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Songwriters Take On Digital Giants Over Royalties
Amazon, Google, Pandora, and Spotify chose to appeal a recent royalty increase by the Copyright Royalty Board for songwriters, leading to spirited reaction and rebuttal from songwriters and publishers. As news of the appeals appeared on March 7, songwriter advocates such as Songwriters of North America along with the National Music Publishers Association swiftly responded in defense of the much needed royalty raise.
"[Without] songs these tech companies have nothing to stream/sell. Shameful," said Recording Academy Los Angeles board member and hit songwriter Justin Tranter. "For the first time in 110 years songwriters get an increase in royalties based on how much the music business has changed in that time, and this is how tech companies react. Wow."
A subsequent blog post from Spotify defending their decision to appeal was torn down by NMPA on March 12. Spotify tried to turn down the volume by offering a carefully parsed statement endorsing remuneration for musicians and songwriters in general. The NMPA went through the statement point by pointdismantling them, especially Spotify’s complaints about licensing "scope."
"It is unfortunate that Amazon and Spotify decided to file an appeal on the CRB's decision to pay American songwriters higher digital mechanical royalties," said Nashville Songwriters Association International Executive Director Bart Herbison. "Many songwriters have found it difficult to stay in the profession in the era of streaming music. You cannot feed a family when you earn hundreds of dollars for millions of streams."
Clearly there will be more discussion and debate ahead as court dates approach and company statements seek to persuade the public. The ability to have its determinations supported in court is essential to the CRB's power, and such tests are usually unavoidable. The tech companies who appealed first will have an awkward time trying to argue that their objections are independent of their supposedly deep commitment to see musicians and songwriters get paid fairly, someday, somehow, just not following the CRB's most recent determination.