Music Business

Music Publishers FTC complaint escalates battle, Spotify responds

The National Music Publishers Association has ramped up its battle against Spotify on several fronts, including a complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission alleging the streamer converted Premium users into a bundled subscription that includes audiobooks without providing an option to remain on a music-only tier.

NMPA’s FTC Complaint

In its first-ever complaint to the FTC, the NMPA alleges that in addition to harming consumers, the shift “could result in a drop of around $150 million in payments to songwriters over the next year.”

“This bait-and-switch subscription scheme is ‘saddling’ shoppers with recurring payments for products and services they did not intend to purchase or did not want to continue to purchase,” the NMPA said in its letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “If allowed to continue, Spotify’s conduct will cost consumers millions of dollars, undermine the music royalty system, and harm competition.”

Spotify Responds

“Spotify’s approach to expanding its offering and raising prices is industry standard,” a Spotify spokesperson responded. “We notify users a month in advance of any price increases and offer easy cancellations as well as multiple plans for users to consider.”

The statement concluded, “In short, we categorically reject the NMPA’s baseless accusations and will continue to provide consumers with incredible value and a best-in-class experience.”

A Multifront Battle

This latest skirmish is part of a multifront battle between music publishers and Spotify that includes an NMPA letter and likely lawsuit alleging lyric copyright infringement in lyrics, music videos, and podcasts; a proposal to overhaul the US Copyright Act that would allow publishers to opt out of statutory licensing in the US.and a Mechanical Licensing Collective lawsuit against the DSP over unpaid royalties.

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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