[Editor Charlie sez: The more interesting claim is against Spotify for inducing a breach and discriminating against all the artists who didn’t get stock, RSUs or something that represented the value of the stock. But the really interesting case is against the publishers for conspiring to keep streaming mechanicals at a “less than zero” rate while braying about how great a job they’d done in negotiating at the CRB with streaming and freezing the mechanical rate for physical over the same period that just happened to correspond to Spotify’s launch.]
Black Sheep have filed a class-action lawsuit against Universal Music Group, Rolling Stone reports and Pitchfork can confirm. The 1990s hip-hop duo allege that the label owes more than $750 million in royalties to numerous Universal artists due to an early “sweetheart” arrangement with Spotify, which allowed the streaming company to pay less in royalties in exchange for Spotify stock. The artists are suing Universal for breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs Andres “Dres” Vargas Titus and William “Mista Lawnge” McLean allege that Universal “is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties” due to a “previously undisclosed” agreement with Spotify. This “sweetheart” arrangement allowed Spotify to license music from the label at a discounted rate “in exchange for Spotify stock and lower royalty payments.”
It’s always been a hard road for musicians to make money from their songs. Nonetheless, selling tons of singles and albums was at least a target and something bands could dream about. Of course, there were many ways the labels could work the sales figures to get their shares out first, and only then the bands might see something. Despite the conflict between the often industrial-strength labels and the upcoming artists, there was at least hope that money was flowing back to the content creators. Now though in the age of streaming music, the connection between making music and making a living is profoundly broken.
This schism is the subject matter for Lightbringer Production’s documentary film “The Way The Music Died” featuring insights from musicians and industry pros, including Mishkin Fitzgerald from Birdeatsbaby. The film probes the spirit of artists determined to keep writing songs in the face of the meager payouts from the giant and ever-growing music stream service Spotify. Find out why this is ripping-out the heart and soul of new music.
Getting discovered in the music business has never been easy. Before the pandemic, artists could at least rely on the industry’s historic mainstay to break through — playing as many gigs as possible and hoping to build a following. But with that path closed for now, artists and their label partners are increasingly dependent on Spotify, the undisputed king of music streaming, and its black box algorithms.
That’s why Spotify’s cynical decision to use this moment to launch a new pay-for-play scheme pressuring vulnerable artists and smaller labels to accept lower royalties in exchange for a boost on the company’s algorithms is so exploitative and unfair. Artists must unite to condemn this thinly disguised royalty cut, which apparently has just been released in “beta” mode and is soon expected to enter the market in full force.
It’s just a casual poll on Twitter, but an interesting result!
While we are not surprised to see Facebook the massive infringer and destroyer of worlds at 0% as least trustworthy, Google got a much higher score than we anticipated.
But the real headline was just how badly Spotify got beat by Apple, its main lawfare target. Mind you, the Trichordist audience is heavily weighted toward artists and songwriters, so it’s not surprising.
Spotify’s expansion into Korea featured a glaring omission: No artists distributed by Kakao M were added to the platform. A music distribution company and talent agency, Kakao M is a subsidiary of Korean tech giant and media conglomerate Kakao; it is perhaps best known for buying South Korea’s largest music streaming platform, Melon, in 2016….The purge appeared to be massive, impacting established artists, newer groups, indie artists, and everyone in between. Bill Werde, the former editorial director of Billboard, called it “red wedding territory for global K-Pop,” a reference to an infamous Game of Thrones scene involving the slaughter of multiple characters.
The outcry from fans was immediate: #SpotifyIsOverParty started trending on Twitter, and users reportedly canceled their Spotify subscriptions in droves. The streaming service took down the entire platform temporarily for maintenance, though some fans believed it was done to prevent them from canceling their accounts en masse. (Vox has reached out to Spotify for comment.)