The RIAA, on behalf of its member labels including the three majors, has responded to the Berklee College of Music’s “Fair Music” report, released yesterday. The report concludes with a series of recommendations, including better adoption of technological reporting and the establishment of a non-governmental organization to oversee payment practices, intended to guide the industry towards better servicing artists. Along with those recommendations, the report outlines how the recording industry fails to pay artists their full share from streaming due to improper accounting and the lack of a global database for recorded works that would help identify those who are due royalties.
“The Rethink Music report sheds useful light on many of the issues confronting the music industry as it transitions to digital access models under a licensing system that is hopelessly out of date,” writes the RIAA. “Many of the report’s recommendations are principles we share and support. For example, we believe all creators should be paid fair market rates, regardless of platform. All creators should be able to get authoritative information about how their works have been used and compensated. And all of us in the music ecosystem should be working together to improve industry data and infrastructure so that everyone — artists, songwriters, labels and publishers — can be paid promptly and accurately.”
The RIAA goes on to assert that “some of the report’s findings are flawed,” before going on to point out that while major labels’ revenues have dwindled, the amount they pay artists, as a share of revenue, rose 36 percent. Meaning: while the majors lost money, they continued to pay artists at a steady rate. (This figure is illustrated on page five of this report.)
Asked for more examples of the report’s flaws, the RIAA pointed out that the report’s allegations of majors’ use of non-disclosure agreements as purposeful obfuscation does not take into account antitrust laws which limit how much information labels can disclose about individual licensing deals. The organization also points to the report’s claim that 20-50 percent of royalties do not reach their rightful owners, saying they offer no support to back that assertion.
“Nevertheless,” the RIAA’s statement continues, “this is an important subject. Too many artists, songwriters, labels and publishers today are being paid below market rates – or not at all — by many streaming services and radio platforms. That needs to change. This is a challenging time, and the changes in how fans access and listen to music present numerous questions and complex issues. Let’s work to have a constructive and informed conversation based on facts.”