3 December 2021
Copyright (Rights and Remuneration of Musicians, Etc.) Bill

George Freeman speaks in the debate to make clear the Government’s is acting on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report in order to ensure that the digital streaming market provides fair remuneration for musicians and all our creative artists.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (George Freeman)

It is a great pleasure to be here today. Is not this a wonderful example of what Fridays are for—a proper cross-party debate that tackles a serious issue? I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) and the Select Committee for their substantial report in the summer; I assure them that I and officials in DCMS and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have read it carefully. Indeed, it is because of that report that we are having this debate today.

I pay tribute to all colleagues who have spoken so far. I know that more want to speak, but I wanted to take this opportunity to set out the headlines of the Government’s response for Opposition Members before they decide to respond. I cannot pay tribute to everyone who has spoken, but I particularly want to mention: my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), who is a former DCMS Secretary and was a distinguished Chair of the DCMS Select Committee, whose comments were important and well noted; and my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), who demonstrated his experience in the industry. I also thank a whole range of voices to which I have been listening carefully. The tone of the debate has been extremely welcome, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cardiff West for bringing the debate to the House in that way, with this level of cross-party engagement. It is all to the good and this is what the public expect us to do on a Friday in private Members’ business: come together and tackle key issues.

I am responding on behalf of the Government as Minister for Innovation at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Minister for copyright and intellectual property, which is what the Bill before us actually amends in law. I am here as a member of a Government who are taking this issue seriously, especially through my Department working closely with DCMS.

One of my primary responsibilities is for innovation across Government, so I want to put this issue in the context of the broader opportunity for digital innovation in the economy, including through the deep digital technologies of AI, quantum and such technologies, which I am looking to support through our science and innovation budget. We should also look at this issue with reference to the role of important digital clusters—the gaming community and others—that are driving innovation in medical technologies and a whole range of other parts of our digital economy. Indeed, earlier this summer, I took the Big Tent Foundation to Coventry, where we were joined by the Secretary of State for BEIS, to celebrate the work of the often unseen digital entrepreneurs in the gaming cluster, who are not often seen in the newspapers, but who are driving huge investment, innovation, and opportunity for people to engage in the digital economy.

It was for that reason that yesterday at the levelling-up Cabinet committee, we had a long conversation about the importance of the digital creative sector in supporting opportunities around the economy. Many of our now most celebrated digital and technology clusters started with strong cultural, artistic and musical elements. In fact, silicon valley started in the ’60s as a home for non-conformist, free-thinking, fresh-thinking entrepreneurs, before the term was really widely understood. It was the lifestyle, the surfing and the music that laid the foundations for what is now the world’s greatest technology cluster. Similarly, in Cornwall we are seeing the merger of lifestyle and recreation tech entrepreneurs linked to surfing and music. Music is not just in a silo.

I am also here in a personal capacity. My family has substantial interests in the industry, although I am not declaring commercial interests, as I have none myself. My brother works in the film industry, where people are better paid. It is a bit feast or famine. When there is a film, people tend to get paid pretty well, and between films it is a bit famine-ish—but they are paid well in general. My wife is a theatre director. People in theatre are paid rather less well than in film, although many of them sometimes work in films, if they are lucky.

In our house, we have a lodger who is a family friend. He is a nocturnal entrepreneur —I see him only at the beginning and end of the day—and I asked him the other day, “What are you doing upstairs?”. He is a digital music entrepreneur, making music at night. I asked him how the streaming sector is working. His response was very interesting and I want to share it with the House, as he said: “If it wasn’t for Spotify, no one would know me. I’m using the streaming platform to get noticed. I don’t make any money out of it, but what happens is that people then pick me up on TikTok, they pick me up on Instagram, they then reach out and message me.” He said, “I’m now selling cassettes”, at which point I looked at him! I am old enough to have had a collection of cassettes—indeed, when I bought my last car but one I was worried that there was not a cassette player and what I was going to do with my old cassettes. Then I had the same problem with my CDs. I looked at my lodger and said, “Cassettes?” and he said yes. As colleagues around the House more knowledgeable than me have highlighted, there is now a huge market in cassettes, as indeed there is in the renaissance of vinyl.

