Spotify cuts lyrics for 380M free users in latest blow to Songwriters

Spotify has quietly set limits on lyrics for more than 60% of its 619 million monthly active users who listen using its free tier. The streamer made no announcement of the change and has not commented on it.

Making unlimited lyrics only available to Premium users will please the major labels who have long pushed Spotify to do more to encourage users to pay for a subscription. In recent days, free users started seeing more messages encouraging paid signup.

Licensing lyrics also comes at a price, so offering fewer on the free tier is a cost-saving move as well.

Putting lyrics behind a paywall could also be tied to upcoming changes that Spotify has said will include new tiers for music-only and audiobooks-only and a rumored super-premium tier that may include higher-quality audio and AI-powered music editing and creation tools.

Less visibilty is latest blow for songwriters

Songwriters and music publishers have long argued that Spotify does not compensate them fairly, and less visibility for songwriters on the streamer comes just days after it announced a new royalty scheme that will effecctively pay less.

Some music publishers and songrwiters are accusing Spotify of trying to “radically reduce songwriter payments.” By reclassifying some of its subscriptions as music and audiobook only, the streamer can pay a lower US compulsory licencing rate.

“It appears Spotify has returned to attacking the very songwriters who make its business possible”, says David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association. “Spotify’s attempt to radically reduce songwriter payments by reclassifying their music service as an audiobook bundle is a cynical, and potentially unlawful, move that ends our period of relative peace.”

“As our industry partners are aware, changes in our product portfolio mean that we are paying out in different ways based on terms agreed to by both streaming services and publishers,” retorted Spotify. “Multiple digital service providers have long paid a lower rate for bundles versus a stand-alone music subscription, and our approach is consistent.”

Bruce Houghton is the Founder and Editor of Hypebot, a Senior Advisor at Bandsintown, President of the Skyline Artists Agency, and a Berklee College Of Music professor.

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