Musicians, producers and songwriters are rallying against Spotify and Amazon’s plans to “sue songwriters” over increased streaming royalties. But the outrage stems from some misinformation: Spotify and Amazon aren’t technically suing songwriters — they’re trying to appeal the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision last year to increase payout rates to songwriters by 44% over the next five years, as reported by Variety.
The CRB ruling made in January of last year, which sided with the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International, was just published this February, and it opened up an opportunity for companies to appeal the decision for a 30-day window. Now, Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon have all filed to appeal.
Uh oh. @Spotify + @Amazon coming after fairly negotiated rate increases by suing songwriters? Yeah guys, cry in your billions while I stress over this tuition bill. I don’t f%*ing think so. Let’s go, #MusicArmy @wearesonaLA https://t.co/StQQKbTvoO— Kay Hanley (@kayhanley) March 8, 2019
While the four tech giants plan to fight the ruling, Apple Music is the only streaming service that won’t file an appeal. In a statement issued about the appeal, NMPA President David Israelite praised Apple Music for “continuing to be a friend to songwriters”, but blasted Spotify and Amazon for their decision to “sue songwriters in a shameful attempt to cut their payments by nearly one-third.” That statement appears to be where the misinformation is coming from.
It’s not known whether the NMPA’s statement was released before Israelite knew Google and Pandora were planning to file an appeal as well, since he doesn’t mention those two companies. But Israelite’s quote gained traction on music publications, sparking outrage among artists against the two companies on Twitter.
WE ARE NOT SECRET GENIUSES!WE ARE HUMANS!SONGWRITERS, MANAGERS, PUBLISHERS, DON’T LET THEM EXPLOIT YOUR NAME AND THEN STAB YOU IN THE BACK!https://t.co/YmkrFVG2IK— Ross Golan (@rossgolan) March 8, 2019
I guess they grew tired of paying 1/100th of one cent to the folks who made them billionaires. Seems only logical they would sue to protect their right to give away the songwriters hard work and creativity. https://t.co/fmiGD6KEAZ— Joe Bonamassa (Official) (@JBONAMASSA) March 8, 2019
The whole reason some of these services are what they are is because of artists. Without the artist, digital streaming is non existent. Beware of what company is on what side ~ they don’t care about the art, they care about your money. https://t.co/PxwymISbrY— Tyler Alexander (@AlmighTyler) March 8, 2019
So while an appeal may be upsetting news, musicians and songwriters shouldn’t be too worried about the outcome. Entertainment lawyer Jeff Becker of Swanson, Martin & Bell tells The Verge it was anticipated for some time that these platforms would take the opportunity to preserve their bottom line via an appeal. He believes the court will likely side with the increased royalty rate.