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Warner/Chappell calls on songwriters to back campaign against Spotify’s rate rise appeal

By | Published on Monday 18 March 2019


Warner/Chappell has joined Sony/ATV in asking its songwriters to back the US National Music Publishers Association’s PR offensive against Spotify in the dispute over the new mechanical royalty rates Stateside.

Spotify, of course, is appealing the recent Copyright Royalty Board ruling that will increase the streaming service revenue share allocation paid to the song copyright from 10.5% to 15.1% by 2022. So are Amazon, Google and Pandora, although Spotify is getting most of the heat so far.

The streaming firm published a blog post last week defending its position, and arguing that it didn’t object to the rate rise in principle, but that it had some issues with the specifics of the revised compulsory licence. The company is now reportedly planning face-to-face meetings with songwriters in America to present its case.

The NMPA argues that Spotify’s blog post was full of misinformation and spin and that the streaming firm just doesn’t want to pay a fair rate to songwriters. The trade group is now also appealing the CRB ruling, but says its preferred option would be for the tech firms to back down so that it didn’t have to go ahead with said appeal.

Sony/ATV boss Marty Bandier last week urged songwriters signed to the major to get up to speed on the dispute and to speak out in favour of the NMPA. Warner/Chappell’s COO Carianne Marshall has now done likewise.

In her letter, she writes that the CRB ruling on mechanical royalties “came after rigorous consultation with many parties, including a wide range of tech companies, as well as songwriters and music publishers. There were strong arguments made on both sides, and the resulting rate increase was fair as well as overdue”.

“That is where the debate should have rested”, she adds. Noting the appeals that have now been filed by the streaming firms, she goes on: “We value our relationships with the companies who help us deliver music to fans, but we have to draw a line on this issue. Their attempt to roll back rates fairly determined through the CRB process is unacceptable. As such, we will vigorously seek to protect the value of music and passionately promote the rights of songwriters”.

Concluding she says: “We are working with NMPA and policy makers in [Washington] DC to defeat the appeal. We also encourage you to lend your support to NMPA”, mainly by passing on the trade body’s messaging to fans.

If you’re still a little confused as to what this dispute is all about, we go back through all the basics on this week’s edition of our Setlist podcast.