My lodger has used the streaming sector to create a footprint for himself, but of course what he really wants to be able to do is fill venues. When I asked, “Could you fill a venue here in London?” he said, “I could half-fill one in London, but I could fill 10 venues in Los Angeles.” I think that speaks volumes about the level of global digital entrepreneurial activity going on in this country—of course, the pandemic has robbed many of our musical artists of those venue-related, event-related incomes—and highlights a lot of the issues that the Select Committee has rightly brought to the fore about the impact of the level of digitalisation in the music industry.

My headline message is that we in Government want to view this area as a creative industries ecosystem, and make sure that Britain is the best place in the world for musicians to practise, innovate and create, recognising that we are in an incredibly competitive global environment; nobody wants to pass a well-intended law that inadvertently undermines the UK’s position as a leading centre. In this debate, we need to think about the artists—in this case, the musicians—and the labels and the platforms, as well as the relationships among those three in creating a functioning, vibrant, innovative and, indeed, profitable ecosystem in which revenues are distributed fairly and in a way that leads to UK leadership.

My commitment, on behalf of the Government, is that we will take this moment, with the report and this very well presented Bill, to do what many in the House have urged us to do, which is to look quickly—not to delay, but to look quickly—at all of the issues and the impacts, and make sure that we frame a Government response that does not just deal with the immediate issue today, but means that our successors in this House in 10 or 20 years’ time say that this Parliament got it right and tackled it in the right way.

That is really about, yes, fairness. Fairness is an important word, and I think an important value that most people listening to this debate, who may not understand the complexities—and, boy, there are many—of the modern digital music streaming ecosystem, understand. People understand that fairness does not mean everybody being paid the same amount every day, which tends to lead to a communist society in which very little is to be distributed. Fairness means that people are rewarded properly and appropriately for their part in an ecosystem, reflecting the role of others and of competition. It is also about making sure that the UK remains a powerhouse in the global digital ecosystem, and in particular that our musicians, on which this Bill focuses, are properly rewarded.

I want to highlight that “musician” is one word but covers a multitude of different people—singers, bands, DJs, instrumentalists, non-featured artists, session musicians, backing singers, lyricists and composers. There is a huge range of people, and before we legislate we just need to be cognisant that we will be legislating to shape their lifestyles and their livelihoods. It is part of my responsibility as a Minister to make sure that we listen to all of them, even those who are not so noisy, and make sure that, before we change the law, we are cognisant of any unintended side effects. We need to make sure that all musicians are benefiting from the UK legal framework, and not just be pushed by one group without being cognisant of the effects on others.

I also want to highlight—indeed, I did not know this before preparing in the last two or three weeks for this debate—how musicians actually make their money. If we look at the data, we see that, at 31%, live performance is the main revenue stream. That has of course been hit very hard by the pandemic, which is what has brought this issue to the fore. Then there is teaching of music at 9%, audio streaming royalties at 6%, physical sales at 5%, digital sales at 5%, sessional orchestral work at 5%, broadcasts at 5%, public performances at 4%, commissions for stage at 3%, merchandise at 3%, video streaming royalties at 3%, and a whole raft of others. The truth is that there are multiple revenue streams for most musicians, and some of course only receive some of those, but we need to be cognisant of the broader musician revenue stream, and indeed of how complex it is, before we legislate.

When a song is streamed on a service such as Spotify, revenue from that stream flows through a streaming value chain that has taken shape in the past few years. At the start, the streaming service takes its cut, which is typically around 30%, although there is no industry standard, and the rest is split among all the other parties back down the supply chain. People’s ability to negotiate depends, of course, on their strength in the market. I dare say that if I produced a piece of music, my negotiating power in the market would be very weak, whereas the band led by colleagues here in the House have established that they have an audience and a market. I pay tribute to their work in not only using those revenues to support charities but in highlighting issues in the House.

