Hello Spotify, Goodbye Songwriters
The Frame’s John Horn spoke with Songwriters of North America founders Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley about why the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 no longer works in an era of music streaming services and what can be done about it.
MICHELLE LEWIS AND KAY HANLEY:
Your song “Wings” [performed by the band Little Mix] was streamed on Spotify several million times. Not that long ago, you got a royalty check for those streams. How much did that add up to?
LEWIS: I’d say by the end of the year, for the year that it played the most, it was worth about $4.78.
When you see that check or those pennies, what is your reaction?
LEWIS: What the … What’s going on? I was going to say a bad word, but I won’t.
What was going on? What happened to the money and how did you educate yourself about what was happening?
LEWIS: That was the catalyst that started me down the wormhole of how songwriters get paid for streaming services, specifically Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music. The way we get paid is not very well, really. A stream is for one person, whereas on radio it goes out to multiple people. They came up with a formula for what a stream is worth in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act introduced in 1998, which, I will remind you, was before the iPod. It determined what digital replications would be worth.