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Major Music Streaming Services Under Scrutiny in the UK

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Top music streaming services Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube face scrutiny from the Competition and Markets Authority, the United Kingdom’s antitrust regulator. The CMA is currently investigating the country’s music streaming market to assess whether it is sufficiently competitive.

YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Are Under Scrutiny

The Competition and Markets Authority is intensifying its probing of the level of competition in the UK’s music streaming market. Depending on the outcome of the study, the CMA might impose corrective measures that will influence the way the main music streaming platforms can operate in the UK.

Issues Within the Music Industry’s Structure

Following a report by a parliamentary committee, alarming concerns were raised about the structure of the music industry in the UK. The lawmakers were particularly worried about low returns for artists and the dominance of major music labels Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music. This dominance gives the three groups an unfair advantage in contractual agreements with streaming services like Spotify and Amazon.

Sony is already under investigation by the CMA for their acquisition of the artist and label services provider Awal. Awal already enjoyed a leading position in the UK’s music industry, working with high-level artists including Billie Eilish, Little Simz, and Nick Cave. This acquisition further consolidates the market position of Sony and underscores the importance of the CMA’s assessment of the music streaming market.

In a recent statement, the CMA’s CEO declared that “The U.K. has a love affair with music and is home to many of the world’s most popular artists. We want to do everything we can to ensure that this sector is competitive, thriving, and works in the interests of music lovers. Over the past decade, the music industry has evolved almost beyond recognition, with streaming now accounting for more than 80% of all music listened to in this country,” explaining the reasoning behind the assessment of the sector’s competitive health.

The CMA and the UK’s culture committee’s ultimate goal is to protect musicians and help solve issues regarding royalties and the fair payment of upcoming songwriters and composers. In the current market situation, they often have to rely on alternative methods to secure a living from their art, such as selling their compositions as stock music in online marketplaces.

Potential Outcomes for Industry Players

The CMA’s announcement came mid-October. Possible outcomes for industry players are unclear at this time. In similar studies conducted by the UK regulator in the past, resolutions have ranged from recommending changes to government regulation and requesting companies to self-regulate to taking enforcement action. The outcome will be in the advantage of fair competition in the UK’s music streaming market and better circumstances for emerging professional artists.