What Lawsuit? How Much is Spotify Paying For @BerkleeCollege @WBUR @NPRmusic OMI Smokescreen?

Let me be honest. The Trichordist has succeeded in raising awareness of artists rights issues in the digital world not because we are particularly gifted.  The secret to our success is that those arrayed against us, particularly those allied with the digital music services, keep serving up our talking points on a silver platter.  I’m not sure if this is arrogance, hubris or sheer ineptitude but it keeps happening.

Case in point is the so-called Open Music Initiative (OMI).   While this seemed to me to be a carefully crafted PR response to the songwriter class-action lawsuits, I couldn’t just come out and say that.

Fortunately the participants in the OMI made the connection for me.   NPR and their local affiliate WBUR are participants in the Open Music Initiative and they published this super helpful article on their website:

Enough With The Lawsuits: Berklee, MIT Lead Effort To Create Ownership Rights Database For Music Industry

Thank you.

So this is just what we suspected it to be all along, cynical counter-programming to burnish the public image of an industry that has been the target of a host of class-action lawsuits. Largely because these companies blatantly violated a host of federal laws by failing to license and pay songwriters.   And BTW I’m not just talking about copyright law here.   If I was a Spotify shareholder I would take a close look at those Spotify financial statements. (What are the EU rules for reporting contingent liabilities like potential lawsuits?)

Actually counter-programming is too nice of a term.  If the WBUR article is any indication, expect the OMI to propagate falsehoods and propaganda that mislead the public and potential songwriter class members as to the nature of their rights.  Look at this whopper by Berklee’s Panos Panay:

“It’s one of the few industries that I know where you can use something and it’s OK to not really know who to pay,” he said with a laugh. “Well we don’t think that that should be acceptable.”

Actually it’s not ok to use a song without knowing who to pay.  The law is very clear on this matter, hence the class action lawsuits.  This statement has the potential to mislead putative class members, specifically by making them think that their rights have not been violated.  This is a very troubling statement since Spotify is somehow sponsoring this initiative.

Of course this could also be sheer ignorance on the part of Panay. He may really think that you can use music without “knowing who to pay.”  As we demonstrated last summer Berklee’s academic scholarship on copyright and music licensing is quite shoddy:


This may explain why a Berklee College of Music student pays $43k a year but typically earns less than a high school graduate after attending.  That’s right attending Berklee College is negatively correlated with future earnings!

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.27.53 AM

More on Berklee statistics here:


and here:


If Berklee College, NPR, WBUR and Spotify are truly serious about streaming transparency first order of business should be publishing a list of the “unmatched,” unpaid and unlicensed songs.  They won’t.  Because this is an elaborate corporate smokescreen.





One thought on “What Lawsuit? How Much is Spotify Paying For @BerkleeCollege @WBUR @NPRmusic OMI Smokescreen?

  1. Just wanted to say how much I respect what you’re doing (and have done) and that I hope to keep that voice heard at the OMI table. ProMusicDB was invited to join the OMI and agreed, but for a completely different reason than most – we want to make sure artists recapture control of their digital presence and that their history isn’t lost in the silos of metadata that these companies have created and kept hidden. I think we may the only voice in the room to that end – but I believe artists being part of the metadata equation (for correcting wrong information regarding rights, etc.) is key for longterm change and success, and hope to influence other members with the work and progress we have made in that regard. If most of these entities won’t be around in a few years – what will happen to all that data? Shouldn’t the artists be the ones to supply data and rights information from a collective source instead of vice versa?

    My quote on the OMI member website: “ProMusicDB: the professional music credits database and archive has been on the front lines of aligning its structure with both academic practices and commercial industry standards, and shares in both artists’ and academia’s mission to preserve music history in the digital world. It is with high hopes that we support and share a mission with the OMI that can accommodate the commercial use of industry data to function more efficiently on behalf of artists, with an endgame that ultimately insures the preservation of the cultural treasure of musicians and artists that data has come to represent.”

    I hear what you’re saying and agree with your take on the laws that have been broken regarding illegal music use, etc., and how this initiative on the surface may seem like a bandaid. I don’t know how it will turn out or what will develop – all I know is that I want to make sure artists are represented in the OMI room in some way, towards some better end. I want to make sure there’s a career in music for that kid who was like me growing up, and a music education system that understands the new music industry and more about rights, metadata, industry stakeholders, etc. that can give those kids a chance. And if the OMI doesn’t seem to be taking on that goal too, then we will have to evaluate how effective our participating can be. But I’m glad to be at the table, if only to learn how ProMusicDB needs to move forward.

    Am here to listen and learn, should you or anyone wish to reach out.

    Christy Crowl
    Founder, ProMusicDB.org

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