Universal Music Group, the world's largest record label, has partnered with French streaming service Deezer to introduce a new “artist-centric” model. This model aims to prioritize genuine artists over ambient sounds and AI-generated content, which have been gaming the system for monetary gains.
Addressing the “Noise” in Streaming
Deezer's new model seeks to demote the value of ambient sounds, such as the hum of a washing machine or bot-generated music. Instead, streams from those Deezer identifies as “professional artists” – those with at least 1,000 streams per month from a minimum of 500 unique listeners – will count for double. If a user specifically searches for an artist and listens to their song, that stream will count as four. Deezer's CEO, Jeronimo Folgueira, emphasized the platform's commitment to prioritizing music created by artists with a consistent and engaged fan base. The move is seen as a way to counteract the dilution of royalties caused by non-musical content. Deezer estimates that about 7% of its streams are fraudulent, and the company believes that the new model will help curb such practices.
Key Features of the New Model
- Prioritizing Professional Artists: Deezer will grant a double boost to “professional artists” – those garnering at least 1,000 streams monthly from a minimum of 500 unique listeners. This move aims to reward these artists for their quality and the engagement they foster among fans.
- Valuing Engaging Content: Songs that captivate fans will receive an additional double boost, diminishing the economic sway of algorithm-driven content.
- Phasing Out Non-Artist Noise: Deezer intends to replace non-artist noise with its proprietary functional music, which will be excluded from the royalty pool.
- Combatting Fraud: Deezer continues to refine its proprietary fraud detection system, ensuring that artists' streaming royalties are safeguarded from malicious actors.
Implications for Artists and the Industry
While the new model promises increased payouts for professional artists, it has sparked debates about its potential implications. The model might inadvertently pit hobbyists against established artists, implying that the former is the reason for the latter's reduced earnings. The distinction between what is considered “noise” and what is deemed “art” is also a contentious point. Some believe that major labels and streaming executives deciding what qualifies as “non-artist noise content” could lead to a slippery slope, potentially sidelining genres like ambient and noise music. However, Folgueira assures that artists working in these genres will benefit from the professional artist boost.
In the broader context, the move can be seen as a strategy by Universal Music Group to expand its market share in the streaming industry. Streaming platforms have been under scrutiny for their revenue distribution models, and while Deezer's new model isn't a complete solution, it signifies a step towards addressing some of the industry's long-standing issues.