Earlier this week, Spotify removed several comedy albums amid a rumored dispute over royalties and rights. Now, Audiam founder Jeff Price’s Word Collections, which focuses “on getting comedians and other spoken word performers paid for the use of their literary works,” has announced the close of a $3.5 million investment round.
17-month-old Word Collections unveiled the multimillion-dollar funding round via a formal release that was shared with Digital Music News. In this concise announcement message, the digital-rights management company makes clear off the bat that comics “will be paid for past and future streams and broadcasts of literary works on Spotify” and other platforms “for the first time.”
Moreover, the New York City-based entity intends to put the $3.5 million tranche towards accelerating the “first of its kind direct global digital licensing and collection for Comedians and other spoken word authors, music publishers and songwriters.” The latter two groups, Word Collections relayed, will benefit from “30% more revenue annually along with unparalleled transparency.”
Investors including QPrime Management co-founders Clifford Burnstein and Peter Mensch contributed to the $3.5 million raise – as did QPrime client Metallica, which has also enlisted Word Collections to license and collect for its publishing catalog. One Black Squirrel Partners led the funding round.
Bob Dylan publishing and business manager Jeff Rosen, ICM Partners exec Rick Levy, WG&S founder Eric Wasserman, and Thomas Dolby likewise backed Word Collections, which counts as spoken-word clients Margaret Cho, the Robin Williams estate, the George Carlin estate, David Cross, and Andrew Dice Clay.
Regarding the initially mentioned comedy-album takedowns on Spotify, Word Collections disclosed that it “has identified and begun recovering over $1 billion in earned and unpaid royalties specifically for streams and broadcast of spoken word comedy.”
This considerable missing compensation doesn’t include the nearly $500 million in “earned but unpaid royalties sitting with the MLC,” nor the “billions” in unpaid royalties from around the globe, per Word Collections higher-ups.
As Spotify and other audio platforms are investing heavily in spoken-word entertainment – the Stockholm-based company, besides dropping billions on podcasts, has made multiple audiobook plays – it’ll be worth monitoring the operations of relatively new entities like Word Collections in the coming months and years.
Near-term, as spoken-word audio’s listening share continues to gain on that of recorded music, the streaming availability (or lack thereof) of comedy content could impact fans’ subscription choices. And in the long run, it stands to reason that leading streaming platforms could attempt to gain an edge on the competition – and avoid rights-related hiccups – by inking direct deals with comedians, as they’ve done with no shortage of podcasters.