British singer-songwriter Gary Numan has revealed he received just £37 for a hit that had been streamed more than a million times. His comments came as the UK department of culture, media, and sport committee (DCMS) inquiry continues into the economics of digital music services.
The parliamentary committee inquiry is looking into activities of online music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play as revenue accruing to musicians particularly since Covid-19 has wiped out other sources of revenue for performers like touring.
Numan, who has not appeared before the committee puts the figures into context in a Sky News interview. “The solution’s simple,” he said.
“The streaming companies should pay more money. They’re getting it for nothing.
“I had a statement a while back and one of my songs had had over a million plays, million streams, and it was £37. I got £37 from a million streams.”
Giving another example, Numan continued: “I printed out, I think it was about a year ago, a statement – my streaming statement came in and I didn’t look at it, I just put it to print, and I looked over about half an hour later, it was still printing.
“It was hundreds and hundreds of pages. And the end of it was, like, £112. It was barely worth the [paper] it was printed on, and it took nearly half an hour to print. You know, it’s so much stuff, so much streaming, and there’s absolutely nothing in it.”
Streaming currently accounts for more than half of the global music industry’s revenue and brings more than £1 billion to the UK in revenue, with 114 billion music streams in the last year.
But according to the Broken Record campaign, artists receive around 16% of the total income from streams, while record companies get around 41% and streaming services around 29%.
Numan said that very big artists can do well from streaming, but smaller artists struggle.
“If you’re really at the top, then you can earn pretty well from streaming,” he said. “If you’re not, you might as well forget it, it isn’t even worth printing it out, printing out the statement.”
Numan’s words were echoed during the latest DCMS session by Peter Leathem, chief executive of music copyright collective Phonographic Performance Ltd, who said: “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.
“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.”
However, chief executive of Warner Music UK Tony Harlow, cautioned against disrupting the system.
“This is an evolving situation,” he said. “It is being well-governed by a market that is efficient and nimble and it doesn’t need any change.
“Any disruptions could diminish UK competitiveness at a time when I feel the UK needs to be the home of recorded music, just as it is by providing one in 10 streams around the world, by being the number two export business.”
During the session, it was suggested that major labels were operating like an “oligopoly” – to which Jason Iley, chairman and chief executive of Sony Music UK and Ireland, replied: “The independent sector is a brilliant sector and signs some of the best acts.
“There is more opportunity for artists to either sign to a major label or sign to an independent label or distribute their own records. There are more avenues today than I have ever seen in my time doing this job.”