Spotify Refuses to Offer Penny-a-Stream Royalty Payments to Artists

By Dylan Smith 

About two weeks back, multiple musicians staged protests outside of Spotify offices in the U.S. and abroad, demanding a higher per-stream royalty rate. Now, the campaign’s organizers have revealed that the Stockholm-based streaming platform has refused to pay one penny per play. 

To recap, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) organized the protests, which included a demonstration outside of Spotify’s World Trade Center offices. A number of individuals turned up at the latter event, photos and footage show, with the vast majority of the participants appearing to have either played an instrument or carried a sign. 

One of these signs read “Justice At Spotify/Stop Fighting Artists,” whereas another (perhaps the most popular of those used at the happening) called on the leading music streaming service to pay a penny per play. The royalty rate would represent a considerable increase from the platform’s current average per-stream payout (and those of competing services), though as initially mentioned, Spotify has denied the request, according to the union.

The UMAW detailed the company’s formal follow-up in a lengthy chain of tweets, indicating first: “Spotify has issued a response attempting to address some of our demands. We are pleased that Spotify has recognized the legitimacy of UMAW and the artists around the world who are demanding better payment and treatment. 

“However, Spotify has failed to meet any of our demands. The company consistently deflects blame onto others for systems it has itself built, and from which it has created its nearly $70 billion valuation,” continued the union. 

“We asked for transparency, but this website” – meaning Loud and Clear – “answers none of our questions about the sources of Spotify’s income in addition to subscriptions and ads, payola schemes for playlist and algorithm prioritization, or the terms of their contracts with major labels.

“We have demanded that Spotify stop fighting to lower songwriters’ royalty rates, but this is not addressed. And of course we have demanded at least one penny per stream. They have not provided any further information on their per-stream rate at this time, which is currently calculated at $.0038,” wrote the organization, citing a figure that may well have been sourced from DMN’s much-cited analysis of Spotify royalties. 

A recent study shed light upon the potential advantages – including in terms of securing coveted playlist spots – that major-label artists have on Spotify, which acquired voice-driven audio app (and Clubhouse competitor) Locker Room earlier this week. 

Separately, employees at Secretly Group, an Indiana-based family of indie record labels, unionized one week ago – and set a Thursday-night deadline for formal acknowledgement from higher-ups. Just ahead of this deadline, management voluntarily recognized the union, which then thanked its followers for their “continued support” as it entered “the collective bargaining process.”

 

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