Albane Schlechten, director of FCMA and Swiss Music Export
Geneva, May 2020
«It’s clearly fantastic to share our music in two clicks with people on the other side of the world. We’re not going to go against that. But it’s important that artists can continue to be remunerated for their recorded work. The film industry has proved that. The Confederation has proposed taxing Netflix profits made in Switzerland by 5% to support film production. It seems to me that this should be easily adaptable to music in all countries of the world. In Switzerland, this is something to do with the taxation of multinationals and therefore falls within the remit of the tax commissions of the federal administration. The music industry needs to make itself known in this sector where we are almost non-existent. The terrain is obviously very complicated, especially when you consider that Google’s most important development and research centre outside the USA is based in Zurich.
This is a process that will take years and must also be done in relation to other European countries. France is ahead of us since it passed a law last year introducing a 3% “GAFA tax” on the turnover of the digital giants.
I was also thinking about the following: since recorded works are now rarely listened to in their entirety, but rather in sequences or titles that we can chain together according to our tastes. Why not be inventive? Why not reappropriate the collector’s gesture and think about integrating this possibility of buying tracks or albums on an existing platform like Mx3 for example; we could create our own playlist by remunerating the artists fairly? The current period of confinement has shown that people like to share their favourites. This would allow us to “virtually record hunt”. Streaming platforms already offer their playlists, which are often very good but a bit limited, because they obviously tend to offer selections of songs that are already relatively popular.
Towards an artist’s status
The other major challenge in Switzerland is the question of the status of the artist. The current crisis proves that we have so far managed with bits of string and a vague system that is no longer tenable in the future.
The vulnerability of the sector has now been exposed. Professionalization is necessary. The situation is very different in German-speaking Switzerland, where musicians have often opted for self-employed status and manage their social security contributions, whereas in French-speaking Switzerland more than 50% of artists in the field of contemporary music do not even have self-employed status. Their earnings are derisory. Without a minimum income, it is difficult to start thinking about getting organised! It would seem relevant to me that, for example SONART, the Swiss Association of Musicians, plays a central role in this process and proposes solutions for employing artists, generating pay slips and paying social charges – benefits of the compensation fund type (fund managing all branches of social insurance in Switzerland). In French-speaking Switzerland, this would meet an overriding need in the sector. In this way, Swiss musicians would just have to register and everything would be centralized. Another major project in perspective!»
Still A-live! During this unprecedented period of confinement, the Show-me team has gone to meet musicians and cultural players to question them and take the pulse of what they’re thinking. What is or should be the status of the artist? What are possible remunerations? What evolution is possible after the crisis?