LONDON – Tom Gray, a prominent artist rights advocate and founding member of British rock band Gomez, has been elected chair of The Ivors Academy, the U.K. association for songwriters and composers.
Gray has been a key figure in the global push for creators to receive a greater share of streaming royalties. In April 2020, he founded the #BrokenRecord campaign, calling for reform of the music industry and a rebalance of power away from record labels and streaming platforms and towards artists.
Gray’s #BrokenRecord campaign ran alongside The Ivors Academy’s #FixStreaming drive, attracting support from stars like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and compelling U.K. regulators to take a closer look at how the record business operates.
That led to a nine-month probe of the streaming music business by the Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which delivered its final report in July. The committee members concluded that the recorded music market is “being distorted” by the dominant market share enjoyed by the major labels and that the global streaming model dominated by Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Amazon Music “needs a complete reset.”
In December, a proposed statute, the Copyright (Rights and Remuneration of Musicians) Bill, requiring the industry to pay musicians and songwriters a bigger slice of streaming revenue, was debated in Parliament, but failed to win enough support to progress.
A 12-month ‘market study’ of the record business by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) was formally launched Jan. 27, looking at any possible competition concerns related to the major labels and streaming platforms’ dominance of the industry.
Running alongside the CMA probe are a number of government-led working groups examining some of the issues raised by the DCMS Committee, including the potential impact of bringing streaming in line with U.K. TV and radio broadcasts by obligating record companies to pay performers “equitable remuneration” on streamed music.
“I know why I have been elected and I intend to do what is expected of me. In this moment, songwriters and composers feel the need for strong advocacy and representation,” said Gray in a statement announcing his appointment as chair of The Ivors Academy.
“We are a brilliant and joyful community who wish to be our better selves without any grievance, but these are challenging times,” Gray went on to say, noting that while there “may be some uneasiness” at his appointment, he has no desire for The Ivors Academy “to be treated as an outsider.”
“Reform is never easy. It isn’t comfortable and is always challenging, but it makes things better… We are central to this industry and my intention is merely to put our interests there too,” said Gray, who will balance his duties as chair with continuing to make music as a member of Gomez, the rock five-piece which won the Mercury Music Prize in 1998 for debut album Bring It On.
Gray succeeds outgoing chair Crispin Hunt, another fierce campaigner for artist rights, who stepped down last week after five years at the helm of the London-based organization, which was known as The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors until 2019 when it was rebranded The Ivors Academy.
The not-for-profit organization is best known for hosting The Ivors awards, named after Welsh composer Ivor Novello and which recognize the best in song writing talent. Previous winners of the annual peer-voted awards — first staged in 1956 — include Kate Bush, Sir Elton John, Brian Eno, Gary Barlow, George Michael, Annie Lennox and Amy Winehouse. Members of the Ivors Academy include Ed Sheeran, Joan Armatrading, Jonny Greenwood, Stormzy, David Arnold, Annie Lennox and Paul McCartney.
“The reputation of the Ivors Academy as the leading advocates for songwriters and composers is growing,” said CEO Graham Davies calling Gray “one of the most vocal champions of music.”