IMPALA – the pan-European trade group for the independent music community – has issued a statement on Deezer’s so-called “artist-centric” model. IMPALA raises concerns that the plan could result in a “two-tier approach” that would negatively impact independent record labels.
IMPALA members have expressed concern about plans to provide a royalty “boost” for tracks released by what Deezer defines as “professional artists”, but also that the new “artist-centric” model has been developed “in a vacuum” in consultation with just one single record company, Universal Music.
Under the new model, Deezer will stop paying out on functional audio like white noise and birdsong and will replace third-party content of that kind with its own non-monetised functional audio. Alongside this, more money will be allocated to streams where a user has proactively selected a track – and less money will be allocated where a track has been pushed to a user by an algorithm.
These changes seem likely to be supported by the majority of the music community.
More controversial is Deezer’s plan to allocate more money to tracks by what it deems “professional artists”. Its definition is any artist who gets more than 1000 streams from at least 500 unique listeners each month.
In a new interview with Billboard, Deezer boss Jeronimo Folgueira insists that the threshold for being classified a “professional artist” has been picked so that most independent and niche artists will already be above it, and DIY artists trying to launch a career in music will quickly cross it.
“If an artist doesn’t get to 1000 streams and 500 listeners a month, they cannot make a living (through streaming) regardless of what the payout of the model is”, says the Deezer chief. “So you’re not technically a professional. And any up-and-coming artist that is rising up gets to those levels pretty quickly”.
This seems to disregard the fact that many professional artists do not make their living only from streaming. Furthermore, this part of the plan means that the so called “artist-centric” model splits the artist community into two, treating one group more favourably to the detriment of the other.
IMPALA has concerns, asking “whether the proposal could lead to a possible two-tier approach impacting the work of independent labels who account for 80% of new releases – including artists patiently awaiting discovery, artists who deliberately cater to niche audiences, artists from smaller territories and newcomers just embarking on their artistic journey – as well as label decisions on which services they choose to deal with”.
One thing that Folgueira doesn’t discuss in his Billboard interview is which, if any, artists were consulted about the “artist-centric” model. The fact that neither Deezer nor Universal have specifically explained how they consulted the artist community about all this suggests that they did not.
IMPALA says “the Deezer proposal has been developed in a vacuum with the market leader instead of the sector… Unless other stakeholders agree, IMPALA doesn’t see how it could apply outside of UMG repertoire.”
Executive Chair Helen Smith adds: “More debate is needed on this vital question and we look forward to further discussions to clarify the specifics of the Deezer proposal and its potential impact on the music ecosystem before commenting further. In the meantime, it can only apply to UMG repertoire unless or until other licensors were to agree”.