A number of prominent members of the songwriting community will descend on Capitol Hill today to lobby lawmakers that streaming music platforms (not to mention many other businesses that play music, from restaurants to hotels to local coffee shops) should pay out more of their revenue to publishers and songwriters. Of course songwriters deserve their fair share, but are they are pointing their fingers at the wrong culprit?
First, let’s acknowledge that artists and record labels earn exponentially more from streaming than songwriters and publishers, so it’s only natural for songwriters to balk at the state of affairs in music streaming royalties.
However, some streaming services currently pay upwards of 50 or even 70 percent of their revenues towards royalties, and depending upon the results of a looming decision by the Copyright Royalty Board, these percentages could rise substantially.
Spotify reports that it has paid over $3 billion in royalties, and Pandora recently announced that it has paid out a total of $1.5 billion. But in unpacking the problem, one realizes the tension between songwriters and the digital platforms is misplaced.
The frustration for songwriters and publishers is that they don’t know where that money is going. There is no transparency and no way for songwriters to track what they are earning from royalty payments.