Westminster Hall Debate speech on artistic remuneration for online content

Artistic Remuneration for Online Content
Westminster Hall
6th July 2016

Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)
I had not intended to make a speech, but the debate has been so stimulating that I have awoken and got to my feet. I just want to make a few general points because I have not prepared any remarks.

Like my hon. Friend Thangam Debbonaire, I have been doing some activities with the Industry and Parliament Trust, which is an excellent body that allows parliamentarians to get a more in-depth knowledge of business. In my case, that has been in relation to the music industry. Over the past 18 months or so, I have been visiting all sorts of different businesses and aspects of the music industry from collection societies right through to record companies and small, independent songwriters and producers. I have had the opportunity to see all the different aspects of the music industry, as many different industries are involved in the production of music, which is a fascinating eco-structure.

Having observed lots of different aspects of the music industry over the past couple of years, it is pretty clear to me that there is a trend towards streaming; it is the main way in which consumers listen to music now and it will be into the future. That has implications for the way in which artists are remunerated.

Despite what hon. Members have said about CDs disappearing and so on, a surprising trend in the music industry has been the growth of the compilation CD, which has gone against the trend of declining CD sales in recent years as people want somebody to curate the vast amount of music that is placed in front of them on their behalf. People purchase compilation CDs because that curation is done for them. Those consumers are, generally, of a certain age but, nevertheless, that has been a surprising area of growth reported by some record companies.

There will always be a demand for physical formats of music. The growth of vinyl sales in recent years is an indication that people are hankering after something real, physical and tangible—with a gatefold sleeve and a wonderfully high-quality vinyl record—that they can tuck under their arm and carry down the road before going through the wonderful ritual of putting it on to their turntable and playing at home.

The growth in vinyl sales is not just among people like me who are rebuying all the albums that they gave away when they thought vinyl was disappearing 20 or 30 years ago, rebuilding their record collections and buying new music. It is also among young people. When I go into real, independent record stores such as Spillers Records in Cardiff—the world’s oldest record store and one of the finest establishments in the country—young people are at the head of the queue to buy vinyl. That physical format will remain because there will always be people for whom music is their ultimate passion and is much more than the wallpaper of their life. Music is actually tied into their identity as human beings in a powerful way.

Kelvin Hopkins Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Will my hon. Friend give way?

Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)
I will in a moment but I am just getting worked up.

There will always be a minority of consumers who fall into that category, but there are millions of other people for whom music forms less of an obsession but is, nevertheless, an essential part of their life, even if they are not as obsessed as some of us.
Kelvin Hopkins Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
I agree very strongly about CDs and vinyl. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as CDs are a physical form of music, sleeve notes, artwork and all sorts of other things add to the enjoyment of that music? It is not just about the sound through a set of headphones.

Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Yes, I agree, but the point that I was about to make is that there are many millions of consumers for whom that is less important than it might be for my hon. Friend and I, who pore over such things. I am sure that he can remember, as I can, who played bass or slide guitar on which track, the exact length of each track, and who wrote the lyrics and the music—all the details that we store up.

The consumer model that is emerging is that the consumption of music will become part of most people’s general consumption of creative content, which will include film, music, television programmes and so on. We are moving into a world where people can consume creative content of whatever variety any time, any place, anywhere. That will work as a general subscription model in which most general consumers will pay for their internet, television and music all wrapped up into one family package. People already do that with their broadband, television services and telephone services. It is sometimes a bit of a stretch for consumers to go from nought to £10 but it is less of a stretch—although times are tough—for some illogical human reason, to go from £60 to £70 when they are paying into a subscription service. The Government, in their policy development, need to think through the implications of that trend.

We need the right copyright structure, legal structure and penalties, where they are required, to ensure that the people who make creative content are appropriately rewarded, whether it is from physical sales—which will continue to be an important part of revenue to the industry—or when their work is part of a more general subscription service. We must deal with the illegal content and the legal loopholes such as safe harbour that allow content to be consumed online without creators getting the appropriate reward. The Minister is a thoughtful person and I hope that he has something to say about how the Government see a way forward.