In 2017, Spotify launched its Secret Genius Awards annual event to honor songwriters and producers behind some of the streaming platform’s most-played songs. But now some of those same honorees are speaking out about something much less celebrated — Spotify’s plan to appeal Copyright Royalty Board rates, along with Google, Pandora and Amazon.
“We’re hurt and disappointed,” the dozens of songwriters wrote in an an open letter to Spotify on Tuesday (April 9) addressed to Spotify chief Daniel Ek and shared with Billboard. “You created a songwriter relations team and ingratiated Spotify into our community. We know that you are not the only DSP appealing the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) rate determination. You are, however, the only provider that made us feel we were working to build a modern music industry together.”
In January of last year, the Copyright Royalty Board ruled songwriters and music publishers would receive higher payouts from on-demand subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music, a decision that was announced by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA). “We are thrilled the [Copyright Royalty Board] raised rates for songwriters by 43.8 percent — the biggest rate increase granted in CRB history,” said NMPA president and CEO David Israelite in a statement at the time.
After the decision was finalized this past February, the those leading streaming services — with the notable exception of Apple — appealed the CRB rate determinations, citing “serious procedural and substantive concerns” as the grounds for their appeal. “If left to stand, the CRB’s decision harms both music licensees and copyright owners,” the appeal argued. The move has received widespread criticism from songwriters, music publishers and organizations that advocate for their rights, including the NMPA, Nashville Songwriters Association and Songwriters of North America.
“Now, we can see the real reason for your songwriter outreach. You have used us and tried to divide us but we stand together,” the songwriters’ open letter continues, including Ali Tamposi, Frank Dukes, Teddy Geiger, Babyface and Nile Rodgers as signatories. “Our fight is for all songwriters: those struggling to build their career, those in the middle class and those few who have reached your Secret Genius level. But none of us are ‘secret!’ WE all create the ONE thing you sell… songs.”
“Do the right thing and drop your appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board rate determination,” the coalition of writers ended the letter, signing as the “Not So Secret Geniuses.”
Read the letter in full below.