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International Creators Gather For 'Justice at Spotify' Protests

Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Spotify faced the music on Monday (March 15) as creators around the globe gathered to protest the streaming giant’s royalties model.

The Sweden-based tech firm and its rivals have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months for their top-heavy remuneration systems, despite reporting billions in revenue each quarter.

Those concerns were at the heart of a U.K. parliamentary inquiry, announced late last year to examine what economic impact music streaming is having on artists, record labels and “the sustainability of the wider music industry.” More than 150 pieces of written evidence were submitted into the “economics of music streaming" inquiry, and published in January.

On Monday, the U.S.-based Union of Musicians and Allied Workers took a more hands-on approach when it led a worldwide demonstration on the doorsteps of Spotify offices.

Among its demands, the Union is calling for a 1 cent per stream royalty rate, greater transparency from Spotify, and an end to lawsuits targeting artists.

Artists and music industry professionals gathered in 31 cities, including 10 in the United States, under the banner of #JusticeAtSpotify.

“Spotify has long mistreated music workers, but the pandemic has put the exploitation into stark relief,” comments UMAW organizer and artist Mary Regalado, Pitchfork reports.

“The company has tripled in value during the pandemic, while failing to increase its payment rates to artists by even a fraction of a penny. Musicians all over the world are unemployed right now while the tech giants dominating the industry take in billions. Music work is labor, and we are asking to be paid fairly for that labor.”

The UMAW announced its Justice At Spotify campaign in October of last year, along with a mission statement and a petition that had been signed by more than 6,000 people.

"Spotify is the most dominant platform on the music streaming market," the UMAW stated at the time. "The company behind the streaming platform continues to accrue value, yet music workers everywhere see little more than pennies in compensation for the work they make."

Spotify declined to comment on the protests.

Writing for The Guardian last month, Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess added his voice to calls for a new business model.

In an opinion piece under the title “Even before Covid, music was broken. Let's use this moment to hit reset,” Burgess wrote, “If a whole generation of musicians goes to the wall, no one wins. And let me tell you, when we fix it there’ll be quite a lineup willing to play at the party to celebrate.”

Later, Soundcloud revealed it would adopt a “user-centric” payment system, where royalty payments to artists are calculated on the number of fans streaming, not the number of streams.