New Music Streaming Bill Aims to Boost Streaming Royalties for Artists

U.S. House representatives Rashida Tlaib and Jamaal Bowman have introduced to Congress a new bill aiming to boost streaming royalties for artists. The Living Wage for Musicians Act would create a new payment system, the Artist Compensation Royalty Fund, that circumvents record labels and other intermediaries, funneling listeners’ money directly to artists. Tlaib said in a statement, “Streaming has changed the music industry, but it’s leaving countless artists struggling to make ends meet behind. It’s only right that the people who create the music we love get their fair share, so that they can thrive, not just survive.”

The funds would come from two sources: an added subscription fee (proposed as an extra half, with a $4 minimum and $10 maximum) and a 10 percent cut of streamers’ non-subscription revenue, from sources such as ads. The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) has long supported the bill, noting that streaming platforms are already planning price hikes, and the proposal ensures extra fees go to the artists themselves.

UMAW organizer Damon Krukowski, of Damon & Naomi and formerly Galaxie 500, said in a statement, “There is a lot of talk in the industry about how to ‘fix’ streaming—but the streaming platforms and major labels have already had their say for more than a decade, and they have failed musicians. The Living Wage for Musicians Act presents a new, artist-centered solution to make streaming work for the many and not just the few. We need to return value to recordings by injecting more money into the system, and we need to pay artists and musicians directly for streaming their work.”

Mixing and mastering engineer Heba Kadry added, “Our middle class musicians are disappearing, our recording studios are disappearing, and this all leads to our music communities and music culture deteriorating rapidly across the country. The more we allow a handful of very wealthy power players to monopolize and find ways to shrink the pool of income musicians make from streaming, the more we will continue to destroy our music scenes.”

The Artist Compensation Royalty Fund would ensure artists receive a minimum of one penny per stream, according to the UMAW statement. Under its distribution system, tracks would stop generating royalties from the fund at one million streams a month, with excess split equally among all recording musicians, according to the bill. While there is no stream minimum or vetting process to qualify for a share of the excess, eligible artists must be human—not a corporation or a fully generative artificial intelligence, as Krukowski noted in an email to Pitchfork.

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