Songwriters continue fighting Spotify

This is a turbulent spring for songwriters.

First, Spotify files an appeal to prevent musicians from getting a 44% increase in per-stream payments, appealing a mandate from the Copyright Royalty Board just before it was set to take effect.

Then, a new report last week shows that streaming is the biggest area of growth in the music industry, outpacing everything else, as the market for music returns to profit levels not seen in more than a decade. This is great for streaming services like Spotify, but, of course, artists are seeing precious little of it.

Now songwriters are calling the streaming giant on their miserly ways.

After creating a “songwriter relations team” and “ingratiating Spotify into our community,” a group of songwriters accuses the company of using them “and tried to divide us but we stand together.”

Calling themselves the “Not So Secret Geniuses,” the songwriters, including Babyface and Nile Rodgers, say that while Spotify once had the distinction of being “the only provider that made us feel we were working to build a modern music industry together,” they realize it was all an act.

“Our fight is for all songwriters: those struggling to build their careers, those in the middle class and those few who have reached your Secret Genius level. But none of us are ‘secret!’ WE all create the ONE thing you sell… songs. Do the right thing and drop your appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board rate determination.”

Other signers include Ali Tamposi, Frank Dukes and Teddy Geiger.

On Wednesday, David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, hosted a town hall meeting with the Nashville Songwriters Association International to discuss the streaming pay situation.

Israelite and others told Rolling Stone the meeting “felt at times more like a rally and indictment of Spotify – a company that many songwriters as well as recording artists had previously regarded as one of the most industry-sympathetic of the digital music services,” but one that they feel has turned its back on them. There were 300 people in the room while another 3,500 watched online.

Representatives for Spotify, Apple Music, Google and Pandora were invited to attend but none did.

Metro Nashville Councilman Jeff Syracuse is calling on all streaming companies that are appealing the 44% stream payment hike to drop their efforts. He himself voted against incentives for Amazon due to the company’s involvement in trying to reduce the pay increase.

“Songwriters historically create the product which keeps everybody rich, with the least pay, so we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve been fighting this fight for a century and we’re going to fight it until we don’t have to,” said Bart Herbison of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. “If you lose the songwriter that doesn’t perform, you lose the performer that doesn’t write songs.”

The Nashville meeting is one of a series scheduled across the country; the next is set for May 13 in LA.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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