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MPs are calling for an overhaul of music streaming

   NEWS / 16 Jul 2021

Published: 16 July 2021

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


MPs are calling for an overhaul of music streaming to fairly reward performers and creators who they say are “losing out”. Following a six-month inquiry into the economics of music streaming, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is urging a “complete reset” of the market to stop poor returns, or artists being frozen out of payments altogether. Currently performers, songwriters and composers receive only 16% of streaming revenue due to poor royalty rates and the lower valuation of song-writing and composition, compared to the value of a song’s recording. Although performers have a right to equitable remuneration where a commercially published sound recording is rented (broadcast via the radio, or played in public), streaming exploits the “making available” right for recordings under UK copyright law. At the moment, Spotify is reported to pay between £0.002 and £0.0038 per stream, while Apple Music pays about £0.0059. YouTube pays the least – about £0.00052 (or 0.05 pence) per stream.
 
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined pharmaceutical companies more than £260m for overcharging the NHS for more than a decadeafter they racked up the price of hydrocortisone tablets by 10,000% and bought off rivals. The price to the NHS of a single pack of 10mg tablets rose from 70p in April 2008 to £88 by March 2016. For the 20mg strength, prices rose from £1.07 to £102.74 per pack over the same period. Before April 2008, the NHS was spending approximately £500,000 a year on hydrocortisone tablets but this rose to over £80 million by 2016. The firms fined are Auden Mckenzie and Actavis UK, now known as Accord-UK. Auden Mckenzie paid off would-be competitors AMCo, now known as Advanz Pharma, and Waymade to stay out of the market, and Actavis continued paying off AMCo after taking over sales of hydrocortisone tablets in 2015. Accord-UK was fined £155m. Accord-UK and Allergan, as former parent, was fined a further £66m. For their part in the collusion, the regulator also fined Advanz, and its former parent Cinven, a total of £43m and Waymade £2.5m. CMA said that these were “some of the most serious abuses we have uncovered in recent years”, giving the NHS “no choice but to pay huge sums of taxpayers' money for life-saving medicines”.
 
Car makers Rolls-Royce and Nissan say they are struggling to keep their factories running at full capacity because of the number of workers being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Test and Trace app. Rolls Royce said it was "approaching a critical point" due to workers having to self-isolate and that they may have to halve production if the trend continues. The company, owned by Germany's BMW, said it was "extremely concerned" at the number of staff at its manufacturing site in Goodwood, West Sussex, being ordered to stay at home. Nissan's UK plant has been affected by the same issue with more than 700 workers at the site in Sunderland reportedly self-isolating. Trade Union Unite said factories were on the verge of shutting down due to the worker shortages across the country. Steve Turner, Unite’s assistant general secretary, said: ""It is not an exaggeration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work." Sky News says the problem is the latest headache for an industry already facing reduced production because of the semiconductor chip shortage.
 
The Telegraph claims that the NHS Test and Trace app is "pinging" people through walls, meaning neighbours are being told to self-isolate for ten days even though they haven’t come into contact with a positive Covid case. The newspapers says that figures show more than half a million alerts were sent through the app last week – the most since records began – raising fears of a "pingdemic", with businesses, transport and schools brought to a standstill. According to sources close to the Test and Trace app team, the Bluetooth signal used is known to be strong enough to penetrate walls. The Telegraph says hundreds of people are complaining on social media about being "pinged" despite not having left their homes. Cases included a carer who had to cancel her father's cancer appointment after her two neighbours tested positive for Covid.
 
Small shopkeepers are struggling under a £1.7bn mountain of debt, a former retail chief has warned. Independent High Street businesses now owe four times as much as they did a year ago, said Bill Grimsey, ex-boss of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY. His report into the future of town centres and High Streets concludes that unless the government steps in, the UK could face a "tsunami" of shop closures this autumn. Grimsey told the BBC that small shops have survived the pandemic by borrowing, but are now faced with the task of paying it back. "Our High Street independents have…been forced to take on government-backed loans, which they would not have normally been able to get because their balance sheets wouldn't allow it. Now they are struggling to manage a mountain of debt and need help," he said. His review is calling for a government "forgiveness" scheme to write off such loans for viable small businesses.
 
A survey of 2,000 employees by jobs website Glassdoor found that 55% of those aged 18-24 are keen to return to the office, more than double the average of 26% for all employees. Just under two-thirds of young employees (64%) fear that working from home on an ongoing basis would affect their training and development, compared with 36% of all employees, and chances of being promoted, compared to 35% of all employees. Since the start of the pandemic, 38% of young people feel less able to do their job effectively compared with an average 17% across all employees. 45% of younger employees felt less connected to their boss, compared with 25% of all workers. Young workers are also struggling with burnout. 75% of 18- 24-year-olds have experienced burnout while working from home, but only 39% of 45- to 54-year-olds and 28% of 55- to 64-year-olds said they are feeling the extreme exhaustion and stress.
 
