The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers launched back in May, when they demanded COVID-19 aid in letter to Congress. The group is now turning their attention to streaming giant Spotify, as part of the “Justice at Spotify,” which calls for drastic changes to the company’s business model. Artists such as 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 more than 4,000 others have already signed the letter.
The union is asking for a per-stream royalty rate of at least one cent, paid via a user-centric payment model, transparency in contracts and deals with labels, with some of, the elimination of pay-to-play arrangements on Spotify’s curated playlists, listed credits for all labor involved in recordings and an end to lawsuits targeting artists.
While Spotify currently pays artists on a per-stream basis, this comes from a pro rata system to assign portions of the total royalty pool to rights holders. A user-centric model would require the approval of the major labels, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, who currently secure monthly advances from Spotify over the rights of their catalogues, through dealings which are often done in secret.
This letter comes on the heels of Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s comments that artists not being paid enough via streaming was a “narrative fallacy.” These comments were condemned across the industry by artists such as Neko Case, Fucked Up, Zola Jesus and Massive Attack.