United Kingdom

Classic bands are 'crowding' new artists on streaming sites

Classic bands like Queen and the Beatles are crowding out up-and-coming pop stars on major streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube, an industry expert has today warned MPs.

Peter Leathem says record labels and new artists face 'massive competition' from established acts - some of whom rose to fame back in the 1960s. 

The chief executive of rights society Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) says new artists have to compete with 'the last 50 years of the music industry' and have a share of a 'smaller pie' than before.

And he says some performers are 'struggling' to make a living from their music in part due to the competition they face for plays and revenue.

Speaking to the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport Committee's inquiry into the economics of music streaming, he said: 'If you are trying to break a new artist or trying to get your own streaming going you have got the last 50 years of the music industry to compete with.

Classic bands like Queen and the Beatles are crowding out up-and-coming pop stars on major streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube, an industry expert has today warned MPs

Peter Leathem says record labels and new artists face 'massive competition' from established acts - some of whom such as the Beatles (pictured) rose to fame back in the 1960s

Music streaming soared by 8% last year as more people consumed their favourites songs amid the lockdown blues 

Music streaming services saw a rise for the sixth year running in 2020 as more people consumed the art form amid the coronavirus lockdown.       

Some 155 million albums or their equivalent were either streamed or bought last year, an 8.2 per cent rise on 2019, and there were 139 billion audio streams, up by over a fifth, the record labels association British Phonographic Industry revealed.

The figures, which also showed that nearly 200 artists were streamed more than 100 million times, have been released as streaming giants come under mounting pressure to increase payments to singers and musicians during the pandemic.

Sir Paul McCartney recently became the latest star to highlight the issue, saying 'they probably don't pay enough. But (the platforms are) in such a powerful position. What can people do?'.

Streaming now accounts for 80 per cent of UK music consumption although vinyl and cassette sales have continued to grow.

UK artists led by Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa accounted for eight of the top 10 albums in the UK.

But the BPI said a new wave of talent, such as AJ Tracey, Aitch, J Hus, Joel Corry, Mabel, KSI, Headie One, Jorja Smith and Gerry Cinnamon, are also driving growth.

BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said: 'The performance of recorded music in 2020 was remarkable, and reminds us how important music is to our country, even when our lives are disrupted.' 

'In terms of trying to get your streaming, your activity, generally speaking it is hard but ultimately you have got some of the most talented people in our society as performers etc struggling to make a living.' 

His warning comes after figures show more than 155million albums were bought or streamed in 2020, as the industry boomed in lockdown.

The figure is an increase of 8.2 per cent, record label body the BPI reported earlier this month.

But while top modern day British artists such as Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles, Stormzy Dua Lipa were the three biggest-sellers of the year, classic acts also featured heavily.

Greatest hit collections from Queen, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac all featured among the UK's top 10 best-selling albums last year.

Meanwhile, multi-talented Youtuber KSI, who is currently focusing on launching a music career, was the only British act whose debut album sold more than 60,000 copies. 

Mr Leetham told MPs: 'You are also faced with massive competition.

'If you look at 2019, the best-selling albums were Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, based on the film and Abbey Road by the Beatles, its 50-year anniversary.'

He added: 'What you have is lots and lots of activity, lots of streaming taking place, the value of the market is that much less, and with so much more streaming and so much more back catalogues, so much more competition, you have got a smaller pie that everyone is fighting over.

'This is why the music industry has come back at times to say, 'Look, we need more support' in terms of the value gap and things that are happening.'

The inquiry was launched in October last year amid growing anger from artists about the economics of streaming services in the music industry.

Tom Gray of English indie rock-band Gomez launched a campaign called BrokenRecord which highlighted how some artists were still tied to contracts with old-fashioned clauses.

One clause highlighted was that many artists still had contracts with a 10 per cent damage cover for broken CDs. 

Multi-talented Youtuber KSI, who is currently focusing on launching a music career, was the only British act whose debut album sold more than 60,000 copies

Other musicians who have spoken to the committee include Ed O'Brien of Radiohead and Mercury-nominated singer-songwriter Nadine Shah

This was used by labels to cover the cost of CDs broken in transport - with the artists then taking their share from the remaining 90 per cent.

However, the number of CD sales has plummeted by more than half in just three years, as listeners turn to streaming services.

Elbow's Guy Garvey has already told the inquiry that the current system 'is is threatening the future of music'.

Other musicians who have spoken to the committee include Ed O'Brien of Radiohead and Mercury-nominated singer-songwriter Nadine Shah.

She told the committee she had been forced to move back in with her parents because 'earnings from my streaming are not significant enough to keep the wolf away from the door'. 

The issue of royalty payments for artists from streaming services has been a big battleground in recent years.

In 2018, American singer Taylor Swift returned to Spotify after boycotting the world's largest streaming service for three years over royalty payments, saying ''valuable things should be paid for, it is my opinion that music should not be free'.  

She has also previously hit out at Apple Music for not paying artists during users’ free three-month trial period. The service later changed its policy. 

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