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Music streaming services fight for higher pay rates/Taylor Swift

Music publishers want a bigger piece of the streaming pie

Music streaming services fight for higher pay rates/Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift // Illustration by Kate Walker

Music publishers want a bigger piece of the streaming pie

Music publishers and major streaming services are duking it out in front of the Copyright Royalty Board over the future of streaming pay rates for songwriters. With songwriters making a fraction of recording artists, labels, and the streamers themselves, the negotiation may determine whether middle-class songwriters can make a living solely from their craft… or have no choice but to learn how to sing the songs themselves.

Song slice
Streaming may be king, but it’s keeping songwriters peasants.

  • The National Music Publishers Association (NMPL) is facing off against the top five streamers (Spotify, Apple, Amazon, YouTUbe, Sirius) for a larger revenue share for songwriters.
  • NMPA and the Digital Music Association (the representative for the streaming companies) are arguing their cases in front of the Copyright Royalty Board, which is responsible for setting the standard licensing rate.
  • The publishers want to double the rate to 40% of what labels are paid (they make about one-fifth now) or $0.0015 per stream.
  • Meanwhile, streamers want to reduce the payouts to rates lower than they were in 2008.

The Copyright Royalty Board sets a new rate every five years. The rate being negotiated is for 2023-2027.

Check out the catalogs
The Digital Music Association points to the recent spending sprees for song catalogs — Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift, Rihanna — as evidence that songwriters already make enough.

But the NMPL argues that the sprees prove exactly the opposite: songs drive an incredible amount of value but are currently being shortchanged by streaming services that have built their platforms on the backs of the music.

Regardless of what happens, you know there’s a problem when songwriters can make more money from licensing their copyrights to non-music services, like TikTok or Peloton, where they aren’t subject to copyright negotiations in front of a government board.