David Byrne calls for streaming service transparency in New York Times op-ed | EW.com

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David Byrne calls for streaming service transparency in op-ed

(Bobby Bank/WireImage)

As streaming services jockey for supremacy, artists from Taylor Swift to Jay Z have called for more equitable deals for musicians. Talking Heads frontman David Byrne penned an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times that took the debate a step further: Reform, Byrne argued, is tough to achieve because streaming services and record labels have been secretive about their practices. “Before musicians and their advocates can move to enact a fairer system of pay,” Bryne wrote, “we need to know exactly what’s going on.”

Byrne did a little investigating for the piece, asking Apple Music to explain how the royalties it famously agreed to pay during its trial period will be distributed. Apple Music told him that information was only available to copyright owners—labels—and when Byrne, who owns his own label, contacted his distributor, he wrote that he received this response: “You can’t see the deal, but you could have your lawyer call our lawyer and we might answer some questions.”

“Even as the musical audience has grown, ways have been found to siphon off a greater percentage than ever of the money that customers and music fans pay for recorded music,” Byrne explained, detailing the shadowy world of transactions between streaming services and labels, which include “streaming services, catalog service payments for old songs and equity in the streaming services themselves.”

But Byrne didn’t take an altogether pessimistic stance on the situation. “With shared data on how, where, why and when our audience listens, we can all expand our reach,” he concluded. “There is a rising tide of dissatisfaction, but we can work together to make fundamental changes that will be good for all.”

Byrne has spoken out against streaming services before. In a 2013 editorial for The Guardian he observed, “The whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind … the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left.”

Read Byrne’s full op-ed over at the Times.

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