Oil prices slumped yesterday amid reports that the European Commission (EC) was looking to ban combustion engines in the EU. Brent Crude was down 0.8% in early trade, with oil stocks helping to drag the FTSE 100 lower. In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, EC president Ursula von der Leyen said it will “set a time frame by which all cars must be emission-free”, as the EU plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by the end of the decade. The bloc is aiming for sales of new vehicles that produce carbon emissions to be banned from 2035, with almost 100% of cars on the roads in 2050 to be emissions free. The plan, called “fit for 55”, calls for the 27 member states to cut their output of greenhouse gases by 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Cars account for about 12% of total EU CO2 emissions. Earlier this week France and Germany pushed back against the ban by 2035, calling for a more lenient target.
 
The Telegraph reports that Shell and Scottish Power are joining forces to develop what could be the world's first large-scale floating wind farm off Scotland's north-east coast. The FTSE 100 oil and gas giant and the subsidiary of Spain's Iberdrola have jointly submitted "multiple proposals" to Scotland's first offshore wind leasing round in a decade. Keith Anderson, Scottish Power's chief executive, said: “Scotland is the windiest country in Europe and has the biggest and most experienced offshore sector. Bringing Scottish Power and Shell’s collective knowledge, experience and expertise together means we’re perfectly placed to lead the way in developing large-scale offshore floating windfarms." Most wind farms globally consist of turbines fixed to the sea floor. Floating wind farms can harness greater wind speeds but are difficult to build. As a result only a few, relatively small farms have yet been built. Norway's Equinor built the world's first full-scale floating wind farm, the 30 megawatt Hywind Scotland, in 2017.
 
Britain's electricity grid is now balancing supply and demand with the help of a giant battery in Wiltshire funded by Chinese investment, says The Telegraph. The 100-megawatt system has been developed by UK company Penso Power with funding from China's state-owned Huaneng Group utility and CNIC Corporation. Shell has a deal to trade all of the power from the battery, which is now fully operational. Large-scale electricity batteries are set to play a growing role in Britain's electricity grid to help smooth out intermittent supplies from wind and solar power as the country tries to cut carbon emissions. The battery in Minety can provide electricity for up to 10,000 homes for a day before it needs recharging, Shell said.
 
London-based Revolut, a digital banking and payments start-up, has set a record as the UK's most valuable private tech company ever. It reached a £24bn valuation in its latest funding round, making it more valuable than High Street bank NatWest. The six-year-old company is now worth six times more than it was valued at last year. This investment round raised $800m (£579m) from Japan's SoftBank and New York-based Tiger Global Management. Both investment groups now hold a 5% stake in the start-up, which has more than 15 million users. Revolut provides currency exchange, current account and crypto-currency services for customers across 35 countries but is still in the process of attaining a UK banking licence.
 
Shares in FTSE 100 cyber security company Avast were among very few that moved upwards yesterday after news broke of takeover talks with the parent company of Norton antivirus software.
Avast said in a statement on Thursday morning it was "in advanced discussions" with Nasdaq-listed NortonLifeLock about a potential merger. The statement followed a report from the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday night breaking news of the talks.
 
Former prime minister Tony Blair and Patrick Collison, founder of global payments company Stripe, have endorsed a plan to make the UK a “science superpower”. In a new report released today, the Entrepreneurs Network and the Tony Blair Institute have set out 10 ideas required for Britain to tackle stagnating productivity and become world-leading in science. The report, The Way to the Future, brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, historians and policy enthusiasts. It highlights the requirement to overhaul science funding, build a new world-leading centre for research in fast-developing fields, and recruit young scientific talent from across the world with generous scholarships. Yahoo Finance UK reports that one essay in the collection said that Britain needed to actively seek out promising young global talent and offer them generous scholarships to study at universities and support ground-breaking research.
 
The co-creator of cryptocurrency Dogecoin has launched a scathing attack on the sector, labelling cryptos an exploitative scam that benefits the wealthy. Jackson Palmer, a developer who helped to create Dogecoin in 2013, took to Twitter to label cryptocurrencies "an inherently right-wing, hyper-capitalistic technology built primarily to amplify the wealth of its proponents through a combination of tax avoidance, diminished regulatory oversight and artificially enforced scarcity". "Financial exploitation undoubtedly existed before cryptocurrency, but cryptocurrency is almost purpose built to make the funnel of profiteering more efficient for those at the top and less safeguarded for the vulnerable," Palmer wrote as part of a series of Tweets


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