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Spotify’s ‘secret genius’ songwriters hit out at Spotify over CRB appeal

By | Published on Wednesday 10 April 2019


A stack of songwriters previously celebrated by Spotify as ‘secret geniuses’ have written an open letter to the streaming service’s top man Daniel Ek demanding that the company drop its appeal of the US Copyright Royalty Board’s most recent streaming royalty rate ruling.

Spotify, of course, is appealing said ruling, under which the portion of streaming revenues allocated to songwriters and music publishers in America would increase from 10.5% to 15.1%. The streaming firm insists that it doesn’t have a problem with the top line increase, but that it has issues with other elements of the compulsory licence that covers the mechanical copying of songs in the US and which is overseen by the CRB.

The American music publishers have been scathing of Spotify’s arguments, pointing out that during the hearings that occurred before the CRB reached its conclusion on the new rates the streaming firm definitely argued against the top line royalty increase.

Spotify isn’t the only digital music firm appealing the CRB ruling. But America’s National Music Publishers Association reckons that some of those other companies waited to see what Spotify and Amazon planned to do before deciding to appeal themselves. Plus Spotify’s main rival in subscription streaming, Apple, has decided not to appeal.

In their new open letter, the signatory songwriters say that Spotify’s decision to appeal hurts the most because the streaming firm has, in recent years, done much to connect with the songwriting community. That outreach work replicated what the streaming firm had previously done a few years earlier to engage with and placate artists who were initially confused by or annoyed with the streaming music business model.

There have been various initiatives involving songwriters, including the Secret Genius Awards, a project which saw Spotify basically adopt a strategy employed by many of the collecting societies in the music publishing world, ie hand out a bunch of awards and the songwriters might not notice how fucked up the whole songs licensing business really is.

But in this case the songwriters have definitely noticed the thing that’s fucked up, the letter adds. “Now, we can see the real reason for your songwriter outreach”, they write in their letter. “You have used us and tried to divide us but we stand together”.

Confirming that even – and especially – the secret geniuses among the American songwriting community will fight Spotify before the CRB, the letter adds: “Our fight is for all songwriters: those struggling to build their career, those in the middle class and those few who have reached your Secret Genius level”.

They then conclude: “But none of us are ‘secret’! We all create the one thing you sell… songs. Do the right thing and drop your appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board rate determination”.