Musician Files $150M Lawsuit Against Spotify For Royalties

To make a song available on a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music, the services negotiate with record labels and representatives of songwriters. David Lowery is a musician (best known for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven), a professor, and an activist for artists’ rights in the new music economy, and his latest effort is a class action lawsuit against Spotify for mechanical royalties.

Lowery’s argument has been that performers and songwriters aren’t benefiting from the new music economy as much as they did from the model from last century, where they collected royalties from selling albums and singles. The new system, where they earn teeny fractions of a penny per play of a song,

The lawsuit argues that while Spotify (and other streaming services) may have licensed recordings from record labels, they didn’t seek permission for a mechanical license from the songwriter for the song itself, which would give artists the opportunity to withhold their music from streaming services if they wanted to.

One of those artists is, of course, David Lowery, who notably wrote a few years ago about how he earned $16.89 for one million plays of Cracker’s hit song “Low” on Pandora, which isn’t really a sustainable income stream.

There’s another related issue that involves streaming services playing music without paying songwriters or securing their permission. When services can’t find an artist or their representatives, but the recordings are available to stream, they simply hold it in an escrow account until they get around to finding the artist, or their representatives or heirs. The question is: how hard are the streaming services working to find the artists and cut them checks?

Spotify Hit With $150 Million Class Action Over Unpaid Royalties [Billboard]

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