Elbow frontman Guy Garvey says the way artists are paid for audio streams is “threatening the future of music”.
“That sounds very dramatic,” he told MPs, “but if musicians can’t afford to pay the rent… we haven’t got tomorrow’s music in place.”
The musician was giving evidence to a DCMS Committee inquiry into the streaming music market.
MPs heard the coronavirus crisis had made it apparent that artists’ earnings from streaming are “pretty horrific”.
“Young musicians who rely on live income are really going to struggle,” said Radiohead’s guitarist, Ed O’ Brien.
His comments were backed up by Mercury-nominated musician Nadine Shah, who said “earnings from my streaming are not significant enough to keep the wolf away from the door”.
Shah said she was speaking on behalf of “many fellow musicians”, who were afraid to speak out “because we do not want to lose favour with the streaming platforms and the major labels”.
Young musicians are “afraid”, agreed Tom Gray, from the rock band Gomez. “They’re worried that if they speak, they won’t be playlisted.”
The inquiry came after the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out a year of touring income, focusing artists’ attention on the money they made from their records.
At the start of the lockdown, the Musicians’ Union and Ivors Academy launched the Keep Music Alive campaign, calling streaming royalties “woefully insufficient” and urging the Government to undertake a review.
It runs in parallel with an online campaign called #BrokenRecord, founded by Gray, which seeks to address inequities in how streaming profits are shared between record labels, musicians and the streaming services themselves.
Addressing MPs, Gray acknowledged that the exploitation of artists was a story as old as the music industry itself, but said streaming had “made the problem worse and more profound”.