Tlaib Introduces Living Wage for Musicians Act

MOTOWN – Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) and Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), founder of the Congressional Hip Hop Task Force, introduced the Living Wage for Musicians Act. Reps. Tlaib and Bowman previously introduced a resolution calling for economic justice and fairness in streaming. This legislation was created in partnership with United Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) and local and national artists who have been directly impacted by the lack of oversight in the music industry.

The Living Wage for Musicians Act would create a new streaming royalty, with the aim to compensate artists and musicians more fairly at a penny per stream when their music plays on streaming services. Currently, musicians make tiny fractions of a penny per stream, while streaming has grown to represent 84% of recorded music industry revenue in the U.S. Spotify, the world’s largest streaming service, pays rights-holders an average per-stream royalty of $0.003, which means it takes artists more than 800,000 monthly streams to equal a full-time $15/hour job.

“Detroit is one of the music capitals of the world, and our artists here have changed the music industry and our culture in so many incredible ways,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. “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.”

“I’m very grateful for Rashida’s work to bring overdue changes to the music industry that restore equity and a sense of value for musicians all over,” said Detroit artist and WDET radio host Shigeto. “Artists have been taken advantage of since the inception of digital streaming. The Living Wage for Musicians Act gives voice to independent musicians and could potentially change a lot of artists’ lives by giving them a sustainable revenue stream.”

The popularity of streaming services has forever changed how people consume music and upended the economics of the industry in the process, creating a system of winners and losers that under compensates tens of thousands of recording artists and musicians for their art and labor. The Digital Service Providers (DSPs) such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon have seen massive growth in value, and the major record labels such as Universal, Warner, and Sony have seen returns to record profits.

The Living Wage for Musicians Act would tax providers’ non-subscription revenues and add a small fee to the price of music streaming subscriptions. DSPs like Spotify offering interactive music streaming services would pass their taxed revenues and royalties to a non-profit collection and distribution fund, that would in turn pay artists in proportion to their monthly streams. The bill includes a maximum payout per track, per month, in order to generate more sustainable income for a broader and more diverse set of artists beyond the world’s most popular performers.

“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,” said UMAW organizer and musician Damon Krukowski. “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.”

By creating a fund that directly compensates recording artists and musicians, the bill will allow vastly more artists to achieve a living wage from music, enabling them to pay rent, raise a family, buy a home, and invest in their future. Recording artists also employ many other professionals in the music industry, all of whom are suffering from the current lack of financial return from streaming: producers, arrangers, sound engineers, mastering engineers, recording studios, non-featured performers and others will all benefit from these direct payments to recording musicians. The additional income musicians receive will allow them to professionally record more music, tour more extensively, create more merchandise, and make themselves more available to fans. The bill raises the standard of living for these workers which will reverberate beyond just the music industry by injecting more money into our local economies.

“Streaming services wouldn’t exist without the brilliant work of artists who choose to share their music with these platforms,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16). “Streaming services make billions of dollars a year off the hard work of musicians, but those creators make less than a penny every time we stream their songs. It is unconscionable that in order to buy a cup of coffee, an artist needs someone to stream their song over a thousand times. Artists and musicians across the country deserve to be paid for their work. I represent the Bronx, the birthplace of Hip Hop, where music is the foundation of our communities. They all deserve to be paid fairly for their incredible and transformative art. The music industry can and should work for everyone, especially up and coming and independent artists who use streaming to share their work with the world. Ensuring streaming services pay their artists a fair wage is just a first step to ensure the artists in our communities can pay their bills while following their passion.”

The full text of the bill is available here.


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