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Publishers and streaming services square up over CRB rates


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We don’t really want to talk about the dust ‘settling’ from last night’s news that Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon are appealing against the recent songwriter-royalty-rates decision by the US Copyright Royalty Board. This dust is about as far from settled as you can get: this promises to be one of the ugliest, gloves-off disputes in the music-streaming era.

It’s still unclear why the National Music Publishers Association targeted Spotify and Amazon in its statement last night, when it was Spotify, Google and Pandora putting out a joint statement revealing their plans to appeal. That’s an important aspect of the row though: this isn’t just one or two ‘bad actors’ trying to avoid an increase in their rates: it’s a concerted effort from the biggest streaming services in the US… bar one. Yes, it’s just as notable that Apple Music has chosen NOT to appeal the new rates, and was celebrated in the NMPA’s statement for it.

Form your own opinions about the ratio of principles to politics here: if the other services were to win their appeal and reduce the future rates rise, Apple Music would benefit too – just without having enraged the publisher and songwriter bodies.

One more morning-after thought: it’s going to be important to frame this appeal not just as a tech vs music battle (or ‘food fight’ if you prefer) – but to set it in the wider context of the value of songs (as opposed to recordings) in the streaming era: a debate that drags labels onto the battlefield as well.

Stuart Dredge

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