LONDON - Music stars are "reluctant" to speak out against music streaming giants for fear of repercussions, MPs have warned.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee is examining the business models of streaming services and has heard evidence from "critically acclaimed" artists struggling to pay rent because of derisory fees.
Julian Knight, the chairman of the committee, said he had been told by "many different sources" that industry experts had not come forward because "they fear action may be taken against them if they speak in public".
He warned that he would take any attempted "interfering" with those who speak to the Parliamentary inquiry very seriously and said: "We have been told by many different sources that some of the people interested in speaking to us have become reluctant to do so because they fear action may be taken against them if they speak in public.
"I would like to say that we would take a very dim view if we had any evidence of anyone interfering with witnesses to one of our inquiries."
Mr Knight said "anyone deliberately causing harm to one of our witnesses would be in danger of being in contempt of this House", adding: "This committee will brook no such interference and will not hesitate to name and shame anyone proven to be involved in such activity."
He said anyone wanting to speak about the issue "should get in touch with the committee and will be treated in confidence".
The statement comes after Elbow frontman Guy Garvey warned the current streaming system is "threatening the future of music", telling the committee that "tomorrow's music" was at risk of being lost because many artists were unable to pay their rent or living costs.
Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien said unfairness within the music industry had only worsened with the advent of streaming technology.
Meanwhile, Tom Gray of Gomez told the committee he had heard of cases in which people who ran influential playlists on streaming platforms were being paid to include tracks, calling it a modern form of "payola".
Mercury Prize nominee Nadine Shah said she was struggling to pay her rent despite a high-profile presence on radio and streaming platforms, adding: "I don't make enough money from streaming. I am in a position now where I am struggling to pay my rent, and I am embarrassed to talk about these issues publicly."
When asked about the Spotify "tip jar" feature, she described it as "insanely condescending" and "an admission of sorts which says 'we know that you aren't making enough'."
Spotify, the world’s biggest streaming service, reported £1.6 billion in revenues in the second quarter of 2020 from almost 140 million subscribers paying £9.99.
The committee said that music streaming companies such as Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play amass more than £1 billion in revenue in the UK but that artists can be paid as little as 13 per cent of the income generated. The Musicians' Union and Ivors Academy have called streaming royalties "woefully insufficient".
Major record labels Warner Brothers, Sony and Universal have also been accused of operating "like a cartel" because of their allegedly "suspiciously similar" artist contracts.
Mr Gray, the founder of the BrokenRecord Campaign, said some artists were still tied to antiquated contracts that included regulations such as a 10 per cent damage clause, devised by labels on the assumption that 10 per cent of CDs would be broken in transport.