It is and should be a competitive market. I think we would all accept, as people who make their living on their feet, speaking to issues, that if we went to Hyde Park corner, some of us would attract bigger audiences than others. I do not think we would pass a Bill that compelled the public to listen to us all for the same amount of time with the same level of interest. We cannot legislate for that and we all know that. We do, though, want to make sure that successful artists who generate quality music are rewarded properly.

We accept that there is a problem and we accept the fundamental case made by the Select Committee. We have already started by launching the Competition and Markets Authority. The industry is very vertical, if I can put it that way, and we want to make sure that the revenues flow fairly and there is no anti-competitive practice. We are also looking, through the Intellectual Property Office, at how other countries have done it: there have been a number of reforms around the world and we want to be sure that we have collected the data on any reforms that have worked positively for musicians across the board and on those that have had negative effects.

In the past two weeks, I have had extensive meetings with the hon. Member for Cardiff West, in a positive spirit, and with colleagues on the Government Benches, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey), and around 40 or 50 other colleagues who have taken interest. I have also taken the time to meet people in the industry.

Before colleagues decide how they wish to proceed, they should know that views are very mixed. I have had 50 submissions this week that I was reading late last night. The Association of Independent Music accepts the Select Committee’s case that there is a problem, but does not accept that

“the solutions this Bill proposes will lead to the outcomes its supporters hope for—and the Bill risks damaging independent music”

by making

“the UK a less attractive place to invest and record”.

The British Phonographic Industry said:

“The Bill is premature in rushing to a legislative solution before the market impact…has been properly explored”.

We have had submissions from a huge range of hugely creatively and entrepreneurial UK labels. I will not even begin to read out the whole list, but I have here a letter with at least 20 logos on it. In November, a group of them wrote to the Prime Minister: “We are writing as a group of British independent record labels concerned about the unintended impact”—I do not think anybody has any doubt about the intent behind the Bill or, indeed, the Select Committee’s work behind it—“on our industry of the copyright Bill that is due to be debated in the House”. They urged us not to accept the Bill quickly as it is written but to take it as a spur, as the hon. Member for Cardiff West himself urged, to do the necessary research.

Jeepster Recordings, which is based in Hackney, wrote to the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) to say:

“I am writing to you from Jeepster Recordings in Stoke Newington. We are an independent record company based in your constituency. We began in 1996 and have a very small creatively successful back catalogue which includes the early Belle and Sebastian and Snow Patrol albums…We have deep concerns about the impact of this Bill on the future of our business and feel that there are parts of it that, if approved, will destroy a business we have managed to keep going for 26 years…As with a lot of small labels, we invested a large amount of money in our artists and struggled as a company at a financial loss for several years whilst promoting them in a market skewed in favour of the major labels”,

which is the point that the Bill seeks to tackle.

We are keen to make sure that we get this right and pass a piece of legislation, if that is what it takes, or work with the Competition and Markets Authority to put in place the right measures to make sure that the industry—the labels—respond in the right way. Ultimately, before the long and slow process of legislation, we would like to find an industry solution, if we can, which is why we have brought together a series of working groups with industry to start to put feet to the fire and ask some hard questions about what they are doing to make sure that we properly remunerate artists.

Graham Stuart 

There is huge interest and real concern across the House about getting this right. Often the House comes together like this on an issue, but then somehow in the Government it goes into the sidings. Can the Minister reassure all colleagues across the House who want to see action that he and the Government are committed to taking it forward energetically?

George Freeman 

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, a distinguished Back Bencher and former Minister, for raising that point. I myself have had private Members’ Bills, including ten-minute rule Bills, adopted by the Government; I have withdrawn them on the basis of an undertaking from the Minister. I have spoken to the hon. Member for Cardiff West, and obviously I understand that he wants to make his point, but I ask politely at the Dispatch Box, for the record, whether he might be prepared to withdraw the Bill today, work with me on tackling the measures in it, and bring it back in due course if he feels that the measures that I have put in place are inappropriate.

