Most Audiobook Listeners Say They’ll Only Use Spotify if Authors Are Paid Fairly. If Only Music Fans Felt the Same Way.

a new study suggests readers more sensitive to authors being paid fairly for audiobook royalties than music listeners are
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a new study suggests readers more sensitive to authors being paid fairly for audiobook royalties than music listeners are
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Photo Credit: Jonas Jacobsson

Getting the average music listener to care about artist compensation is a Sisyphean task—but a new study suggests readers are far more sensitive to the struggle authors face as Spotify bundles audiobooks with its music offering.

A new Coalition of Concerned Creators asked Edison Research to conduct a poll of U.S. audiobook consumers to get a tap on their reading habits and their thoughts on how authors should be compensated for audiobook royalties. According to the poll, audiobook consumers are not familiar with compensation models, but are keenly aware that authors have very little control over their royalties.

When asked who was to blame for authors not being paid fairly for audiobooks, half of consumers said the listening services (Spotify, Apple Music), while 40% said publishers, with the remainder blaming authors themselves or consumers (not paying enough).

The study suggests Spotify’s bundling of audiobook has also impacted audiobook sales negatively. 42.3% of audiobook listeners in the survey have purchased fewer audiobooks overall since they began listening to the content on Spotify. Initially, 50% of respondents agreed they “will only listen to audiobooks through streaming audio services like Spotify and Apple Music—if they know authors are paid fairly for their work.”

However, after being exposed to concerns over audiobook compensation from streamers like Spotify, more respondents agreed a fair compensation model should be standard. 56% of audiobook listeners said authors are paid “not fairly at all” for audiobook streams on these platforms. 48.8% of listeners said this made their opinion of streaming audio services like Spotify less favorable. While 51.5% agreed they would only listen if authors are paid fairly by these digital streaming providers (DSPs).

“Halfway through the survey, respondents were introduced to concerns regarding audiobook compensation,” says a spokesperson from Edison Research. “Respondents were told that there were recent claims of streaming audio services not being transparent and consistent in how they pay authors for audiobooks, with some publishers being paid on a per-audiobook basis, while others are being paid on how much time consumers spend listening.”

“These claims were pulled from sources including media reports and public statements issued by professional author organizations including the Author’s Guild and The Society of Authors.”

Edison Research conducted an online survey of 1,035 adults aged 18+ who listened to audiobooks within the last year. The study ran from April 26 to May 10. Some other concerns expressed by these audiobook listeners include a worry that ads will now appear in books, with 57.7% saying they would find it disruptive or very disruptive.

These listeners also believe that changes in fees or subscription prices should go toward paying authors, with 69.3% agreeing that if a DSP charges an additional fee to listen to audiobooks—those fees should go toward paying the author. Publishers aren’t off the hook among audiobook listeners either, with 69% saying they believe that large publishers are paid very or somewhat fairly for audiobooks.