Songwriting & Music Publishing

Spotify, streamers seek new delay in paying songwriters back royalties

Spotify, Google, Amazon, and Google have asked for a delay in paying back royalties to songwriters even before the amount due is decided.

The US Copyright Royalty Board is expected to finally rule on royalty rates – a fight is officially known as Phonorecords III that Apple has deliberately stayed out of – for streaming for 2018-22 in the coming days.

But despite most being owned by huge tech companies flush with cash, the music streaming services have appealed to the Copyright Office for more time to pay any likely royalty increases.

The steamers blame the complexity of calculating and paying different rates for different time periods: “We have serious concerns about the ability to do all of this for every category of reporting – simultaneously – within the time provided in the regulations.”

“Their concerns must also be viewed in comparison to songwriters, who as small businesses or individual creators are the most vulnerable parties in the music ecosystem.”

As first reported by Variety, five U.S. senators wrote the Copyright Office slamming the request and expressing “serious concern about any requests that would delay important and necessary royalty payments to copyright owners and [oppose] any granting by the Copyright Office of an extension.”

“Digital music companies are some of the largest, most sophisticated global technology companies,” continued the Senators., “Their concerns about operational challenges resulting from a potential Phonorecords III decision, a decision they appealed and have litigated for years, must be viewed in the context of the extensive resources they are able to gather to address those challenges. Their concerns must also be viewed in comparison to songwriters, who as small businesses or individual creators are the most vulnerable parties in the music ecosystem…. Accordingly, we ask that you reject the DLCs request and ensure that, if back royalties are owed, they are timely paid to songwriters.”

The National Music Publishers Association also wrote the Copyright Office condemning the streaming services’ request.

Bruce Houghton is Founder and Editor of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank and serves as a Senior Advisor to Bandsintown which acquired both publications in 2019. He is the Founder and President of the Skyline Artists Agency and a professor for the Berklee College Of Music.

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