Spotify, Amazon Among Streaming Platforms Fighting Songwriters Royalty Increase

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Spotify, Amazon, Google, and Pandora will appeal a recent ruling by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board that proposed a substantial rate increase to mechanical royalties for songwriters. Announced in February, the ruling would raise songwriter mechanical royalty rates by 44 percent.

Following the announcement of the ruling, digital music companies were given 30 days to appeal. Spotify, Amazon, Google, and Pandora have each filed separate appeals, with Apple the only major streaming player choosing to abstain.

The four companies released a joint statement detailing their decision, which reads, ““The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), in a split decision, recently issued the U.S. mechanical statutory rates in a manner that raises serious procedural and substantive concerns. If left to stand, the CRB’s decision harms both music licensees and copyright owners. Accordingly, we are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the decision.”

NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison responded to the companies’ decision in a joint statement with NMPA’s David Israelite, saying:

“It is unfortunate that Amazon and Spotify decided to file an appeal on the CRB’s decision to pay American songwriters higher digital mechanical royalties. Many songwriters have found it difficult to stay in the profession in the era of streaming music. You cannot feed a family when you earn hundreds of dollars for millions of streams.

“Spotify specifically continues to try and depress royalties to songwriters around the globe as illustrated by their recent moves in India. Trying to work together as partners toward a robust future in the digital music era is difficult when any streaming company fails to recognize the value of a songwriter’s contribution to their business.”

Israelite’s statement read:

“When the Music Modernization Act became law, there was hope it signaled a new day of improved relations between digital music services and songwriters. That hope was snuffed out today when Spotify and Amazon decided to sue songwriters in a shameful attempt to cut their payments by nearly one-third.

“The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) spent two years reading thousands of pages of briefs and hearing from dozens of witnesses while both sides spent tens of millions of dollars on attorneys arguing over the worth of songs to the giant technology companies who run streaming services. The CRB’s final determination gave songwriters only their second meaningful rate increase in 110 years. Instead of accepting the CRB’s decision which still values songs less than their fair market value, Spotify and Amazon have declared war on the songwriting community by appealing that decision.

“No amount of insincere and hollow public relations gestures such as throwing parties or buying billboards of congratulations or naming songwriters “geniuses” can hide the fact that these big tech bullies do not respect or value the songwriters who make their businesses possible.

“We thank Apple Music for accepting the CRB decision and continuing its practice of being a friend to songwriters.  While Spotify and Amazon surely hope this will play out in a quiet appellate courtroom, every songwriter and every fan of music should stand up and take notice. We will fight with every available resource to protect the CRB’s decision.”