Kevin Brennan 

I thank the Minister for the approach that he is taking. We have discussed the matter before, but I think that it is important for the Bill to have at least a chance to proceed into Committee. This is a long process, as he says, and the Government control the timetable, so my view is that the Bill is a bus that he could reupholster along the road to make it fit for purpose so we can all agree on it, and that the House should have the opportunity to express its opinion. I know that he understands that.

George Freeman 

I totally understand that the House will want to have a chance to express its opinion. The hon. Gentleman knows well that the private Member’s Bill process is not an ideal process for us to do the work we need to do in government. We have launched the Competition and Markets Authority work and we have a series of workstreams that I will describe in a moment. I would like to think that over the next few months—

Mr Perkins 

I appreciate the positive narrative that the Minister is giving to the Bill, but I am very concerned about what he said about Spotify and by the sense that Spotify offering exposure to musicians ought to be enough so that they can go and make their money elsewhere. Surely there should be a real commitment that there will be a fair relationship and these major, powerful organisations will offer more than just exposure.

George Freeman 

As I think the record will show, I was not actually suggesting that that in itself is always enough; I was just making the point that Spotify and other streaming services have provided a platform for many artists who would not otherwise have had a chance to acquire any following. The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to ensure that revenues are flowing fairly, which is why we have launched the Competition and Markets Authority work. The Intellectual Property Office in my Department is looking at other countries and we have set up a number of taskforces, which I will describe.

Before the House decides whether to force the question whether the Bill will proceed, I want to answer the point about our commitment.

Mr Whittingdale 

Concern has been expressed on both sides of the House about the value gap issue, which relates particularly to YouTube versus some other streaming services. In its response to the Select Committee, the CMA said that while it recognises that issue, at the moment it does not think that it should fall within the measures that it takes through the digital markets unit. Will the Government’s examination take into account concerns about the value gap and the proportion that is being taken by the platforms?

George Freeman 

I am delighted to give that undertaking. My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We will be looking not only at the CMA’s specific remit on competition, markets and anti-competitive practices, but more broadly at the value chain. We need to make sure that there is a proper ecosystem; not everyone will be able to get equal remuneration, but we want to make sure that the market is working and is fair. Yes, we will be looking at that.

Sir Greg Knight 

The Minister has indicated that he is not very happy with the Bill as a vehicle for taking action, but he also says that he accepts that there is a problem. Could he be more specific about his timeframe for action?

George Freeman 

Yes, I was just coming to that. We have already started work through the CMA, the Intellectual Property Office and the taskforces that I will describe in more detail in a moment. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have agreed that we want to get information back within a matter of months and come back to set out the Government’s proposals within a matter of months. We aim to come back with a substantive response in the summer—certainly no later than September. It slightly depends on what we hear, but if we can avoid legislation and solve the problem in some other way, that will be our first instinct. Indeed, I want to make it clear that if we conclude that legislative change is the only way to achieve what the House is looking for, that is very much open to us. However, our instinct is not to rush to introduce a private Member’s Bill to solve the problem, however well intended the measure, but to do the work and come back quickly to the House with a set of proposals. If that suggests that we need to make legislative changes, we are open to doing that.

I shall begin to set out the specifics of that work and what we are doing, and make it clear that the point about fairness that has been made by colleagues across the House sits at the heart of that. We want a fair streaming environment in which the UK music industry can thrive and artists are properly rewarded. Fairness is a broad concept, and one to which we can all sign up, but it has many different aspects in this complicated industry. The Bill proposes a number of specific measures aimed at making the streaming environment fair, which we think is a laudable aim, but it is simply not yet clear that the impact of all those measures has been fully assessed or whether there are others that do not require legislation but which might have a similar impact. We have not ruled out legislation to introduce any of the measures in the Bill or indeed others, should our work suggest them, but we are concerned that interventions such as this made at pace could have—and, indeed, we think would have—significant consequences across the industry, as the correspondence that I have flagged has indicated. We do not want to cause a crisis of confidence in the UK digital music sector, and cause a disinvestment, creating a bigger problem by moving too hastily without taking the chance to listen to all those who have a stake.

