Rico Love Explains How Artists, Songwriters and Producers Are Getting Cut Out of Compensation for Streaming Music
A few weeks ago, The Breakfast Club sat down with Rico Love, an artist commonly known for his hit song “They Don’t Know.” It seemed at first that this was going to be an interview filled with a “Why haven’t I made it?” plot, but surprisingly, it turned away from the light-hearted roast that The Breakfast Club is known for, and into an enlightening interview with an artist who has clearly matured over the years to analyze the game we call the music business. The interview covered a vast range of topics from the interchange of money and generational expectations of streaming music, to artist development. The Breakfast Club and Rico Love didn’t offer all the answers, but at least attempted to educate the audience.
Later on in the interview, Rico Love mentioned how artists are now in a better position because of the recent popularization of streaming music, while the fates of songwriters and producers are up in the air. It raises the question of how music attorneys reach these platforms like Tidal and Spotify, both music streaming sources, to protect the rights of producers and songwriters. When it comes to artists like Beyoncé, who owns part of the rights of Tidal, it is possible that she is getting a portion of the profits no matter how many songs she actually writes. However, not every artist has the same opportunity of ownership rights in streaming platforms. Many up and coming artists have resorted to writing songs for more prominent artists as a way to advance themselves in the industry. Unfortunately, this alternative hasn’t proven to be lucrative for the writers with the new landscape of streaming music.
As Rico Love expresses, labels are now creating one-on-one relationships with streaming services that seem to be cutting out the writers and producers and protecting the interests of the label’s artists. In February 2015, the U.S. Copyright Office released a report entitled Copyright and the Music Marketplace. The Copyright Office conducted a study and outlined recommendations for the future of music copyright law, taking the position that the current law regarding mechanical licensing in Section 115, which is indeed 106 years old, does not fit with the times. Popular digital media and streaming services have essentially “blurred traditional lines of exploitation” in music, and the allocation of funds in the music industry has become too complex to be compatible with the current law. The report endorses allowing artists more flexibility under the law to seek higher pay rates and giving music rights owners the ability to withdraw streaming rights from these services.
Now in no way are the artists getting a huge cut of the profits after being represented by labels, but the process has at least started for the performers. During the interview, Rico offers advice to writers on the current process of being compensated as a songwriter and he reveals some gaps.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Some potential changes include allowing SoundExchange to administer record producer payments; having those in the music industry work on creating an authoritative public database of music data; and taking care of songwriters and recording artists who want more transparency in the deal-making between labels and publishers on one side and services like Spotify on the other.” Artists like Rico Love are not the only ones seeking answers.
Charlamagne the God then brought up another great point that those in the music industry should think about: is it hard for artists to be both business-minded and creative? Can you only think creatively as a songwriter and not be responsible for the business side of things? If you are a music attorney, should you streamline your focus to the legal and business aspects of the music and leave the creative contributions to your client? One possible solution is to push artists to develop more as business leaders in the field and destroy the taboo of business affecting creative ability. Education is the key to saving the music industry whether it is by having forums on artist development or 40-minute interviews on syndicated radio.
It is crucial for consumers to recognize that the options streaming services provide to them, such as ease of access, can negatively impact artists. Although artists may now have a higher likelihood of visibility through these streaming platforms, songwriters, producers, and artists are suffering on the business end because they are in contracts that don’t allow for proper compensation when their work is released through streaming platforms. Supporting an artist because of their talent regardless of label status and platform of accessibility is what real support looks like according to Rico Love. We as consumers need to fulfill our responsibility not just as creative fans, but as agents in the music business to carefully ensure that the writers, producers, and artists are treated fairly in the decisions that labels and streaming services are making. By legal pathways, consumers can demand and support legislation that allows for the artists to access “streamline interim rate-setting and immediate royalty payments” each time a song is played. Today, there is hope that more artists will be like Rico Love and take on a business approach to the industry, educating audiences and songwriters abroad on the role they can take in shaping the landscape of streaming music.
Maria A. Pallante, U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright and the Music Marketplace (2015), http://copyright.gov/docs/musiclicensingstudy/copyright-and-the-music-marketplace.pdf.
Written By: Kameron Dawson
Prospective Law Student and
University of Georgia Graduate