A group of Swedish songwriters have aligned forces publishing an open letter in one of Scandinavia's largest newspapers, Aftonbladet, demanding a bigger portion of the royalty pie. Boasting 133 signatures, the letter calls streaming services like Spotify & YouTube to task on their low royalty payouts telling them "It's time to say thank you for the music."
The songwriters make note of a recent study reporting songwriters see as little as 3% of the revenue paid to the music industry in the US claiming while “No corresponding research has been done in Europe, the allocation of revenue here surely doesn’t differ substantially.”
Songwriters sit in a unique corner of the music industry - creating and contributing to the music driving the industry, but unable to pursue alternative revenue streams like live performances and merchandise sales like touring musicians can. Part of their discontent stems from the way today's music industry is structured. Due to the non-disclosure agreements digital music services and record labels use, songwriters are not able to know a definitive payout, making it harder to trust the streaming service and easier to doubt their integrity.
“The music industry may be the only business in the world where the subcontractors – the songwriters – aren’t allowed to know how much they get paid for their products, the songs," says the letter. “The unavoidable result is that the record labels and other music industry players risk sawing off the branch they’re sitting on, as very few songwriters will be able to afford to create music other than as a hobby."
Though Spotify claims payouts exceed $1 billion since the company's launch in 2008, the Swedish songwriters say they've seen an extraordinarily low amount of that revenue.
It IS high time to say "thank you" for the music to songwriters not just in Sweden, but globally. While a solution that satisfies all parties has yet to be seen, the letter closes with an open door: “Sweden has come a long way in the development of digital music services. It’s also reasonable to expect that our relatively small music industry and historical spirit of consensus among the different actors in the music industry should show the way to a more sustainable and equitable model.”