April 4, 2013 6:37 pm

UK musicians warm to online streaming

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Online royalties earned by UK songwriters rose by a third in 2012, the latest sign that the rise of digital music services have come to the rescue of an industry hit by a collapse of CD sales and the rampant piracy.

The rapid growth of streaming services such as Spotify, which allow subscribers to listen to songs without purchasing them individually, helped online royalties for songwriters grow to £51.7m last year from £39.1m in 2011, according to PRS for Music, a UK royalties body that represents 95,000 songwriters, composers and publishers.

This is an area of enormous innovation,” said Robert Ashcroft, chief executive, who said the industry could now enter an “era of mutual interest” between musicians and internet companies such as Apple and Google.

The improving prospects for UK songwriters come as global music industry revenues last year rose for the first time since 1999, on the back of higher digital income.

Online royalties remain just a small part of the overall £641.8m in royalties songwriters received last year, which was up 1.7 per cent from 2011.

Mr Ashcroft said that the key was for streaming to reach the mass market. “The business model is absolutely viable. We are below the peak [of revenues]. But I’d be disappointed if we didn’t have further growth to come.”

However, he added that the music industry was looking at taking legal action against a new breed of apps, which provide unauthorised access to songs provided on streaming services. “This is the biggest danger,” Mr Ashcroft said. “We’re not Mr Angry firing from the hip.”

However, 2012 was a damp squib for live music, with royalties down 14 per cent to £19.3m to their lowest in at least five years.

A key factor is thought to have been the London Olympics, which absorbed consumers’ attention and spending power in the key summer months.

The Games, however, may yet leave a positive legacy for the UK’s music scene. Bruce Springsteen, whose performance last year in Hyde Park was cut off due to a curfew, is among the acts set to perform this year at the Olympic Park, which has laxer restrictions.

“There has to be a space in London without curfew and noise restrictions. The Olympic Park seems to fit the bill,” said John Reid, head of Live Nation Concerts in Europe, the organiser of events at the venue including the Springsteen concert.

International royalties also fell in 2012, according to PRS for Music, a trend that Mr Ashcroft attributed to the decline in the value of the euro, as well as limited success in combating piracy in markets such as China and India.

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