Dina LaPolt Tackles Spotify, Songwriter Rights and Sexism In Spirited Midem Talk

ISSUE 27 2018 - DO NOT USE - ISSUE OUT DEC. 6, 2018
Yuri Hasegawa
Dina LaPolt photographed on Nov. 8, 2018 at Cactus Cube Studio in Los Angeles.

Entertainment attorney Dina LaPolt minced no words in addressing multiple issues during a Midem keynote, from the need for fair contracts and inclusion riders for women, to skewering Spotify’s appeal of new songwriter royalty rates in the United States. 

LaPolt, president of LaPolt Law and one of the key people behind the passage of the Music Modernization Act, was interviewed by Billboard editorial director Hannah Karp in a lively session that was originally slated to be a conversation between LaPolt and Epic Records Chairman/CEO Sylvia Rhone, who cancelled due to food poisoning.

“We are going to channel our inner Sylvia,” said LaPolt early in the interview, calling Rhone a “legend.”    

She then described at length for an international audience what the Music Modernization Act was and its importance in the U.S. and beyond.

“I was the bully,” LaPolt said with gusto, when Karp asked about her role in passing the Act, describing how she dealt with Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the aisle. “Because I was free I had a lot of influence with the politicians. Because all of my efforts were pro-bono... they would listen to me.”

But her biggest beef was with Spotify, which she noted has sparked more furor than other services (Amazon, Pandora and Google) this year in appealing the new mechanical royalty rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board in 2017. Pandora, “has very little skin in the game” and Amazon is new and not yet a big player, she noted. “But here comes Spotify with its secret genius award, and recognizing songwriters. Bullshit! All the time they’re behind closed doors scheming… saying let’s pass the MMA and then appeal.”

However, she added, conciliation is the path for both sides.  “It’s not in anybody’s interest to have a divisive relationship with any of the tech companies. It’s not in anybody’s interest for president Trump to have a divisive relationship with everybody in America. It doesn't work,” she added, saying Spotify could withdraw its appeal.

“All relationships can be fixed. It just takes communication.”

Karp then asked LaPolt about how being a woman has shaped her career. “I own my own business,” LaPolt said with a shrug, noting the glass ceiling would not apply to her. “Am I invited to the golf course? No. Do I care? No.”

The situation, however, is not the same for those outside, she said, telling the story of a female client who was offered $35,000 less than a male candidate for the same job. “It starts with the deal making,” she said. “Lawyers are at the front lines of negotiating contracts. If we do these inclusion riders and we start sharing information…. then we can solve a lot of the problems.”