The US-based giant has teamed up with French app Deezer to launch an “artist-centric” approach that will give more money to professional musicians at the expense of non-music streams.
Streamers such as Spotify and Apple Music have helped boost music sales over the past decade, but publishers like Universal have long argued that artists were not getting their just rewards, with AI-generated tracks and streams of white noise grabbing attention and money.
As part of the new deal, Deezer said it would “attribute a double boost” to professional musicians, defined as those who have at least 1,000 streams a month from at least 500 unique listeners.
“This is the most ambitious change to the economic model since the creation of music streaming,” Deezer chief Jeronimo Folgueira said in a statement.
The French app, which has more than five million subscribers, also said it would “demonetise” non-music audio streams by replacing them with its own content.
Folgueira said it “should be obvious to everyone that the sound of rain or a washing machine is not as valuable as a song from your favourite artist streamed in HiFi”.
The scheme will be rolled out in France in the final quarter of this year.
Deezer had previously proposed overhauling the system of payments to ensure smaller artists got a bigger share of the money from users.
But it had reportedly struggled to get agreement from major publishers and Wednesday’s deal with Universal appears to be a compromise.
“The goal of the artist-centric model is to mitigate dynamics that risk drowning music in a sea of noise and to ensure we are better supporting and rewarding artists at all stages of their careers whether they have 1,000 fans or 100,000 or 100 million,” said Michael Nash, Universal’s chief digital officer.