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CRB Raises Streaming Royalty Rate: Music Industry Reactions (Updating)

The NMPA, the Digital Media Association and more respond to Friday's historic ruling.

Just ahead of the long Independence Day weekend on Friday (July 1), the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) reached a new ruling that raises mechanical streaming rates  — or the rates streaming services pay to songwriters and publishers — from 10.5% to 15.1% over the years 2018-2022. Though this 15.1% rate was set by the CRB back in 2018, Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora all appealed the ruling a year later, seeking lower rates. This latest ruling acts as a reaffirmation of the CRB’s 2018 decision.

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Below you can find a sampling of reactions to today’s ruling.

National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA):

NMPA president and CEO David Israelite immediately weighed in on the ruling in a series of tweets. “Today the court reaffirmed the 15.1% headline rate increase we earned four long years, confirming that songwriters need and deserve a significant raise from the digital streaming services who profit from their work,” Israelite wrote.

He continued, “This process was protracted and expensive and though we are relieved with the outcome, years of litigation to uphold a rate increase we spent years fighting for is a broken system. Now, songwriters and music publishers finally can be made whole and receive the rightful royalty rates from streaming services that they should’ve been paid years ago. We will work to ensure that the services quickly backpay copyright owners as they are required by law.”

Noting that the next battle in the never-ending war over mechanical licensing rates continues this fall, Israelite added, “as an industry, we move forward united as we press for even fairer rates in the next CRB staring this fall.”

Digital Media Association (DiMA):

In a statement, Garrett Levin, president and CEO of the Digital Media Association (DiMA), which represents the streaming services, pushed back on the ruling by saying, “Today’s decision comes as the three major label groups – which operate the world’s three largest music publishers – continue to earn the lion’s share of the industry profits while reporting consistent double-digit revenue growth as a result of streaming. Looking ahead, streaming services believe it’s time for all stakeholders — labels, publishers, writers, artists and the services — to engage in comprehensive discussions to figure out the right royalty-sharing balance going forward.”

Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG):

In a statement to Billboard, Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, said of the news, “We are pleased with today’s Phonorecords III decision upholding the increase to a 15.1% mechanical rate. But there is more work to be done in the fight to protect songwriters, especially with the upcoming trial concerning Phonorecords IV, which will determine mechanical rates for the next five years starting in 2023. By staying aligned and collaborative, publishers and songwriters can continue making progress together.”

Warner Chappell Music (WCM):

In a letter to its U.S. songwriters about the new decision, CEO and co-chair Guy Moot and COO and co-chair Carianne Marshall said, “Today, progress was made in the fight for fair songwriter compensation. After a long, drawn-out process – led by some of the biggest and most profitable tech companies in the world – to appeal the streaming rates set for 2018 to 2022 in a proceeding known as Phono III, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) is standing by its original headline rates…These decisions signify an important turning point. The industry is finally starting to recognize the true value of a song and why songwriters’ contributions to music are irreplaceable. There would be no music business without your incredible creativity.”

Sony Music Publishing (SMP):

Chairman and CEO, Jon Platt, sent out a letter to all U.S. Sony Music Publishing signees Saturday morning (July 2), calling the latest ruling, “a significant win for songwriters and composers.” He added, “Overall, the CRB’s decision, while not perfect, is an important victory. We celebrate this win for songwriters and applaud the songwriter advocates who continue to push our industry toward progress, including the NMPA, NSAI, SONA, BMAC, and the 100 Percenters.”

The Recording Academy:

In a statement applauding the ruling, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said, “Today’s decision was an impactful victory for songwriters, as the Copyright Royalty Board reaffirmed the 15.1% headline rate increase in royalties paid by streaming services to publishers and songwriters for the 2018-22 time period. We applaud the judges for upholding this decision, and the NMPA for their tireless work fighting the appeal. The Recording Academy will continue to champion the songwriters and other music people in our community and fight to ensure they are fairly compensated for their contributions to the musical process.”

