Thanks to the revolution in digital distribution, music is now reaching more people, more easily than ever before. However, the money that these exciting new platforms are generating is simply not reaching the creators of the music upon which the entire industry is built.
Any economy must be sustainable to succeed. From the people that create the product, through those that add value and distribute it to the end user; each needs to be properly recognized and equitably remunerated.
That is not the case in today’s music economy and this has far reaching implications for both the creators and the consumers of music. The entire value chain urgently needs to be overhauled. Bringing about this change is the objective of the Fair Trade Music certification initiative.
“The faster the world changes, the more desperately we need a sustainable model for the equitable remuneration of creators’ rights”
The Issue for Music Creators
As an example of the enormous decline in music creator earnings, a million-selling vinyl record or CD used to pay around $45,000 to the songwriter(s). Today, the same number of streams pays around about $35.00 – in reality very close to 100% less. In many cases these earnings are so small, it’s not uncommon to see them rounded down to zero by intermediaries.
We love technology and we love that our music can reach more people, and in more places than ever before. But no landlord will accept “kudos” as rent and no grocery store takes “exposure” as payment.
While a very tiny percentage of us can look to stadium gigs, t-shirt sales or endorsement deals to make up the enormous deficit, for the vast majority of music creators, our livelihood simply depends on being fairly paid for the use of our work – and that must include digital uses such as streaming.
The Issue for Music Lovers
In Nashville, America’s “music capital”, estimates are that 80% of the professional music creators’ community has already disappeared. Many of these are talented people who have written songs known and loved by millions, but who have been driven out of the music business in spite of success that has helped generate huge profits for streaming services and others in the music value chain.
New artists, songwriters and composers face an even graver challenge. If there is no livelihood to be made as a music creator, they can’t afford to enter the industry. Their entire lifetime contribution to our culture and the music economy is lost.
This is exponentially worse for creators from less fortunate backgrounds and less developed regions. As an example, while Jamaican and Latin American music are hugely popular in Europe and North America, music creators in those regions see very little economic benefit. Fair Trade Music will provide the world’s music creators – whether from the developing or the developed world – a clear path to equal opportunity and equitable payment.