How Spotify (and others) Could Have Avoided Songwriter Lawsuits, Ask The Labels.

This is simply a story about intent. Daniel Ek is the co-founder of Spotify, he was also the CEO of u-torrent, the worlds most successful bit-torrent client. As far we know u-torrent has never secured music licenses or paid any royalties to any artists, ever.

Spotify could have completely avoided it’s legal issues around paying songwriters.  The company could have sought to obtain the most recent information about the publishing and songwriters for every track at the service.  The record labels providing the master recordings to Spotify are required to have this information. All Spotify (and others) had to do, was ask for it.

Here’s how it works.

For decades publishers and songwriters have been paid their share of record sales (known as “mechanicals”) by the record labels in the United States. This is a system whereby the labels collect the money from retailers and pay the publishers/songwriters their share. It has worked pretty well for decades and has not required a industry wide, central master database (public or private) to administer these licenses or make the appropriate payments.

This system has worked because each label is responsible for paying the publishers and songwriters attached to the master recordings the label is monetizing. The labels are responsible for making sure all of the publishers and writers are paid. If you are a writer or publisher and you haven’t been paid, you know where the money is – it is at the record label.

Streaming services pay the “mechanicals” at source which are determined by different formulas and rules based upon the use. For example non-interactive streaming and web radio (simulcasts and Pandora) are calculated and paid via the appropriate performing rights society like ASCAP or BMI. These publishing royalties are treated more like radio royalties.

The “mechanicals” for album sales from interactive streaming services are calculated in a different way. It is the responsibility of the streaming services to pay these royalties. CDBaby explains the system here and here. Don’t mind that these explanations are an attempt to sell musicians more CDBaby services, just focus on the information provided for a better understanding of this issue.

Every physical album and transactional download (itunes and the like) pays the “mechanical” publishing to the record label directly, who then pays the publishers and writers.  This publishing information exists as labels providing the master recordings to Spotify have this information. All Spotify (and others) have to do, is ask for it.

Record labels have collectively and effectively “crowd sourced” licensing and payments to publishers and songwriters for decades. Why can’t Spotify simply require this information from labels, when the labels deliver their masters? It’s just that simple. Period.

The simple, easy, and transparent solution to Spotify’s licensing crisis is to require record labels to provide the mechanical license information on every song delivered to Spotify. The labels already have this information.

The simple solution is for Spotify to withdraw any and all songs from the service until the label who has delivered the master recording also delivers the corresponding publisher and writer information for proper licensing and payments. Problem solved!

No need for additional databases or imagined licensing problems. Every master recording on Spotify is delivered by a record label. Every record label is required by law to pay the publishers and songwriters. This is known and readily available information by the people who are delivering the recordings to Spotify!

There is no missing information, and no unknown licenses. Why is this so F’ing hard?

This system would mean that the record labels would have to provide this information. It’s also possible that some of that information is not accurate. Labels would probably fight against any mechanism that would make them have to make any claims about the accuracy of their data, which is fine. If it’s the most update information it’s a great place to start.

Of course, we know that both sides (both labels and streamers) will reject any mechanism that introduces friction into the delivery of masters. However, with the simple intent of requiring publisher and songwriter info for every song master delivered there will no longer be a problem at the scale that currently exists.

To be completely fair to Spotify they did work to make deals with the largest organizations representing publishers and songwriters (NMPA and HFA). However those two organizations leave out a lot of participants. So back to square one. If publishing information is required upon the delivery of masters, the problem is largely solved. Invoking a variation on Occam’s Razor, the best solution is usually the most simple one.

You’d think that in the times before computers this would have been harder than it is now, but like all things Spotify you have to question the motivations of a company whose founder created the most successful bittorrent client of all time, u-torrent.

Oh, and of this writing Spotify is now claiming they have no responsibility to pay any “mechanicals” at all. Can’t make this up.

 

Gently Down The Stream (Songwriters Streaming Royalties Explained) | SONA [VIDEO]

Thank You Songwriters Of North America (SONA)

Digital Media Association (DiMA) Always Against Musicians

Who is DiMA? Glad you asked, the Digital Media Association. Why do we care? Well, because they are actively working against artists rights. How do we know? Three words… “Defending Against Songwriters”. Yes, DiMA is dedicated to “Defending Against Songwriters” because, you know songwriters are a force that businesses need to defend themselves against.

Wow, really? Seriously? Ok, check it out…

DimaDoubleDipSongwriters

But lets take a look below where current DiMA policy positions are directly in opposition to artists and songwriters rights.

DiMA supports Pandora buying a terrestrial radio station in an effort to lower the royalties Pandora will pay to songwriters.

DiMA is opposed to the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act that would pay performers a terrestrial radio broadcast royalty.

DiMA is opposed to The Songwriter Equity act that would allow songwriters the ability to negotiate fair market rates for their work.

DimaPOlicyAgainstArtists

Who would work with DiMA that wasn’t forced to via statutory rates and rate courts?

 

 

Van Dyke Parks on How Songwriters Are Getting Screwed in the Digital Age | The Daily Beast

Forty years ago, co-writing a song with Ringo Starr would have provided me a house and a pool. Now, estimating 100,000 plays on Spotify, we guessed we’d split about $80. When I got home, on closer study, I found out we were way too optimistic. Spotify (on par with other streamers) pays only .00065 cents per play.

There’s less support for all the arts today, and the blade gets duller with every cut in arts funding. It degrades dance, opera, even academia and, significantly, the art of journalism. As a result, in the U.S., public opinion suffers from what we call “infotainment.” That’s a genre of media news that is not informing, entertaining, or remedial. And it’s a direct result of a vacuum of patronage (and by patronage, I don’t mean just Medici-style sponsorship but the willingness of all arts consumers to pay for what they listen to, read, and watch, and for the industry to fairly recompense creators).

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE DAILY BEAST:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/04/van-dyke-parks-on-how-songwriters-are-getting-screwed-in-the-digital-age.html

#StandWithSongwriters Petition Against Pandora’s Exploitation

Please sign the Petition Here:
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/4273-standwithsongwriters-petition

The rights of songwriters are under attack. Pandora Media Inc., which controls 70% of the US streaming market, has launched an aggressive campaign to pay songwriters and composers less than a fair market share for their work – even as the company’s revenue and listener base has soared.

As songwriters and composers, we value the opportunities Pandora and other music streaming companies create for our music to reach new audiences. In return, we want Pandora to value our contribution to your business.

Right now, a song that is streamed on Pandora 1,000 times, earns the songwriter only 8 cents on average. And yet, Pandora is going to great lengths – even taking songwriters to court – to pay us even less.

Music drives Pandora’s business. If the company’s revenues keep getting larger, why should the rate it pays songwriters keep getting smaller?

Songwriters are not the enemy. Instead of fighting to pay music creators less than a fair market rate, join us in an effort to construct fair music licenses that allow songwriters and composers to thrive alongside the businesses that revolve around our music.

Songwriters deserve fair pay. If you agree, commit a tweet and help send this message to incoming Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews.