Young musicians struggle to make living competing with The Beatles and Queen classics, MPs warned

Craig Simpson
·2 min read
Aspiring artists must compete for stream revenue with Queen 
Aspiring artists must compete for stream revenue with Queen

Young musicians are struggling to make a living as they have to compete with back catalogues from acts like Queen and The Beatles, music experts have warned MPs.

Hits from the “last 50 years of the music industry” are stacked against emerging artists trying to break through, the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee heard.

MPs inquiring into the economics of music streaming were told that young talents were “struggling to make a living” with fractional returns from plays on online platforms like Spotify and Youtube.

Despite the growth of these platforms the market has shrunk in the last 20 years, the committee heard, and artists now face “massive competition” for low-paying streams from both their contemporaries and classic acts.

Peter Leathem, chief executive of rights management group Phonographic Performance Ltd, 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.

"You have got some of the most talented people in our society as performers etc struggling to make a living.”

MPs heard from executives at the “big three” labels of Warner, Universal and Sony about the remuneration for musicians which has been accused by artists of being unfair and insufficient.

Streaming brings more than £1 billion to the UK economy and makes up more than half of the global music industry's revenue, but campaigners have warned the Committee that musicians receive only around 16% of the total value of their work.

Executives denied that streaming was an “oligocracy” of super-wealthy platforms dedicating industry practices, and argued changing the system would risk harming the UK economy.

David Joseph, chairman of Universal Music UK & Ireland, suggested that more obscure artists reliant on a devoted following for live shows could be better remunerated online in future.

He said: “All of the streams are coming to us and other artists based on popularity, and there are other ways we could look at. Streaming is not perfect yet.

“I would love to have a platform that is not serviced by the algorithm. We could get to a pure service.”