Universal Music and Deezer Deal to Raise Artist Payouts 10%

Google, Universal Music Discuss AI-Generated Songs Agreement

Universal Music and streaming service Deezer have reportedly agreed to raise payouts to artists by 10%.

The arrangement is the first major shift in the streaming music business model since Spotify came on the scene 15 years ago, the Financial Times (FT) reported Wednesday (Sept. 6).

“This is a massive change in the way the music industry will work,” said Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira, per the report. “We have 90 million tracks, and many of them are just noise, like literally noise, the sound of a washing machine and rain. It is fundamentally wrong that 30 seconds of the recording of a washing machine gets paid the same as the latest single by Harry Styles.”

The new model will calculate royalty payments differently, giving professional artists — those who garner at least 1,000 listens a month — twice the weight as streams from non-professionals, according to the report.

And if a user actively searches for a song or an artist, that weight is doubled again, the report said. So, if a listener searched for Harry Styles or Taylor Swift on Deezer and listened to one of their songs, it would be considered four streams in the royalty calculations.

The aim is to cut back on the estimated $900 million per year going to bots, white noise and amateurs, according to the report.

The deal is happening as the music industry is working to control the amount of artificial content flooding streamers, what Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge has called a “sea of noise,” the report said.

“With the right incentive structures in place, platforms can focus on rewarding and enhancing the artist-fan relationship and, at the same time, elevate the user experience on their platforms, by reducing the sea of ‘noise’ … eliminating unauthorized, unwanted and infringing content entirely,” Grainge said in May, per the report.

That month also brought the news that Spotify had removed tens of thousands of artificial intelligence (AI)-generated songs from its platform, pulling around 7% of the songs uploaded by AI music service Boomy.

Universal Music notified platforms like Spotify that it had seen suspicious streaming activity on Boomy songs. Those songs were taken down due to suspected “artificial streaming,” or online bots pretending to be human users to inflate the songs’ numbers.