Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, Corey Taylor of Slipknot/Stone Sour, Martin Bandier, Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing are among over 2,000 songwriters and industry figures who have signed a petition demanding better mechanical royalties for interactive streaming.

The campaign calls out Google, Apple, Amazon, Spotify and Pandora, with streaming giant Spotify in particular condemned for its free tier.

“The current mechanical royalty rates have allowed Spotify to continue to offer a full access music service that is free to consumers,” wrote the National Music Publisher’s Association (NMPA). “This means Spotify can make all of your songs available while charging consumers nothing and paying you (almost) nothing.”

The campaign against the streaming platforms has launched at an opportune time with the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) meeting at a court hearing today to determine rates for the next five years.

Incredibly, the current rates were set over a decade ago when digital streaming was in its embryonic stage.

“The last ten years have seen incredible and innovative advancements in how your songs are delivered to music fans. Technology companies are a critical part of this new digital story,” noted the NMPA. “But, while these multi-billion-dollar tech companies are creating new ways to distribute music, they are also fighting in this trial to pay as little as possible to songwriters for the songs that drive their businesses.”

The hearing in Washington will see the NMPA and the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) request an increase in mechanical royalties, while the streaming platforms will ask to reduce the amount they pay rightsholders.

The tech giants don’t have much industry support, however.

Former Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews came out in support of a increase to mechanical royalties in December 2015.

He told a class of undergraduate students in the US: “Free-to-the-listener on-demand services are driving down music’s intrinsic value by creating a ‘gray-market’… An ever-growing number of listeners are happily lingering in music’s gray market, enjoying full access to all music without paying for the privilege and with little incentive or intention to convert to a full-paying subscription.”

You can read the letter in full below:

Songwriters to Digital Services: Work With Us Not Against Us

Dear Apple, Amazon, Google, Spotify and Pandora:

As songwriters, we count on you to deliver our music to the fans who love it. We appreciate the innovative platforms you have developed to do this, however we must voice our outrage at the way you are devaluing our work in the process. 

Currently you are fighting to pay us as little as possible in the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) proceedings. This is alarming not only because it threatens our livelihoods and ability to continue our craft, but also because it tells us that instead of being our business partners, you choose to be our adversaries.

The future of music will go one of two ways. We can work together to create an industry ecosystem that grows not just tech companies’ valuations, but also the diversity and quality of music. Or, you can work to reduce the rates paid to songwriters so much that you have nothing left to deliver the fans who subscribe to your services. 

It’s not too late to do the right thing. Stop litigating against songwriters and pay them a fair rate for their songs. It is in your best interest to do so instead of making it impossible for us to earn a living. The future of music, and your business, depends on it. 

Sincerely,
Songwriters