Music Industry

With These Lawsuits Against Spotify, Best Read Up on What’s Going On

This year is shaping up to be a difficult one for Spotify as they defend against two lawsuits alleging that the company playing songs for which it doesn’t have licenses. No licenses, no payments. (Read my previous post on the subject here.)

These troubles have been brewing for a while. Take a look at this post at MusicTechPolicy from just before Christmas.

Two months ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article reporting that Spotify had failed to pay a significant amount of royalties due to the music publishing company associated with Victory Records. 1 Rather than make nice with Victory Records’ publishing arm, Spotify responded by pulling Victory’s catalog off the music streaming service. 2

This was immediately followed by several articles by David Lowery, (a songwriter for the indie bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven) on his website, The Trichordist. There, he stated that Spotify was playing more than 150 songs of his without permission or payment 3 and published an open letter to the Attorney General of the State of New York calling for an investigation. 4

Spotify responded to these reports in the Wall Street Journal piece by stating:

““We want to pay every penny, but we need to know who to pay,” Spotify spokesman Jonathan Prince said in an email. “The industry needs to come together and develop an approach to publishing rights based on transparency and accountability.” 5

The Wall Street Journal article went on to quote Audiam Chief Executive Jeff Price as stating:

“’The problem isn’t that they’re not setting aside the money, or that they don’t want to pay the money,’…[t]he problem is they don’t know who wrote the song, or how to find the person to pay them.’”

This certainly piqued my interest. During my 26-year career as an entertainment attorney, I have licensed songs to every major record label in the world. And the record companies in question did not seem to have any trouble locating my clients, or me for that matter. Since my joining Nova Southeastern University, my former clients have been passed on to other attorneys with active law practices, except for one small music publisher with whom I had a close working relationship for over 20 years. They requested that I continue to represent them, and the university was gracious enough to allow this (on an “after hours” basis only, of course).

The music publisher in question administers a catalog of songs composed by an internationally famous musician. Though the catalog is small, it generates a significant amount of revenue every year from a variety of sources. I have never been contacted by anyone from Spotify regarding licenses for any song in this catalog. If Spotify had contacted the client directly, they would have passed the request on to me.

Could it be possible that Spotify was streaming these songs without ever contacting us or paying the client?

Continue reading. This is important.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38321 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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