We have to get this right in a complex ecosystem and supply chain. The first step is to gather proper evidence from all of those who have concerns before deciding what Government action we will take. If the hon. Member for Cardiff West, a distinguished former Minister, was in my shoes he would be saying something very similar. To that end, we have commissioned research, as I say, into a number of measures from the Competition and Markets Authority and the Intellectual Property Office, and we are liaising with industry stakeholders. We want to work closely with industry and, as it is watching this debate closely, I wish to make it clear that we think that there is a problem. We want to make sure that we get it right, and we want to work with it to get the right measures in place. We would prefer that not to be legislative, but if we cannot find a solution with the industry we hold open that opportunity. We are not saying today that we will not legislate—we will if that is the right thing to do.

In spring this year, we will consider all the evidence that we receive and will think through how we need to respond. That will include consideration of measures on all the elements in the Bill: equitable remuneration, contract adjustment and the right to recapture works, as well as other possible market interventions. I want to make it clear that I am working closely with the Minister for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure and, indeed, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who is a distinguished author and has a strong understanding of the issues of royalties, as well as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Our aim is simply to ensure that the UK is the best place in the world for musicians to come and practise and find audiences globally, and to harness the benefits of digitalisation, because we have created an ecosystem that is fair, innovative and competitive, both for individual artists and for the UK. To do that, we think that it is right to consider these issues sensibly and properly, as one would expect a Government to do.

This week, I have spoken to about 40 colleagues, and I have probably heard another 40 today. It is great to hear from colleagues from all parts of the House. Even the Scottish nationalists have paid tribute to the Government’s listening on this, which is a nice thing to hear. I attended the Government’s music stakeholder contact group on Wednesday, and heard the views of 11 stakeholders. I am grateful to them and to others who have contacted us this week with their thoughts. I have had a constructive meeting with the hon. Member for Cardiff West, who—I want to pay tribute to him again—is a passionate advocate. We would not be having this debate if it were not for him and colleagues on the Select Committee.

Interestingly, today is the birthday of Ozzy Osbourne, the former lead singer of Black Sabbath, who, through the power of music, overcame learning disabilities and a difficult upbringing to become one of rock’s elder statesmen. That speaks to the power of music, not just to give us all joy but to create opportunities for people who might otherwise struggle. Today is also the anniversary of the release in 1984 of Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas?”. It is a day that I will never forget, because I played football for 24 hours, listening to that one track. It is ingrained in the very DNA of my subconscious as a result.

This is a good day. I also reflect that this is not the first time that the House has considered the issue. I am old enough to recall Tim, now Lord, Clement-Jones’s Live Music Bill in another place, testing parliamentary support on more than one occasion before the then Government were evidentially satisfied that they could support a version of the Bill becoming the landmark Live Music Act 2012. It is worth recognising that we are not the first group of parliamentarians to consider this issue, but the pandemic has revealed the urgency of our dealing with it. That is why I have given the response that I have. Let me be clear that the Government do not rule out legislation; we are just not prepared to rush to adopt a private Member’s Bill without working with all stakeholders, including the hon. Member for Cardiff West. He may want to force a vote, but I hope that he hears my commitment in good faith to work downstream.

The key is evidence-based policy making—and, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would not expect me, as a science Minister, to believe in anything else. These are far-reaching measures for which the Government must build the evidence base so that we are satisfied that what we propose is right. It is also so that, in terms of transparency, people around the country can see that we have listened to all the stakeholders and taken a balanced view. To intervene now without first doing that would be rash.

The UK music industry is, as many colleagues have said, at the heart of our arts and culture sectors and, from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones and from Ed Sheeran to Stormzy, it is the envy of the world. There are also a whole lot of names who I had not even heard of but who have huge digital followings around the world. It is hard to overestimate the value of the sector.

