The Game of Streams

Bloodbaths. Vicious battles. Victors and sacrifices. I was late to the game when I started watching Game of Thrones (GoT) and binge watched season after season. In today’s music world, we are halfway in our own series and I see a different battle unraveling – the fight for fairness, the Game of Streams (GoS)

In any war there are winners, losers, alliances and betrayals. GoT showed the worst of them – brothers against brothers, massacred families, kingdoms burnt to the ground. We are still mid-season with GoS but maybe we don’t have to wage war with one another. GoT is a fight for power, GoS is a fight for fair pay to artists. And if the music world learns to embrace a common purpose, perhaps there may be one victory for us all.

The Fight for Fairness

What are we fighting for? 

The music streaming industry has done wonders democratizing music: easing access to music, giving artists a platform and opportunities to develop their career. But we’re now in Season Four and have seen the protagonists develop their character flaw: the system the streaming industry is built on is not the fair system it had hoped to achieve. 

How do artists make money from streaming services? Pay to artists are computed based on the number of times their music is streamed within the total pool of streams from all users. Thus, the money you pay may not be supporting the artists you love and actually stream

Deezer has long been pushing for fair pay to artists since 2017 with its user centric payment system (UCPS) initiative and continues to lobby it with various organizations and associations. UCPS aims to correct the current system by ensuring that the money users pay goes to artists they listen to. Likewise, artists around the world are demanding more information about the fairness of payout systems. 

In this series, victory is when we can rightfully pay artists fairly. As news about the fight for fairness spreads, I see more and more raising arms and joining the fight.

We All Have to Fight 

In war, no one is spared. In the Fight for Fairness everyone must play their part – listeners, artists, labels, providers, streaming platforms. Listeners need to demand for appropriate distribution of their pay. Artists need to ask questions and understand whether they are paid fairly. Music industry players need to revisit the current structure of how they compensate artists. 

It’s uncomfortable, it’s new – but no battle is won without challenges. We all have a role to play and if we act accordingly we have greater chances of victory.

The War Has to End

We are barely halfway in our Fight for Fairness and so much has yet to be done. The longer wars are waged, the more casualties there are. But we don’t want to deprive artists of their fair pay for much longer. 

Deezer has made progress but still needs the support of many others. If we can get the support of our music partners to conduct a pilot UCPS study this year, we have greater chances of improving fair pay systems to artists.

We’re All on the Same Side

Call it what you want – fan-powered model, user centric payment system – we strive for the same thing: fair pay to artists. Each participation by anyone in the music industry is a step towards achieving victory. We welcome it and hope all the kingdoms in the music streaming world raise arms with us. No blaming, no finger pointing, just one true alliance.

No Iron Throne

When GoT announced its last season, the whole world gripped at their chairs. Who would triumph, who would rein? In a dramatic turn of events, we watched on as the army of dead was defeated, the Queen of Dragons slayed. And in one last sign of despair, the dragon burns down the iron throne – the symbol of power, the representation of all destruction, bloodshed and chaos. The Iron Throne exists no more, paving the way for a better and fairer world.

The season finale of Game of Streams is still being written. Alliances are being formed by artists associations recognizing the value of UCPS. Industry players are slowly recognizing the need to provide artists with more information. Deezer is gradually making progress getting the agreement of partners to roll-out UCPS. 

There is only one way to triumph over our Iron Throne, and that is to work together towards a fairer world in music streaming. Not to fight each other, but to fight for fair pay to artists. No matter who you are, we need you in the Fight for Fairness.


The user centric payments system (UCPS) is an initiative kicked off by Deezer in 2017. A user centric payment model would restructure the current way of allocating royalties for music streaming. Today, royalties are allocated based on the overall market share on the platform. Under a user centric model, royalties would be allocated based directly on each listener’s streams, creating a fair environment for all artists and building a direct connection between fans and musicians. Support your choice of artists by supporting Deezer’s initiative for a UCPS pilot in 2021.

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