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Billy Bragg: Blame Labels, Not Spotify, For ‘Paltry’ Streaming Royalties

Billy Bragg SpotifyFrom the looks of things, streaming services like Spotify and Pandora are here to stay, and more than a few artists are not very happy about it. Everyone from Thom Yorke to The Black Keys to David Lowery has had something to say about the allegedly minuscule royalties that artists get from streaming services. While most of their ire has been directed at the streaming sites themselves, British folk singer Billy Bragg is arguing that the wrong people are getting blamed.

In a post on his Facebook page today, Bragg said that artists are making a mistake by going after companies like Spotify for “paltry” royalties. The real culprits, Bragg argues, are the record labels that negotiate royalty payouts. Bragg argues that artists are suffering because of contracts “from the analog age, when record companies did all the heavy lifting of physical production and distribution.” “Those rates [estimated to be 8-15%], carried over to the digital age, explain why artists are getting such paltry sums from Spotify,” Bragg said. “If the rates were really bad, the rights holders-the major labels-would be complaining.”

“The fact that they’re continuing to sign up means that they must be making good money,” Bragg concluded.

As an example of what he felt artists should do to get a fair cut of streaming royalties, Bragg cited a lawsuit filed in Sweden by artists against major labels to get royalties that better reflect the production and distribution of digital streaming. “Artists railing against Spotify is about as useful as campaigning against the Sony Walkman would have been in the 80s,” Bragg said.

 

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