I will share some statistics that are worth thinking about. In 2018-19—pre-covid—the UK music industry contributed £5.8 billion to the UK economy, up 11% from 2018. That suggests that the industry is in pretty rude health: it is growing and expanding. In 2019, pre-pandemic —this is quite interesting—the median reported income for musicians currently signed to major record companies was £51,000, for musicians signed to independent record labels it was £20,000, and for self-releasing artists it was £13,000.

The challenge that we all face is how we ensure that we create an ecosystem in which those hitherto unknown, often young—but not always young—independent breakthrough artists get the benefits of digitalisation and streaming to help them generate revenue in myriad ways. Sadly, the “Music creators’ earnings in the digital era” report found no evidence that there was ever a time when recorded music was the basis of substantial income for most musicians, even in the 1990s when revenues in the music industry were higher. It is difficult to compare the number of musicians who can earn a living from recorded music in the streaming era with the download or CD eras—let alone the tape era—because of the difficulties in assessing data.

One commitment I want to make to the House today is that we are looking to collect data both in the UK and internationally so that we can make policy on the basis of actual fact about the impact of reforms around the world. Of course, the Americans made reforms recently, and there have been others in other parts of the world. A key part of this dynamic sector is independent labels such as Rough Trade, Domino and Beggars Banquet—there are so many that I could not list them all, and I do not intend to. We want to continue to support them, and when they write to say that they are worried that the Bill—well intended though it is—will undermine them, we are concerned. [Interruption.] I thought that an hon. Member wanted to intervene.

Let me turn to the level of Government support for the sector.


George Freeman 

I am conscious that time is short, and I know that there are colleagues who still want to speak. Let me just spin through the key points that I have not yet made.

First, let me highlight the level of the Government’s support for the creative industries sector, and particularly our musicians. We have set out the creative industries sector deal, the creative sector tax reliefs, the film and television production restart scheme and the culture recovery fund, and the Chancellor’s plan for growth sets out a major long-term commitment to the sector, which we calculate contributes approximately £116 billion to the UK economy. At the recent Budget the Government announced £42 million to support our creative industries, and we include in that the small and medium-sized enterprises at the heart of film, music and video games—that broader nexus of digital entrepreneurship.

I want to touch on the impact of the pandemic, which as the Select Committee highlighted has really brought the issue of the very vertical nature of digital revenues to the fore, because musicians have not been able to have the venue events they would have had before. I make the wider point that the urgency of getting through this pandemic and defeating it is key to no one more than to our musicians. It is a joy to get back to listening to some live music, and long may that continue.

Looking at the impact of covid, for the most part, the recorded music industry stood up reasonably well during 2020. The BPI reported revenues from streaming growing to almost £737 million in 2020, which is a 15% increase during the pandemic, with smartphones, smart speakers and music streaming services providing unprecedented choice for consumers. I will not list all the music that I ended up listening to throughout the pandemic—the House has got better things to do than listen to my music tastes. However, when I listen to Bob Dylan on Spotify, it says, “If you like that, you’ll like this”, and I found myself discovering—I have pretty predictable music tastes—a whole range of artists I had never heard of, and listening to them. That highlights to me the role of digital streaming platforms, notwithstanding the need for equitable distribution, in highlighting artists who I would certainly never have heard of.

The Government are providing a whole series of support for the benefit of musicians: employment schemes, grants, loans, a reduction in VAT to 5%, business rates relief, and the extension of the moratorium on commercial evictions for business tenants, but before the hon. Member for Cardiff West makes it for me, I accept the point that many musicians at the bottom of the supply chain are not earning enough to qualify for tax in the first place.

Sector-specific relief included the culture recovery fund. That was the biggest arts funding package in our history, and the Chancellor made available £2 billion at speed, with awards to more than 800 music-based organisations. That helped to stop more than 130 of our most loved and enduring grassroots music venues having to close their doors. We also put in place the £800 million reinsurance scheme and I am delighted, as I am sure all Members are, that we can get back to live music venues, and indeed to live theatre and pub theatre. One-man and one-woman shows, or shows with a small cast, that are totally covid compliant have been a joy, and one of the unintended consequences of the ghastly pandemic.

