The UK music industry has pointed to rising investment in new artists as evidence that more musicians are benefiting from the streaming boom, countering criticism that big labels are sucking all the profit out of the sector.
The Digital Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has heard evidence from high-profile musicians and songwriters in recent weeks who have said they struggle to pay rent despite their music generating millions of streams on Spotify, Apple Music and other digital music services.
The claims add to growing concerns over the structure of payments in the music industry and whether music is a viable career option for younger artists, particularly as the pandemic has shuttered live venues. In contrast, the main labels Universal, Sony and Warner are generating an estimated $1m an hour from streaming on a global basis.
The BPI, the UK music industry trade body, will appear before the committee of MPs this year to argue that it is investment by big labels in new acts that has fuelled the streaming boom.
The trade body’s latest figures for UK music consumption showed an 8 per cent rise in the number of albums, or album equivalents, that were streamed or sold last year to 155m. The top 10 streaming artists in 2020, including Lewis Capaldi, Dua Lipa and Stormzy, achieved more than half a billion streams in the UK.
The BPI said streaming is also boosting prospects beyond the biggest acts in the world. It said nearly 200 UK artists are now achieving 200m streams a year, while those ranked between 500 and 1,000 achieved between 21m and 43m streams in the UK.
It linked that success to a rise in investment in new acts, known as artists and repertoire spend, in 2019 to more than £250m — an increase of 50 per cent from 2014. A BPI spokesman said labels are spending 40 per cent of their revenue on A&R and marketing, which it said was reflected in the success of emerging UK artists such as AJ Tracey, Joel Corry, Mabel and Gerry Cinnamon. These musicians have racked up tens to hundreds of millions of streams over the past two years.
The trade body said 1m streams “may sound a lot out of context” but that 8,000 different acts now exceed that number annually and that six times as many artists have hit 100,000 album streams compared to the equivalent number in 2007.
The BPI said that means competition for consumer attention has intensified, meaning the role of the record label in marketing and promoting an artist has grown.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said: “Streaming means that there are many more artists active in the market than ever before. This is great news for fans, but means that it is harder than ever for artists to achieve success — so that continued support and investment from record labels in marketing and production is crucial.”