Tuesday 23 July 2013, 10:52 | By

Musicians’ Union celebrates 120th anniversary, makes statement on streaming royalties

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Musicians' Union

The Musicians’ Union is today celebrating the 120th anniversary of its foundation with a conference and birthday bash in Manchester, where it was formed by Joe Williams back in 1893. Amongst those speaking at the two day event are TUC General Secretary Frances O Grady, UK Music CEO Jo Dipple and Shadow Arts Minister Dan Jarvis.

The organisation’s General Secretary John Smith told CMU: “The challenges that have faced musicians since Joe Williams’ inaugural meeting in Manchester have been many. The arrival of ‘talkies’ at the turn of the century, two World Wars, the use of gramophone recordings on radio, developing technology and online piracy all threatened the livelihoods of musicians. Through every twist and turn, the MU has stood strong, fighting the fight for those who make a living from music. Long may that continue”.

Elsewhere in MU news, and speaking of challenges, Smith has spoken about the royalties paid to artists by streaming services. This, of course, follows Nigel Godrich and Thom Yorke’s much discussed decision to pull music by their side projects off many streaming services, in protest at the royalties new artists are paid.

Smith told The Observer: “The argument that has kicked off this week is absolutely right and it really is hard, particularly for emerging artists, to make a decent amount of money. The streaming model should be able to work to the benefit of performers. We’d like to see a realignment of the intellectual property rights that govern all this in order to be fairer to artists”.

By that latter line, Smith is basically proposing the idea that a ‘neighbouring right’ royalty be applied to streaming income, similar to that which exists on public performance and broadcast revenue, that is paid directly to any artists involved in a recording, oblivious of their contracts with the label which released and probably owns the record. Such rights do not apply to record sales money and, by extension, streaming income.

He continued: “In the world of BBC radio and commercial radio, licensed [the collecting societes], there is a division of that licence between record companies and performers that includes everyone from the famous artists right down to the triangle player, and we’d like to see something similar for this kind of thing”.

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