Business of streaming changed music industry ‘not for the better’ – Nile Rodgers
Chic frontman Nile Rodgers has said music streaming as a process is “amazing” but the business that surrounds it has changed the industry “considerably – and not for the better”.
Rodgers, the chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, appeared at the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday to discuss issues around remuneration for songwriters and composers.
Discussing the process of music streaming, he said: “Whenever people say streaming they think that is the one thing that we’re talking about, streaming is just the process by which the music is moved from one place to another… The business surrounding streaming is what is really is important.
“What’s happened is the business that surrounds streaming has changed things considerably – and not for the better.”
He added that he feels music streaming is “in fact amazing” and said he advocated for its introduction because it enabled artists to “deliver music all over the world”.
Asked how he feels the industry has changed in his 50 years in the business, Rodgers said: “In my experience, when we’re just talking about financial renumeration – that is the problem.
“If I have a business and all of a sudden my costs go down, and they go down exponentially, then what I pay out to people who support my business should go up because I have plenty of money to go around.”
The singer-songwriter said he feels this shift has been caused by the music business being first run by “music lovers” who “would do anything because they wanted to spread this wonderful art form to the world” but now it is run by people who “may be music likers but what they do love is the money that music generates.”
Reflecting on the process of music contracts, Rodgers said it is the “one business that after you pay off the mortgage, they still own the house”.
He explained in his case he paid off his first single advance of 35,000 dollars straight away as it became a million dollar record, but after paying off the advance he no longer owned the product.
Alongside his band Chic, Rodgers has released a string of hits including Le Freak and Everybody Dance.
He has also written and produced music for many global stars including We Are Family for Sister Sledge, I’m Coming Out for Diana Ross and David Bowie’s album Let’s Dance.
Rodgers said he feels the music industry should be set up to “take care” of those who are providing the entertainment as is done within the sports business.
Chief executive of Hipgnosis Songs, an artist management film label, Merck Mercuriadis also claimed that major sports such as the NFL and Premier League football “pay somewhere between 40% to 70% of the money that’s generated to the players”.
Earlier this year, Rodgers was named Apple Music’s artist in residence with a focus on the implementation of spatial audio.
Asked by SNP MP John Nicolson if the role has compromised him as an independent critic of the industry, he said: “No, not at all because, believe me, I do not mind opening my mouth and I do not mind saying what’s on my mind.”
The music streaming giant said it paid on average one cent per play to the artist, with the value varying by subscription plan and country or region.
Rodgers said he has not discussed the rate of pay with Apple Music yet but there are “certainly” plans to.
He added: “Right now what I’m concerned with is AI and the technology of the future. And the reason why I accepted that position is because I wanted to make the experience better for all of you, for everybody in the world.”