Is Tunecore blindly leading songwriters down the wrong path? Absolutely, according to longtime artist activist David Lowery.
The controversy surrounds an agreement forged between Spotify and the National Music Publishers Association, or NMPA, one that is now being forwarded to smaller songwriters and publishers belong to Tunecore. The only problem with that, according to artist activist (and Spotify litigant) David Lowery is that it’s blatantly misleading and doesn’t even include the contract itself.
Lowery is responding to this opt-in form, which is being sent en-masse by Tunecore to member artists:
Here’s where this is a declaration of war for Lowery. By agreeing to the NMPA/Spotify out-of-court settlement, songwriters effectively disqualify themselves from participating in a massive, class action lawsuit against Spotify over unpaid mechanical publishing licenses.
Or, any legal action against Spotify related to unpaid mechanicals, for that matter. David Lowery is heading one of two class actions against Spotify, each valued at an estimated $200 million. Spotify, smartly teaming with the NMPA, is now defusing that action by dramatically reducing the number of songwriters and publishers that can participate.
Lowery alleges that this is being done through trickery, and withholding critical details. Which led to this reaction by Lowery on his heavily-read blog, The Trichordist:
Are you fucking kidding me? A Survey Monkey form? If you are a Tunecore songwriter you recently got an email asking you to sign up for the NMPA/Harry Fox Agency/ Spotify settlement. Songwriters are directed to the above Survey Monkey form. This is it. No details. Nothing.Nada. In particular there is no mention of the possible statutory damages that songwriters are waiving by opting in to this.
So it’s your choice songwriters:
Sign up for a backroom deal cooked up between the NMPA, Harry Fox Agency and Spotify? Or wait for a FAIR and TRANSPARENT process supervised by a federal judge?
Wish all choices were this easy.
Lowery also supplied the following email to Digital Music News, again noting that songwriters aren’t being given access to the settlement contract itself. “As far as i can tell that’s what they did,” Lowery relayed (we’re waiting for a response from Tunecore).
Meanwhile, the NMPA itself has been battling Lowery and discouraging songwriters to join his class action (and disqualifying any songwriter from doing so after joining the out-of-court agreement). That has the potential to absolutely deflate both class actions, and dramatically reduce Spotify’s liabilities.
Oh, if you want to actually read the terms of the NMPA/Spotify contract, you can find it here.
Image of David Lowery by Jeremy Keith, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).