The Charlatans founder, Tim Burgess, has spoken out at how streaming giants unfairly treat artists and has called for the industry sector to desperately seek reform.
The frontman’s thoughts come after the issue was debated in the House of Commons last week. Representatives from the three major record labels (Universal, Sony Music and Warner Music Group) provided evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee inquiry regarding music streaming platforms’ economics.
Burgess has now penned an opinion piece for The Guardian, where he pleads for industry reform. “The basic point is that the UK music industry contributed an estimated £5.8billion to the economy in 2019, but artists are maybe not seeing as much of that as they should,” Burgess noted. “Almost 5m vinyl albums were sold in 2020, the most since way back when we released our debut LP in the early 90s. There’s hope and excitement in the gloom, but there’s also an elephant in the gloom. That elephant’s name is streaming.”
He added: “To understand the issues better, it might help if we imagined trying to explain the way it works to someone back in 1995.
“OK, so for a penny under a tenner a month, you’ll have access to pretty much every record ever made, to listen to whenever you want. It’s like you own the music but you kind of don’t.” I’m guessing our person in 1995 would be mightily impressed. There is much made of the sums paid to artists as a result of all this – yes, they get a cut, and millions of people stream every day, right? – right, but these sums usually go to 26 decimal places, and the first four digits are often 0.000.”
The Charlatans man then brought up a recent revelation from Gary Numan, who stated that he made a mere £37 from a million streams on one of his songs. Burgess said this shows “what it’s like for a new artist who couldn’t hope to get a fraction of those plays”.
Burgess then pleaded, “But now, with everything else on hold, we have time to sort it, right? If a whole generation of musicians goes to the wall, no one wins.”
These comments support what Peter Leathem, the CEO of music copyright collective PPL, said last week to the BBC about how musicians starting today have “got the last 50 years of the music industry to compete with” on streaming platforms. “Ultimately, you’ve got some of the most talented people in our society [who] are struggling to make a living,” Leathem added.