Swedish songwriters have a bone to pick with digital music streaming services, which they say are not allocating a fair percentage of their revenue to the people who actually write the songs. In an open letter published on Monday in Aftonbladet, 133 songwriters and producers from regional rights society STIM call for a more balanced approach in the distribution of digital revenues.
The letter cites a survey by global authors' rights body CISAC which found that songwriters are ending up with only 3 percent of streaming revenue from Spotify in the U.S., with the rest going to labels and publishers. STIM points out that there hasn't been a similar study done in Europe, but that "the allocation of revenue here surely doesn't differ substantially."
Because digital music services and record labels do not disclose exactly how much they are paying, the songwriters believe their "voices are seldom heard" in the debate about streaming as a business model -- all this despite "the vast majority of music gracing the sales and streaming chart is created by songwriters who are not artists."
Songwriters can't rely on touring and merchandising revenue for income, they say, and are not being "compensated in any other way for the loss of income experienced due to the digital market." The result could be that "very few songwriters will be able to afford to create music other than as a hobby."
The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting between the Swedish Society of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (SKAP), labels, Sweden-based Spotify and others to discuss how digital revenues are divided.
"The digital revolution has meant that record companies drastically reduced their costs of production and distribution of music," the letter reads. "In recent years, the record industry in Sweden flourished thanks to Spotify, and indications are that Europe and the rest of the world will follow suit. But the songwriters, investing time and money into creating the music service offering, have not received anything back. It is therefore high time to create balance in the distribution of digital revenues."
STIM members outline three areas where industry stakeholders should focus on:
The first step should be greater transparency. Spotify, other digital services and record companies make use of so-called NDA, Non-Disclosure Agreements to prevent transparency in the distribution. STIM and the other collecting societies are forced to write on these confidentiality agreement and shall not reveal even to its members the breakdown. Their suppliers - songwriters - must not know how much they get paid for their products -- the songs.
The second step should be to find an allocation model that allows the whole industry to thrive , not just the record labels and distributors who live on the values we musicians produce.
The third step that should be discussed is that very few of streaming services endeavored to add credits to the songwriters and producers. We think it is not right that those who created the music also should get credit for it.
The 133 signatories:
Tomas Andersson Wiij
Jonas von der Burg
Niclas von der Burg
Robert "string" Dahlqvist
David Elfström Lilja
Peter Alexander Esbjörnsson
Anton Hard Af Segerstad
Malin Maggie Lübeck
Peter Jacobson Moren
Thomas Nyrre Nystrom
Pauline K Olofsson
Miqael Persson aka Hicks
Leah Muscat Rodo
Anders F Rönnblom
Hanif Hitmanic Sabzevari
Jonas Moonchild Zekkari
Frederick Fredro Ödesjö