Dear Spotify, Please Pay Us Fairly. Signed, 133 Swedish Songwriters…

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An open letter from a newly-formed collective of 133 Swedish songwriters, first published (in Swedish) in Stockholm-based magazine, Aftonbladet.  

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Over the past few months, the debate over streaming royalties has intensified with Taylor Swift’s decision to remove her entire catalog from Spotify.  Swift, who is currently the world’s best-selling musician, voiced concern that Spotify was actively devaluing her music, while short-changing the very people that helped create Spotify’s business: songwriters.

Daniel Ek, CEO and co-founder of Spotify, eventually responded that Spotify gives 60-70 percent of all royalties back to the music industry.   Chairman Martin Lorentzon flatly stated that he had ‘zero understanding’ of artist and author demands for better compensation.

A study conducted in November of 2014 in the US revealed that just 3 percent of Spotify’s royalties make it back to songwriters.  A similar study has not been conducted in Europe, though the payout percentages are similar to the US.  Despite this, the debate over streaming royalties remains focused on artists and labels, with songwriters rarely mentioned.  But the majority of hits are written by authors who are not performing artists and work entirely behind the scenes.  They don’t have the same ability tour, sell merchandise, or otherwise compensate for the loss of income brought on by digital.

The inevitable result is that artists and labels are sawing off the very branch they sit on, and forcing professional songwriters to become hobbyists.

Ten years ago, as the downloading debate was at its peak, record labels were on their knees while CD sales started to plummet.  When Spotify finally presented their business model, there were few that thought it would work.  And, it would only further erode CD sales.

In that environment, major labels took a tough licensing stance, demanding large equity percentages of Spotify and a large piece of the revenue pie.  Publishers and STIM, on the other hand, agreed to bad terms to allow the fledging technology to get off the ground.  Nobody wanted to stand in the way of technology, or scuttle an attempt to reduce piracy.

Now, we can see the consequences of those choices.  The digital revolution has allowed record labels to drastically reduce their costs of production and distribution.  The recording industry in Sweden started to flourish, and there were signs that the rest of Europe would soon follow suit.

But songwriters, who invested both time and money to make Spotify happen, have received little benefit.  It is now time to create a proper balance.

That is why today, February 16th, the songwriters coalition SKAP has called for a meeting among the various industry stakeholders.  The purpose of this meeting will be to figure out how we can create a more fair and equitable distribution of streaming royalties.

The first step will be transparency.  Spotify, along with other streaming services, have created deals with the major labels using NDAs, or Non-Disclosure Agreements, which prevent transparency in negotiations.  STIM is forced to negotiation upon the NDA agreements, and therefore can’t even share the terms with its members.  As a result, songwriters never know how much they are getting paid for the use of their songs.

The second step is to determine a royalty allocation that allows the industry to thrive, not just the record labels and distributors who feed off the music we create.

And the third step is to start crediting the songwriters and producers, many of whom aren’t even mentioned anywhere on Spotify.  We just don’t think it’s right that the people who created the music aren’t getting credit for it.

Sweden has done a great deal towards the development of digital services.  It makes sense that we, with our relatively small music industry and a spirit of consensus, can show the way for a more equitable and fair industry.  Let’s hope that this meeting opens the door for that.

Lasse Andersson
Tomas Andersson Wiij
Johan Becker
Johan Bejerholm
Daniel Bengtson
Anoo Bhagawan
Arnthor Birgisson
Peter Boström
Jonas von der Burg
Niclas von der Burg
EagleEye Cherry
Robert “string” Dahlqvist
Adrian Davinski
Joy Deb
Linnea Deb
Mohs Denebi
Ana Diaz
Niklas Edberger
Olle Ekberg
Per Eklund
David Elfström Lilja
Jade Ell
Lina Eriksson
Mårten Eriksson
Peter Alexander Esbjörnsson
Annika Fehling
Oscar Fogelström
Mikael Frithiof
Tobias Fröberg
Magnus Funemyr
Aleena Gibson
Daniel Gidlund
Daniel Gilbert
Irya Gmeyner
Thomas Gson
Robert Habolin
Peter Hallström
Thomas Hanna
Oscar Harryson
Mats Hedstrom
Uno Helmersson
Patrik Henzel
Louise Hoffsten
Anton Hard Af Segerstad
Henrik Janson
Martin Jarbeck
Niklas Jarl
Niels Jensen
Andreas Jismark
Andrew Johnson
Karina Kampe
Magnus Kaxe
Jackie Kavan
Niclas Kings
Jorgen Stewart
David Kruger
Jimmy Lagnefors
Anders Larsson
Tim Larsson
Caroline Leander
Peter Cetera
Ari LeTennen
Mattias Lindblom
Helienne Lindvall
Martin Lorentzson
Patrik Lorentzson
Tobias Lundgren
Niclas Lundin
Malin Maggie Lübeck
Bernard Lohr
Rikard Löfgren
Viktor Lofgren
Henrik Lörstad
Awa Manneh
Erik Martensson
Andrew Matthews
Peter Jacobson Moren
Per Magnusson
Tony Malm
Marcus Maria
Johan Moraeus
David Myhr
Anders Nilsson
Henry Nordenback
Johan Norrby
Erik Nyholm
Mats Nyman
Thomas Nyrre Nystrom
Pauline K Olofsson
Emanuel Olsson
Ollie Olsson
Per Olsson
Jonas Quant
Eric Palmqwist
Miqael Persson aka Hicks
Pettersson, Niklas
Eddie Rahmati
Johan Ramström
Sigurd Resnes
Anders Ringman
Elias Ringquist
Leah Muscat Rodo
Asa Rydan
Anders F Rönnblom
Sigurd Rosnes
Hanif Hitmanic Sabzevari
Erik Sahlen
Ken Sandin
Jerry Sillah
Frederick Sonefors
Wind Sonnvik
Nicklas Stenemo
Dan Sundquist
Markus Svensson
Andreas Söderlund
Fredrik Söderström
Anna Ternheim
Frederick Thomander
Max Thulin
Peo Thyrén
Johanna Toth
Mats Tärnfors
Samuel Waermö
Johan vegna
Christian Waltz
Par Wiksten
Anders Wikström
Henrik Wikström
Anders Wollbeck
Jonas Moonchild Zekkari
Frederick Fredro Ödesjö
Frida Öhrn
Stefan Örn

