Over 4,000 artists signed a petition—Frankie Cosmos, Zola Jesus, among others—demanding a penny-per-stream rate and other changes to Spotify’s business model. The collective of producers, DJs, musicians, road crew and other workers gathered together for the “Justice at Spotify” campaign, launched by The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers.
The platform stated several inter-related demands, such as a per-stream royalty rate of at least one cent, paid via a user-centric payment model; transparency in contracts and deals with labels (some of which guarantee favorable terms to majors at the expense of smaller, independent labels); the elimination of “payola,” or pay-to-play arrangements on Spotify’s curated playlists; listed credits for all labor involved in recordings; and an end to lawsuits targeting artists.
Currently, the Stockholm-based digital streaming platform does not pay royalties on a per-stream basis—the company uses a pro-rata system to assign portions of the total royalty pool (generated by paid user subscriptions and ad dollars) to rights holders based on the portion of total streams the work they own generates. Such a change to a model to become user-centric would allow for distribution directly to rights holders based on a per-stream basis but will require the biggest owners of the rights—Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group—to approve it. They use the rights to their massive catalogs to secure monthly advances from Spotify, deals completed in secrecy that divvy up the royalty pool well before an independent artist or label ever streams a song.
The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers have plans to present its demands to Spotify’s offices in person “via a socially distanced delivery,” and will “escalate” the campaign if their demands are not met, showing over 4,000 signatures, including those of Downtown Boys, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Ted Leo, Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez, Moor Mother, Zola Jesus, Palehound, Deerhoof, Jay Som, Frankie Cosmos, WHY?, Sad13, Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, Sheer Mag, Ezra Furman, Amber Coffman, and many, many more.