Spotify has just been slapped with two lawsuits from independent music publishers totaling $365 million. Meanwhile, the threat of a major publishing lawsuit is dangling. How’s your day going so far?
When it rains, it tsunamis.
Spotify has just been served with another raft of publishing lawsuits, according to legal paperwork shared with Digital Music News. The development could spell the beginning of a fresh avalanche of publishing litigation.
The latest suits are coming from independent publishers Bluewater Music Services and Bob Gaudio. The Nashville-based Bluewater oversees a vast collection of copyrights; Gaudio is a prolific songwriter behind Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
The complaints both involve the same matter: failure to license and pay mechanical licenses.
Both publishers are being represented by eagle Richard S. Busch of the Nashville law firm of King & Ballow. We can also confirm that Jeff Price of SOCAN is playing a key role in this litigation.
Fun fact: Gaudio is the co-writer behind ‘December, 1963 (Oh What a Night),’ performed by Valli. That classic has racked up 58 million streams on Spotify. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: according to calculations shared with King & Ballow, total damages could reach $365 million.
The math is devastatingly simple:
$150,000 per work infringed x approximately 2,434 songs = $365 million.
This has been an extreme migraine for Spotify since late 2015, when cage-rattler David Lowery first raised the oversight. Since that point, Spotify has been struggling with multiple class actions and back-payments potentially surpassing $70 million.
Independent songwriters eventually consolidated into a class action with penalties surpassing $40 million. Separately, major publishing collective NMPA settled with a $30 million resolution. But mega-publishers reportedly feel cheated by the low-rent deal. All of which means some potentially major (publisher) litigation ahead.
So add these guys to the tab?
Pile-ons are always fun, and both Bluewater and Gaudio have some serious copyrights in their stable. Bluewater’s list of infringed includes tracks from Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, and even Guns n’ Roses.
“Infringe now and ask questions later.”
Busch blasted Spotify for sneakily skipping the critical mechanical. “Songwriters and publishers should not have to work this hard to get paid, or have their life work properly licensed. Companies should not be allowed to build businesses on the concept of infringe now and ask questions later.”
Jeff Price, a deeply feared pitbull in the space, contacted Digital Music News. “Spotify raised over $2.5 billion in private equity and venture capital,” Price relayed. “I don’t understand why they didn’t invest some of that into building the required systems to resolve the issues or do it correctly to begin with.”
“It’s not a confusing requirement; if you want to use someone else’s music to build your business, get a license and then pay for that use.”
Here’s the pertinent paperwork.
First up: Bluewater.
More as this develops!