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As New Threats Arise, The Music Community Must Continue Standing Together in 2023 (Guest Column)

From emerging challenges like artificial intelligence to new forms of piracy, it's more important than ever for all stakeholders in the business to present a united front.

President Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It was true then and it’s true today — on great issues like politics and governance and, closer to home, for America’s music community.

We know the costs of division and mistrust. During the Napster era, we lost nearly half the revenue from recorded music. Working together over the last 10 years, we’ve built a robust and thriving streaming economy well on its way to recovering what was lost. But we still have a long way to go.

From powerful platforms that undervalue music to short-sighted attacks on creators’ rights around the world to abuses of new technologies that attack the very idea of human authorship — it’s more important than ever that we unite to face new challenges in 2023 and beyond.

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And we know how to do it.

In recent years, the music industry has joined together over and over again to accomplish great things and move music forward.

In 2018, we enacted “once-in-a-generation” Music Modernization Act legislation here in the United States to update streaming rights for songwriters and ensure legacy artists are finally paid. We are now working together to protect artists’ free expression through bills like California’s Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act and the federal RAP Act.

In 2021, we saw a landmark Copyright Directive in the European Union to strengthen music markets and fair pay for artists on all platforms.

Earlier this year, all three major record labels decided to voluntarily disregard unrecouped balances owed by certain legacy performers, ensuring these great artists could immediately share in streaming royalties.

And of course, we supported one another through a devastating pandemic, working to sustain small venues and develop public policies and relief programs to reach working artists and songwriters.

Those were all major steps, but new challenges keep coming — including some designed to stoke division and turn our community against itself. Fortunately, we know from our many recent achievements that the music community — and music itself — does best when we stick together in the face of common challenges. Especially at a time when American music is already thriving — across formats, styles and all around the world with competition, creativity and choice all stronger than ever.

Artists continued to find new ways to reach more fans than ever with do-it-yourself recording and distribution, while independent labels have become the fastest-growing sector of the market. In a shrinking online world where language and geography are no longer barriers, an artist’s potential audience has become almost limitless.

In this dynamic new music business, success is more broadly shared than ever, with growing opportunities and revenue for indie artists and the very top acts taking a smaller share of revenue today than during the CD era. Globally, out of a $10 per month streaming subscription, artists receive roughly $1.35 while labels net $0.55 once the cost of spending to drive artists’ success is accounted for. Meanwhile, the share of revenues going to publishers and songwriters has nearly doubled in the streaming era. 

It’s a powerful testament to what all of us who make up the music community have built together.

It is success borne first from the blood, sweat and tears of America’s creators — artists, songwriters, session players and the legions of those who support and distribute music — producers, publishers, road crews and venue operators, tour support, managers, digital services and more.

It is also the product of round-the-clock drive and commitment by the people working at record labels– music lovers who wake up every day fighting for the artists they work with and helping them achieve their creative dreams and commercial goals. From marketing and promotion to brand and design to social media campaigns to wellness and health to business and back office services, labels today do more than ever to support artists and position them to break new ground and thrive.

The labels that make up the RIAA are committed to a future of continued shared growth. We are determined to keep pushing for even more positive change. And we will work every day in this new year to unite our music community with forward-looking policies and goals that benefit artists, songwriters and fans as well as rights holders and music services.

That means standing together and ensuring creators get full value for their work on every platform, service, game, fitness app and anywhere else it is used — from AM/FM radio to the metaverse. It also means building on shared commitments to diversity, wellness and equality — both inside and outside the recording studio and across our entire community.

Additionally, it means presenting a united front when tackling the next generation of challenges, including artificial intelligence, where artists, songwriters, labels and publishers have an immense and shared interest in establishing responsible rules of the road that value human authorship and creativity. Also important is fighting against new forms of music piracy and other efforts to undermine the creative economy, from stream ripping to stream manipulation to pre-release leaks that suck the economic value out of the most seminal times in an artist’s career.

All of us who make up this community are bound together by a shared love of music — and a shared commitment to the people who create, distribute and listen to it.

In 2023, let’s work — together — to turn those values into concrete action that builds a rich and lasting music future for us all.

Mitch Glazier is chairman/CEO of the RIAA, the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major recorded-music companies.