Kobalt Music: 

Kobalt Music released a statement addressing today’s ruling, saying “Fair compensation for songwriters is paramount in music as there is no song without songwriters. Today’s upholding of the 15.1% headline rate increase won in 2018 represents much-needed progress. While it was a mixed ruling, as it was decided Total Content Cost (TCC) and bundle definitions return to the Phonorecords II levels, we are thankful for our partners at NMPA, NSAI, and the songwriters who testified in the rate proceeding to defend the rate increase. It is clear there is more work to do, and we will continue to champion for even better rates in the next CRB proceedings.”

Reservoir Media:

Founder and CEO of Reservoir, Golnar Khosrowshahi, weighed in on the latest update, saying, “It’s good to see the rates set in 2018 upheld in the court, granting improved compensation for songwriters. However, there is still more vital work to do. With the leadership of David Israelite and the team at the NMPA, I am hopeful the next CRB proceeding will see further improvements in this area and address other pressing issues facing songwriters today.”

The 100 Percenters:

In an statement to Billboard, The 100 Percenters founder Tiffany Red, an acclaimed songwriter and activist, said, “We are happy that the judges mainly ruled in our favor despite the DSPs (not Apple Music) appealing our 44% pay increase. We hope the retroactive payments that are due to us are paid in a timely manner. Too many people in our community are struggling to support themselves and their families from songwriting alone. We have no more time to wait to be paid for the work we’ve already done. We hope that the three judges who hold thousands of songwriters’ lives in their hands will ensure that music creatives make a livable wage.”

Round Hill Music:

Round Hill Music CEO Josh Gruss weighed in on the decision in a statement to Billboard, saying “It’s good news on the headline rate. But these music streaming companies are abusing the system. Their strategy to bog us down in Rate court appeal allowed them to pay at the old lower rate for 4 plus years. Time value of money. By appealing they bought a hamburger that they still haven’t paid for. That’s cash that should have been in the pockets of songwriters a long time ago now. It shouldn’t work that way and David Israelite could not be more correct when he says the system is broken. Spending a year fighting on rate decisions is one thing. But once a decision is made, taking 4 years to see it come into effect is a problem, and one that I see happening again and again since the legal cost to appeal is vastly lower than the present value of the money they save in delaying.”

Unknown Music Publishing:

Ross Golan, founder of Unknown Music Publishing, multi-platinum songwriter and a longtime advocate, said in response to the ruling that “Songwriters are 15.1% closer to fair compensation. We have a ways to go. But this is the right direction!”

Wixen Music Publishing:

In a statement to Billboard, Randall Wixen, founder of Wixen Music Publishing, said, “It is a very significant win for songwriters and publishers. It is just not a complete win. But the fight for the improved bundle definitions that were struck on the remand will continue in CRB IV, which has already commenced.”

Independent Music Publishers International Forum (IMPF):

In a statement sent to Billboard, the Brussels-based organization said, “IMPF is pleased that the Copyright Royalty Board has maintained its decision to increase the headline rate paid to songwriters in the United States from on-demand streaming services. It is important that songwriters and composers who are the core foundation of our industry are recognised and fairly remunerated.”

Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP): 

John Ozier, AIMP national chair and Nashville chapter president; Teri Nelson Carpenter, AIMP Los Angeles chapter president; Michael Lau, AIMP New York chapter president; and Tony D. Alexander, AIMP Atlanta Steering committee chair, issued a joint statement regarding the decision. It read, “Finally, nearly five years after the initial CRB ruling, independent publishers and songwriters will receive the 15.1% royalty rate they have earned and are owed from DSPs for the years 2018-2022. While we are happy that this prior increase has been solidified and are sure the influx of back pay will help publishers and songwriters in the short term, we now find ourselves in the midst of the next CRB Phono IV trial with another increase necessary to sustain rights-holders over the long term. We add our voice to the chorus of organizations fighting for a fair and equitable rate for publishers and songwriters, and encourage the CRB judges to set a better rate for the next five years.”