Streaming service Deezer signs Universal Music royalty deal to prioritise musicians over AI

Under new deal, artists will receive more streams when listeners actively seek out their music

Isobel Lewis
Thursday 07 September 2023 09:18 BST
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Universal Music has struck a new deal with streaming service Deezer aiming to give fairer royalty payments to artists.

Under the new deal, the label’s acts will be paid more by fans who actively seek out the artist’s music on Deezer, as opposed to hearing it automatically on a playlist.

The aim is to create an experience that better rewards artists and improves fan experience, after many musicians have complained that streaming does not reward them fairly for their work.

The model will prioritise professional musicians (classed as those with a minimum of 1,000 monthly streams from more than 500 individual listeners), giving them an estimated 10 per cent payout increase.

In turn, streaming income will be reduced on the platform for amateur musicians, as well as “non-artist noise audio” such as AI “artists” and white noise soundtracks intended as background music.

Streams from listeners who have actively sought out the artists will carry a heavier weight. If a fan searches for a musician on Deezer and listens to that song, the listen will be counted as four streams.

Speaking about the deal, Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira called the company’s new model “the most ambitious change to the economic model since the creation of music streaming and a change that will support the creation of high-quality content in the years to come”.

“At Deezer we always put music first, providing a high-quality experience for fans and championing fairness in the industry,” he said. “We are now embracing a necessary change, to better reflect the value of each piece of content and eliminate all wrong incentives, to protect and support artists.

Universal Music artists like Taylor Swift will receive a better deal on Deezer

“There is no other industry where all content is valued the same, and it should be obvious to everyone that the sound of rain or a washing machine is not as valuable as a song from your favourite artist streamed in HiFi.”

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Deezer’s new model will launch in France in October, with intentions for it to be rolled out in other countries from 2024.

In recent years, a number of musicians have spoken out against the music streaming system, where artists receive a fraction of a penny for every listen on platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.

As the sale of physical CDs, as well as downloading and paying for albums online, have decreased, many artists have reported that making money as a musician has become increasingly harder.

Many streaming services have become populated with the kind of AI-generated content Deezer is trying to get rid of.

Last year, in protest against Spotify’s payment rates, the British rock band The Pocket Gods released a 1,000 track album of 30-second songs.

Royalties on the platform are only activated if a song is listened to for 30 seconds, leading industry specialists to suggest that the standard three-minute pop song could be on its way out.

One track on The Pocket Gods’ album is titled “0.002”, a reference to the amount that artists earn per stream.

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