Spotify is attempting to host songwriter town hall meetings in Los Angeles and Nashville in response to the streaming service’s appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board’s rate determination, according to an email from Mark Beaven, founder and co-CEO of Advanced Alternative Media (AAM), sent to to a small group of songwriters and friends and obtained by Billboard. Beaven is cautioning songwriters from attending these potential meetings.
On Sunday (March 17), Beaven wrote, “Spotify is getting pushback from songwriters and their supporters. So, it is now campaigning to put a friendly face and spin on things. They are attempting to hold songwriter ‘Town Halls’ in both LA and Nashville.”
The CRB’s rate determination — which would boost digital services’ payments to songwriters and publishers by 44 percent over a four-year term from 2018 to 2022, with a headline rate increase of 10.5 percent of revenue to 15.1 percent of revenue — consists of a three-step formula that produces a royalty amount to be paid in exchange for a mechanical license (the right to host a song). Earlier this month, Spotify, as well as Google, Pandora and Amazon, said they plan to appeal the rate increase. Spotify said it supported songwriters being paid more but defended its decision to appeal in a blog post published on March 11, citing “significant flaws” in how the rates were set.
“Based upon what is evidenced in their writings on the matter this far, Spotify’s press team is skilled at spinning their story potentially to songwriters’ detriment,” Beaven alleged in his email on Sunday, referencing National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) chief David Israelite‘s recent attack of Spotify’s blog post. “Discussion should be welcomed. But, it is important that should there be such a Town Hall there be a voice in the room familiar with all the issues and their detail (voluminous…) to speak on behalf of songwriters.”
“In the event there may be such a Town Hall, we ask you to support and insist on having David Israelite, Head of the NMPA, whom helped win the rate court increase be present and have equal time to speak, as well as all interested parties such as SONA [Songwriters of North America] and NSAI [Nashville Songwriters Association International] be welcomed. If Spotify will not allow David to be present, songwriters should strongly consider not attending and advising Spotify they will not do so until an open forum can be had. Spotify had the opportunity to have such a Town Hall before making a challenge. Now they are just trying to soften things. Best path forward is open dialog,” Beaven said.
Billboard has reached out to for comment about the reported town halls from Spotify, who had not responded to a request for comment at publication time.
“Spotify has made LOTS of $$$$ with its IPO,” wrote Beaven. “It has made that and its continuing income on the work of songwriters. Every product they sell has at least one songwriter who created it. Spotify is not a villain. It is a business. As such, it’s time they actually treat songwriters like the essential ingredient in the music and their business they are.
“Thank you in advance for standing up for songwriters and yourself. This won’t be the first challenge. It won’t be the last. A united front holds firm now and into the further.”
UPDATE: This story was updated at 7 p.m. EST to reference an updated version of Beaven’s email.