Music publishers are currently engaged in verbal fisticuffs with a group of music-streaming services, and Spotify in particular, over the group’s plans to appeal against new songwriter royalty-rates set by the US Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). But in a valedictory interview with Variety on his last day as chairman and CEO of publisher Sony/ATV, Martin Bandier suggested that labels have more to fear from the DSPs in the longer term.
“I think the record companies are more vulnerable to the DSPs than the publishing business. You can’t start a music-publishing company if you’re a Spotify — although you could avoid record companies and sign artists directly,” said Bandier. “I’m not suggesting they should do that or that they will, but the 52% share of [streaming] revenue that goes to record companies could be cut down a little. Someone is going to have to blink, either the DSPs or Spotify. It’s very complicated and I think they’ll have to compromise somehow. But there’s no compromise in publishing: The record companies’ deal is useless if you don’t have the underlying songs.”
Bandier’s interview is also notable for his even-handed views on Spotify. “We’ve got plenty of issues with Spotify. But I also would be the first to say that Spotify helped to spur growth in the entire industry, so we have to give credit where it’s due. Are they the easiest people in the world to deal with? I would say not. Am I happy that they’re appealing the CRB? No! It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard and I’ve said that to them,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has ever won an appeal of a CRB decision, the standards are so high it’s virtually impossible. We spent years and millions and millions of dollars getting to a rate, and for them to want to appeal that? Shame on them.”
And yet… “It’s similar to the record companies — I’ve spent years screaming at them, and of course record companies are important. So Spotify is a good thing, and the world would not be as good for music if they disappeared. Now, I can’t tell them that their overhead is too high and maybe they’d be profitable if they cut their overhead and did a few other things. But I haven’t changed in terms of my views. So don’t take my feeling that Spotify is a good thing to mean that I think what they’re doing is perfect.”