I want to touch quickly on copyright law, to which the Bill makes a series of important reforms that are potentially impactful on everybody affected. We in the UK are proud of our copyright law, and no one more than the Minister responsible for copyright. Our 1709 Statute of Anne was the first copyright Act in the world, and today the UK is a world leader in copyright law and intellectual property enforcement. We are determined to continue to explore and modernise that, and I welcome the new chair and chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office, with whom I am working closely to ensure that we keep up with the pace of digitalisation.

In the time available I want to touch on the importance of ensuring that copyright enforcement is properly tackled. We recognise that we are a leader in that at the moment, but the rise of music streaming is a good example of how attractive new services, together with a strong focus on enforcement and education, can transform an industry that has been beset by copyright piracy. We are determined to tackle the problem of piracy, and not just those of us who remember recording “Top of the Pops” on a cassette in the 1970s, which is a low form of that—I would not say it is harmless, but as the former Chair of the Select Committee made clear, probably all of us old enough to do so did it, and it was wrong.

However, the level of industrial piracy going on is far more serious, stealing revenues from our artists. That is why the Government continue to invest in our dedicated Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit—PIPCU—which is the first of its kind in the world. It exists to protect creators and brand owners, and the unit, run by the City of London police, is dedicated to tackling serious and organised online piracy and counterfeiting that affects digital and physical goods. The Government’s upcoming infringement strategy will set out a new framework, allowing us to react more quickly and effectively to today’s challenges.

I want quickly to touch on the rise of streaming, and some of its implications. From the early 2000s, record companies saw a 15-year period of global revenue decline. Recorded music revenues were decimated due to digital piracy, and subscription streaming services such as Spotify—others are available—entered the market in 2008. By 2015, they had played a major part in halting that decline, as consumers began to adopt subscription services and paying for the right to listen to music. In 2015, there were on average 2.1 billion streams a month. By 2020, that figure had grown to 10 billion. As the Select Committee highlighted, the issue is to ensure that the revenues from that flow down. Crucially, however, we are a leader and we are growing in that sector.

The rise of streaming has been a game changer for the business models of many artists. Live performance has become the predominant source of income for many, but not all, artists while recorded music is now often viewed as a key secondary income source. Covid has brought huge challenges, as I have discussed, and the Government have moved fast to support the industry.

I will touch on the taskforces that we have set up to deal with the points in the Bill. We have put the concept of fairness at the heart of our response and we have set up the taskforces to look at three specific issues that the Bill sets out. First, the right of revocation or recapture exists in the United States and means that after 35 years, creators can recover rights that they have contractually licensed to other parties. The argument is that that increases their negotiating leverage.

Secondly, other countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, have a contract adjustment mechanism. Thirdly, we want to look carefully at the recent European Union directive, which does not apply here, to see whether that works and benefits musicians at the grassroots. Evidence from the Netherlands suggests that contract adjustment law may have very little impact in practice. We want to make sure that we are looking at what works and more research is needed to get that right.

Dean Russell 

My hon. Friend has listed many areas that we will look at in future. Can he assure me and artists in Watford and around the UK that the goals of the Bill to protect artists in the UK, protect the industry around the world and ensure that innovation can continue will be at the heart of the measures that he will put forward in the next few months?

George Freeman 

I am delighted to give that assurance. I take the opportunity to thank my hon. Friend as a stalwart advocate of the Watford cluster and as someone who has been at the heart of music and online creativity. He is a tireless advocate for it in his constituency and in this House. The answer is absolutely yes.

I promised to give the House some details on the taskforces. We have commissioned multiple research pieces, including on equitable remuneration, rights reversion and the contract adjustment mechanism. We have established a music industry contact group, which I met this week. In addition, two industry working groups are being convened. One will look at a voluntary code of practice on contract transparency and the other will seek solutions to the data issues that the industry faces. The Government will assess the progress of those two groups.

