A 2022 study of the place of authors and composers in the European music streaming market commissioned by the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC) found that authors and composers were concerned about the amount of remuneration, recognition, and attribution provided by music streaming services. Information on authors and composers is insufficient and often less visible than performer or recording data. Moreover, the streaming market is captured by a fraction of the artists, an issue worsened by non-transparent algorithms and compounded by a similar bottleneck caused by the most popular playlists on the platform. Finally, even when the music is profitable, over two-thirds of the earnings are already allocated to the platform and recording rights holders, with the remaining percentage to be split between all other relevant parties, including authors and composers.
In one of their most recent plenary sessions, the European Parliament members (MEPs) voted to adopt a resolution to address most of these concerns, emphasizing the need to dismantle the structural imbalance that leaves most authors and performers with unfair compensation for their work. Improving remuneration is a pressing issue, and it is especially urgent when one considers that a relevant source of inequality is the mismatch between the goals of streaming services and those of the authors and composers of the streamed material. As noted in the report, the main goal for most streaming services is to grow their user base.
To grow their base, streaming services often refuse to substantially increase the cost of access to their paid services despite advances in quantity and quality. Moreover, streaming services tend to rely on ad-supported free service tiers meant to attract new users without necessarily having a concrete plan to turn those users into paying customers. The strategy not only makes it nearly impossible to grow the revenue pie but is also used to justify the current allocation of earnings; platforms are entitled to their slice of the pie since, were it not for their existence, authors and composers would not be able to distribute their music in an age where streaming services have become the principal source of access to music for most people.
Besides the issue of fair compensation, both the author of the study and the European Parliament have noted that a service where most of the attention (and revenue, as a consequence) is captured by major music labels and popular performers will negatively impact Europe's cultural diversity. Thus, the resolution adopted by the European Parliament looks not only to boost the visibility of authors and composers but also to implement measures such as imposing quotas for European music works and devising strategies that promote the diversity of the European music industry in ways that favor lesser-known genres, styles, and languages.
Finally, the MEPs also discussed possible strategies to prevent the manipulation of streaming figures and the rising prevalence of non-authorized deepfakes in music streaming platforms. To this end, the MEPs suggested that streaming services could create labeling to notify users that a song they are listening to was produced using AI. Additionally, platforms can implement the correct identification of rights-holders by metadata allocation. Moreover, the risk of manipulation provides another reason to press for the deployment of transparent algorithms and recommendation tools. In addition to helping prevent manipulation, more transparent technologies are also a step towards improving representation and preserving the diversity of the music industry.