Streaming service Spotify has analytics for labels and distributors, and separately for artists and their managers. Spot who’s missing? Publishers – and by extension, songwriters. At least they were missing until now.
This afternoon, Spotify has unveiled Spotify Publishing Analytics, which it says will provide music publishers with daily streaming analytics for their works on its service – as well as the ability to browse the data by songwriter and see how works have been performing on playlists.
They will also be able to export metadata to their internal systems. Spotify’s aim is that the data will be useful across a variety of publishing duties, from A&R and sync to administration and copyright.
Spotify is pitching this as “the first music streaming analytics tool built specifically for publishers”. Companies like Socan, Kobalt and Songtrust will disagree with that, given the tools they already offer to publishing clients.
However, Spotify’s announcement today is the first example of dedicated publishing analytics from a streaming service itself. What’s more, the daily updates are an important aspect, especially for publishers used to getting streaming data retrospectively, after collecting societies have processed it.
“With more information, publishers are empowered to make the most of the opportunities the global reach of Spotify provides, and the more information we can share with each other, the more opportunities we can help create for songwriters,” said Jules Parker, head of publishing relations and services for Spotify in the EMEA and APAC regions.
The launch is part of a longer-term effort by Spotify to build bridges with the publishing community – or rather to repair them, given past high-profile lawsuits over its licensing, and the controversy in 2017 when US publishers took umbrage at Spotify’s suggestion (in a legal filing) that streaming services might not need to pay mechanical reproduction royalties.
Spotify has been working hard since then on more positive interactions with the publishing world. In February this year, it started showing songwriter credits on its desktop service (later expanding that to its mobile apps) while its Secret Genius program has encompassed awards, podcasts and studios for emerging songwriters in LA, Nashville, Atlanta and London, as well as songwriting workshops.
“Right now we’re focused on providing publishers with this valuable data. Spotify Publishing Analytics won’t change anything about how publishing royalties are accounted or paid,” stressed the company this afternoon.
The new tool is launching in what Spotify describes as a “limited beta” with an online form promising “let us know you’re interested and we’ll reach out when we’re ready to onboard more publishers”. The company has been working with several publishers to fine-tune the analytics before release, including Reservoir and BMG.
“Access to daily global analytics for the leading DSP allows us to better track our catalogue’s performance and gives us valuable insight that we can use to make more informed business decisions in supporting our songwriters,” said Reservoir’s Rich Scott DePerto in Spotify’s announcement blog post.
“Armed with this level of streaming data, directly from Spotify, music publishers can gain insights into new opportunities for their songwriters, more efficiently collect royalties on their behalf, and more effectively market their works,” added BMG’s Patrick Joest.
One final point. When Spotify launched its first analytics for artists in December 2013, it wasn’t just a new tool: it had implications – because at the same time, Spotify published a figure (between $0.006 and $0.0084) for its average per-stream payout to rightsholders.
The combination of the two announcements was encouragement for artists (or their managers) to use the stream-counts from their analytics to calculate how much Spotify should have paid out to their rightsholders, and then to compare that against the royalties they were actually receiving – and possibly ask rightsholders some pointed questions as a result.
At a time when there were regular headlines about artists complaining about their streaming royalties, Spotify’s greater transparency shifted the spotlight (if not entirely) to rightsholders and contract terms. Analytics as defence against ‘Spotify screws artists’ rhetoric, you could say.
Now, in 2018, launching analytics for publishers may also play in to wider industry debates: those about whether publishers (and by extension songwriters) should get a bigger share of streaming royalties – the question of the value of the song versus the value of the recording.
Daily data on how many streams their songs are generating could bolster the publishing industry’s resolve to challenge labels on this point in current and future licensing discussions. Spotify would sensibly rather keep out of this battle’s fray, but its new analytics may well have a role to play nonetheless.