Spotify ices out comedians over joke royalties

Spotify removed many top comedians from its platform due to a dispute over paying joke royalties.

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Spotify ices out comedians over joke royalties


The Future. Spotify removed many top comedians from its platform due to a dispute over paying joke royalties. While Spotify and other digital platforms would like to keep paying comedians simply as performers, songwriters have set a precedent for receiving royalties for the lyrics they write. That might ultimately put the power in the hands of comedians who are fighting for a bigger piece of the lucrative streaming pie.

Joke points

Comedians would like more than a penny for their thoughts… so Spotify dropped them (for the time being).

  • Several top comedians (including John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, and Tiffany Haddish) are pushing for streamers to pay literary royalties for copyrighted jokes like songwriters for their music and lyrics
  • The effort is being led by global rights admin company Spoken Giants, which has been pushing for higher royalties across the entire digital and radio landscape.

But just before Thanksgiving, Spotify, and Spoken Giants couldn’t reach an agreement — so Spotify dropped the comedians pushing for payouts. 

The written and the spoken word

Comics have been shortchanged on streaming services for years, only getting paid as performers through their label or distributor and through the performance rights company SoundExchange. Essentially, comics can only make money from saying their jokes, not coming up with them.

It’s not surprising why Spotify wants to avoid paying this royalty. The company would either have to pull cash away from what it pays to distributors and labels… or pay additional cash outright. While that may be annoying to digital platforms, it’s something that doesn’t seem to be going away. Those jokes don’t write themselves, you know…

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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