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Government urged to combat ‘pitiful returns’ for musicians | Music


A new parliamentary report has called for the UK government to streamline its policymaking in creative industries, in order to make the country’s music ecosystem more amenable to British musicians.

The report was authored by a committee that scrutinises the spending, policies and administration of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and follows a 2021 report into music streaming and the state of the industry, which instigated an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into the power and role of streaming services. This report commends the government’s efforts to take action – such as commissioning an investigation from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the formation of technical stakeholder working groups – but says that further action is needed in order to support artists more effectively.

The acting DCMS committee chair, Damian Green, said that “the government needs to make sure it is ahead of the game by taking a more strategic role in coordinating policy across departments”.

The report says that the government’s current method is “too scattergun to be effective, particularly in comparison to other successful countries with whom we are competing for market share,” including Canada and South Korea.

It points to the fact that government responsibilities regarding the music industry are spread across multiple departments, meaning that some issues, such as those around EU creative industry visas post-Brexit, have yet to be solved. These issues could be addressed, the report says, “by DCMS more regularly setting the overall direction by publishing its overall strategy … with tangible, measurable outcomes, at more regular intervals, that the work of various departments and arm’s length bodies can then work in concert to implement.”

While the report broadly welcomes the government’s actions on the DCMS committee’s 2021 streaming report, it questions the practices of the working groups formed, which address transparency and metadata. “We heard that the working groups have missed their deadlines and that the promised public, tangible outcomes are yet to materialise,” it says. “We also heard that the working groups, despite one of which being on transparency, had very little in the way of transparency and accountability mechanisms themselves.”

It also suggests that, although the IPO has commissioned reports into remuneration and rights, “there might not be tangible action” on the reports due to a lack of working groups on those topics.

The report’s recommendation on the government and IPO’s participation suggests “that the IPO, at minimum, ensure that there is greater transparency around the groups by ensuring that its memberships, agendas and deadlines are made public and that the groups have reporting functions,” and that “ministers and departmental officials will take a more active role in the groups where appropriate.” The report also recommends the creation of remuneration and performer rights working groups.

Green said that “there is still much more to do to ensure the talent behind the music is properly rewarded”.

“As the committee heard, there is still frustration about the returns for the vast majority of musicians and songwriters,” he said. “Too many of them receive pitiful returns despite making successful music. The main players need to get together to remedy this in a sustainable way.”

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