The Recording Industry Association of America has proposed rates for digital music downloads that will see the artist receive just 5 cents (3p) for downloaded track.

The organisation that specialises in "looking out for the artists by keeping their best interests in mind" has always tried to say that it does what's best for all parties involved, but this latest move lends weight to sceptics who claim the exact opposite is true.

According to reports, the RIAA only wants to pay about $0.05 (3 pence) per track to artists on each downloaded digital media file. By contrast, the National Music Publishers' Association wants to pay those same songwriters three times that per downloaded track.

For streaming music, the NMPA suggests that 12.5 per cent of total revenue would be a fair payment, while the RIAA thinks that 0.58 per cent would be appropriate.

What does that mean for artists?

So where would all that extra money go if the RIAA gets its way? According to those same reports, the record labels would walk away with the lion's share of the revenue, while the artists - the people who actually create the profitable music - are left with very little for their efforts.

As Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk points out: "Music is bad enough already. Cutting songwriters out of the equation not only means that manufactured bands that that rely on them sound worse. It also means bands that do their own songwriting will have a tougher time surviving."

Hearings on the issue have begun, but it looks like no decision will be made until October.