Music streaming services are increasingly under the spotlight regarding their plans to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and specifically its impact on musicians.
Yesterday, Spotify announced some of its measures: making some of its ad inventory available to governments and non-profit organisations to share public health information; contributing to the CDC Foundation Emergency Response Fund and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Heath Organization; and also donating to the Recording Academy and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund in the US.
This is all good (see also: Apple’s announcement of a substantial donation to Protezione Civile in Italy, and supporting the Silicon Valley Strong initiative back in the US.) That said, Spotify – as ever the lightning rod for wider views on streaming – is also facing some pressure to do more.
We’re a bit uneasy about a petition that’s making headlines with a demand for Spotify to “immediately triple the (incredibly low) amount they pay artists per stream, to put urgently needed cash into artists pockets” – it’s based on the assumption that this is how Spotify pays out, rather than the reality that royalties are calculated as a share of its revenues. Or rather: for Spotify to triple its payouts it would need to triple its revenues, and while there are good debates to be had about whether it could raise prices and make more from ads, that’s a world away from the demanded immediate tripling of payouts (to what, 200% of its revenues?).
The Music Technology Policy blog has a request that may be more realistic: suggesting that streaming services could accelerate royalty accounting periods and statement windows, and liquidate royalty holdbacks.