlighted in a report from the Intellectual Property Office released last week, which showed that the top 1% of artists account for 80% of all streams and 10% of all listens by fans, which accounts for 98%. ,
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And of the most popular songs, major music companies own three times more rights to the top 10% than independent publishers. In any given week, nine of the world’s 10 most popular songs – streaming cash cows – are owned by one of the Big Three music companies.
The success of major music companies was criticized in a select committee of MPs’ inquiry into the streaming economy published this summer which called for a “complete reset” of royalty payments to musicians, after it concluded that only big bands and labels were making money from the current system.
Singer-songwriter Eliza Shaddad says: “Streaming has become such an important part of our record releases and it can clearly provide great opportunities and open doors for songs – but not without fair compensation for songwriters and artists.” It can’t help but feel exploitative.” “Streaming is clearly the future of music and more needs to be done to help artists build sustainable careers.”
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Drake, one of the 1% of superstars signed to Universal and Warner and with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars, earned more than 5 billion streams last year, the most of any artist in the world.
However, the number of UK artists who managed just under a million streams in the country in at least a month last year was around 720, according to the IPO. According to Media Research, after several fee cuts, musicians can earn as little as £1,500 a month.
The IPO admits that at least 12 million streams a year in the UK, plus more in overseas markets, as well as “other sources of income”, are all needed to “make a living from music”. “Streaming only adds up when you have billions, not millions of streams,” says Mulligan.
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The pandemic has shut down the live music industry, which most artists rely on for most of their income, resulting in musicians putting the details of their streaming revenue deals under scrutiny.
“[Most] artists can’t even afford a cup of streaming tea,” says Gomez’s Tom Gray, founder of campaign group Broken Records. “Most, other than the most successful or the most successful flavor of the month, have a limited or fixed audience once established. 99% of artists will not see the benefit of streaming, and this is not how the economy works.”
Critics of streaming argue that despite the growing number of subscribers to music services such as Spotify, Amazon and Apple, which grew from 86 million in 2015 to an estimated 550 million by the end of this year, the average price paid per month. The decline continues, are favorable offers.
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In addition, the digital age has simplified music publishing: there were 5 million new self-published musicians last year, and 65,000 new songs are uploaded to streaming services every day.
All of this means that the royalty pie isn’t growing fast enough to pay for more and more songs and artists. The IPO report found that less than half of UK musicians (47%) earn less than £10,000, while 62% earn less than £20,000.
“It really only caters to the aggregators — the big music conglomerates and streamers that keep growing,” Gray says. “Let’s face it, the odds are against you.”
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However, the IPO survey also paints a more nuanced picture of the winners and losers in the streaming era. The report found that overall, musicians are actually making as much from recording rights revenue as they were in 2008 – the pre-internet era – and that the royalty income artists took home from physical and digital sales has increased since then. There is an increase of 42%. More than 8% increase in revenue of the record company.
“The share of royalties from artists and songwriters in the streaming economy is much higher than that from CDs and downloads,” says Geoff Taylor, chief executive of industry body BPI. “The idea that artists aren’t getting their fair share of streaming is something we’ve never felt reflected a factual position.”
The report found that 68% of musicians surveyed by the IPO said their total income had either stayed the same or increased since 2015, and that major label life paid an average of £51,800 a year, despite the fact that artists spend in 2008, returning the advances made by publishing houses to pay for the production, marketing and distribution of their music.
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Taylor says the democratization of the digital age has created more success stories. Around 2,000 acts hit 10 million streams in the UK last year, which is considered the equivalent of selling 10,000 albums, double the number of physical copies sold in 2007.
“More artists are becoming successful in the streaming economy than in the CD economy,” he says. “But, of course, there are still some that are not successful, because there are too many of them in the market right now. I think streaming has been good for small and big players. If we can bring more money from streaming, that will benefit everyone and the value of the streaming economy will increase.
This article was amended on 2 October 2021. The IPO report found that 47% of UK musicians earn less than £10,000 and 62% earn less than £20,000; Not that 64% earn £30,000 or less as the earlier version said. This last figure only applies to people whose income is based solely on music. Popular music tested all kinds of boundaries in 2018. It was common for more than 100 new albums to arrive on a Friday; Despite this (or, if you’re a follower of Barry Schwartz’s “paradox of choice”), radio playlists and streaming charts seemed to be shrinking. But the pinnacle of pop in 2018 happened when artists forged their own paths, defying expectations and trends.
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For the most part, hip-hop — which rules the charts on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music — dominated 2018, with Atlanta trap trio Migos, socialite J. Cole and maximalist Travis Scott topping the album charts. Some artists dominated their peers: Drake’s messy, self-reflexive “Scorpion” was streamed a billion times in the week after its release in late June, helped by its length (it’s 25 songs long), which is almost an achievement given the widespread popularity of his singles (it was on topped the Hot 100 singles chart for more than half of 2018). After Malone, whose laconic singing-rapping style served as a bellwether for the troubled sounds that haunted pop radio playlists for another year, Drake (who could?) wasn’t as dominant, but his presence was still widely felt. Cardi B, who parlayed her 2017 breakout single “Bodak Yellow” into a debut album and gossip page stardom in 2018, brought at least some girl power and much-needed