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Image by meltedplastic, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).

12 Responses

  1. Remi Swierczek

    Dear Spotify,
    Convert yourself, rest of the streamers and all of the Radio to simple discovery based $100B music store!
    Primitive solution to on going cash flow problems, door to $5B IPO & almost complete extermination of piracy.
    Googe is our only obstacle.
    Shazam and Soundhound will join you in exchange fro two more overdue $5B IPOs

    • ScratchnSniff

      I have read your constant comments and still do not have a clue as to what you propose.

      • steveh

        You are not alone. Nobody understands what this loon keeps banging on about.

        • Anonymous

          Some respect he is the inventor of lost Shazam US Patent #6,941,275

  2. Anonymous

    “The second step is to determine a royalty allocation that allows the industry to thrive, not just the record labels and distributors who feed off the music we create.”

    Spotify doesn’t care who gets the money it pays out. There’s a problem, but this particular problem isn’t really Spotify’s fault. Most of the royalty allocations are determined by labels, publishers, etc (and the artists who signed on with them).

  3. Bandit

    “The first step will be transparency”

    (Huge spit take)………..wait your serious? Sorry

  4. JTVDigital

    A few comments:

    “STIM is forced to negotiation upon the NDA agreements […]”: yes, indeed, and this is totally fine, NDAs apply to any sectors of the economy and are a very common business practice to preserve confidentiality. There is nothing specific about “music industry” or Spotify here. This sounds a bit off-topic.

    “The second step is to determine a royalty allocation that allows the industry to thrive”: when joining a collecting society, songwriters and publishers delegate the representation of their rights to this collecting society. In that case here this is up to STIM to negotiate better terms, in case songwriters are not happy with the rates they need to talk to their collecting society who represent them. It sounds like people complaining about politicians they have elected 🙂
    Nothing specific about Spotify or streaming services here, it expresses some dissatisfaction from songwriters towards the way their collecting society represent their interests.

    “And the third step is to start crediting the songwriters and producers […]”: as long as labels / content owners fill in the metadata properly in the digital supply chain system they use (was it in-house process in the case of major labels or distributors/aggregators for smaller labels or indie artists), the digital services like Spotify and others receive the information. Then the question is why don’t they use it? The debate has been going on for years, there have been some initiatives to display more information (credits) but ultimately it is up to the digital service providers to decide how they want to design their product and what kind of user experience they’d like to offer.
    Displaying song credits is certainly not helping to make more sales / streams, so this may be an explanation that no further efforts were made here. But it is correct that, especially for “super-fans”, this additional information has some value in terms of user experience and could be displayed somewhere.

  5. Willis

    If these 133 artist don’t like how Spotify is treating them, then they need to have their music taken down and move on to something that makes them happy. It is really simple…oh, except for the part where companies like Spotify spent millions to build a place where large numbers of people go to hear music, and artists do actually get paid (just not as much as they want).

    • steveh

      Willis these are songwriters. A lot of their works are written for other artists, who often have big hits. If their songs are recorded by other artists then the songwriters have no say as to whether the songs are on Spotify or not.

      They say they are being shafted and so they complain. Fair play I say.

      The significant thing is that this is happening in Sweden – Spotify’s home territory – which has been widely PR’d as a steaming Utopia….

      • Willis

        Writers, artists, whatever. It’s a moot point to differentiate between the two. A writer has ownership, and just as must right/ability to take down content.

        • steveh

          For an opinionated corporate cocksucker who is always shooting your ugly mouth off about what music creators should or should not be doing, you seem astonishingly light on essential music business knowledge.

    • Versus

      These are writers, not artists. They may not be able to control whether their work is on Spotify.