I know that other hon. Members want to speak, so I will be brief. On the CMA market study, one of the first things I did as Minister was to write to the chief executive of the CMA. In that letter, I outlined my support for the Select Committee’s recommendation and asked the CMA to conduct a market study on streaming, which is under way. I am sure the House will appreciate that I cannot jeopardise its independence by saying here what conclusions it has reached. We will come back and report in due course.

We have also launched a market study into how other markets around the world are working and the lessons from those. In particular, we are looking at the independent advice from academics at the universities of Leeds, Middlesex and Ulster commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office, “Music Creators’ Earnings in the Digital Era”, which deals with a number of the issues that the Bill tackles.

Furthermore, in response to the Select Committee, we have asked the Intellectual Property Office to start gathering information on the potential impact of an equitable remuneration right. We have also commissioned a piece of work from the IPO on copyright reversion and a piece of research on the potential impact of introducing a contract adjustment mechanism, as proposed in the Bill.

I highlight that the EU directive on copyright in the digital single market, which we are not party to, having left the EU, will provide an interesting insight into whether and which measures are effective. Brexit gives us the freedom to learn from others and put in place the world’s best framework in the way that works best for our industry. I think I have made the point that we are deeply committed to stakeholder engagement, but I emphasise that over the coming weeks and months my officials and I want to move quickly, talking to everyone with an interest. I am determined to make that clear, and I ask anyone who is listening to the debate, or reading it, to contact me, and officials, if they have views that they want to be taken up.

We think that the Bill is well intentioned and speaks to a problem whose existence we recognise. Our instincts are to try to solve the problem through an industry-led package of measures that artists and musicians support, and we will be moving quickly to receive evidence and put proposals to the House, but I must make it clear that if we conclude that legislation is required, we will not hesitate to act.

I thank all Members who have spoken today. The debate has been a powerful demonstration of the level of interest across the House, across all parties and in all parts of the country.

Seema Malhotra 

I thank the Minister for spending so much time outlining what the Government will do. He mentioned an industry-led solution. What does he consider to be within the scope of the term “industry-led”, and how much of that package would be musician-led and artist-led?

George Freeman 

By “industry” I meant the whole industry, including the musicians who are key to it. The hon. Lady can rest assured that we will not just be talking to the record labels or the streaming companies; we will be listening to artists and musicians as well. We are keen to hear from people who have profited from the existing system, and from those who have not. We recognise what my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) referred to as the value gap. We want to hear from everyone who is affected by this issue, across the music spectrum, not just the bands that we have heard about but singers, session musicians, and all the other individuals who are affected.

I know that others want to speak—

Angela Crawley (Lanark and Hamilton East) (SNP)

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is clear that the Government are intent on talking out all the remaining Bills, which is a great shame. My Miscarriage Leave Bill has led to more than 20,000 signatures to a petition calling on the Government to introduce three days’ paid miscarriage leave. It is with all those campaigners and all those affected by miscarriage and pregnancy loss in mind that I wish the Government would listen closely to what I have to say. On behalf of the campaigners and the many other voices across the country, and given the support for the Bill on both sides of the House, I ask the Government to allow it to be considered in more detail at a future date.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. As she can see, a number of people wish to speak. This is an important debate, but many of the other Bills on the Order Paper are important as well. As we have seen, there are ways of ensuring that if time is not made available for Bills, progress is sometimes made through discussion between Members and the Government. However, the hon. Lady has certainly made her views known, and they are on the record.

I call the Minister.

George Freeman 

It is not for me to respond to the point, Mr Deputy Speaker, although it is an important issue. I am here today to deal with this important issue, which is that of music rights.

Let me end by thanking the Ivors Academy group, who have been key to the support for the hon. Member for Cardiff West. The voice of musicians is vital. The Government are listening, and we are determined to act. We need to act in the right way, and we will do so in the coming weeks and months.