Spotify Songwriter Controversy

by John Downey '23 on March 26, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Spotify Songwriter Controversy

Writers Protest the Streaming Service’s Pay Policies

Grace O’Connor ’22

 Spotify has become a world-renowned music-streaming app, boasting over 406 million active users and 106 million paying subscribers as of Dec. 2021. According to Variety, “the platform rose from 7 [percent] of the U.S. market in 2010 to a whopping 83 [percent] by the end of 2020—and recorded-music revenues saw their fifth consecutive year of growth, topping $12.2 billion, per the RIAA.” The magazine went on to add, “it’s no understatement to say that streaming saved the recorded-music business and that global market leader Spotify [has] led the charge toward the stability and growth that the industry enjoys today.” Needless to say, over the course of the past few years, Spotify has grown exponentially in popularity and success—as well as in its impact on the music industry. 

Songwriters, however, are not necessarily sharing in the bounty. On March 1, 2022, over 100 of these talented creators took to the streets of Los Angeles in a protest planned by activist group the 100 Percenters to express their dissatisfaction with Spotify’s current policies. More specifically, according to OkayPlayer, they are protesting the fact that the streaming service only gives most songwriters 0.003 percent of a penny per stream. 

Among those songwriters protesting is Kennedi Lykken. In a statement to The Los Angeles Times, Lykken expressed that her last royalty check totaled only $432. She has worked on tracks for Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, and Britney Spears. She has also won a Grammy Award. Needless to say, her impressive record calls for more than minimal royalties. 

Songwriters have been battling the “0.003 percent” rule for several years now. The 100 Percenters, the nonprofit organization leading the current protests against Spotify, was founded back in 2020 by a small group of individuals including songwriter Tiffany Red. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Red, who has written for Zendaya and Jeniffer Hudson, expressed her frustration that “people will say to her, ‘Oh, you’re a ghostwriter’” and explained that to such remarks, she always asserts, “‘I’m not a ghost, I’m a person.’” This is precisely the sentiment that 100 Percenters hopes to convey in their fight against the disproportionately low payment rate for songwriters. 

Another songwriter, Kaydence Tice, spoke up at the recent protest to share her story. Tice worked with Beyonce to co-write “Black Parade,” and despite such a massive hit to her name, she can barely afford to pay rent. 

Unfortunately, these songwriters’ stories are the norm in the industry, rather than the exception. Indeed, there are innumerable other songwriters with similar stories, songwriters whose success Spotify has not acknowledged with proper compensation. 

The manner in which Spotify is treating songwriters is ironic considering that the platform is meant to celebrate and highlight their talents. As singer-songwriter Heather Bright expressed in a powerful statement, “you can feel the oppression and the disrespect when you’re in rooms with people who have million-dollar homes while [you] have nothing.” 

Bright’s statement echoes the sense of degradation and dehumanization that songwriters are experiencing at Spotify’s hands. Hopefully, the streaming giant will soon realize its songwriters’ value, and treat them as they deserve.

Spotify Controversy: Upholding the Freedom of Speech or Enabling Misinformation?

by John Downey '23 on February 10, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Spotify Controversy: Upholding the Freedom of Speech or Enabling Misinformation?

Joni Mitchell & Neil Young Pull Their Catalogues from the Streaming Service in Protest

Grace Whitman ’22

Joni Mitchell is skating down the river she’s always wished for and away from Spotify. 

Following Neil Young’s lead, the artist has officially removed her full discography from the streaming platform. Mitchell and Young are protesting what they feel is Spotify’s active promotion of misinformation about vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic, as the streaming service is giving a platform to content creators such as Joe Rogan. In 2020, Spotify bought the rights to Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience for $100 million. The show has featured several controversial guests such as Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Peter McCullough, the latter of whom has claimed that the pandemic was deliberately planned and that the vaccines created to combat it are killing thousands of people. In response, 270 physicians and scientists wrote an open letter to Spotify demanding that the company do more to address misinformation about vaccines and the pandemic on its platform.

Spotify has defended their choice to keep The Joe Rogan Experience on their platform. They believe it is their duty to uphold free speech and allow different viewpoints to be expressed. Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek said, “With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place, and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. We regret [artists’] decision to remove [their] music from Spotify but hope to welcome [them] back soon.” 

Although Spotify has chosen to not censor The Joe Rogan Experience, protests from artists such as Young and Mitchell have led them to add disclaimers to podcast episodes that discuss COVID-19. Press Secretary Jen Psaki praised this move, but also demanded that the streaming giant do even more to limit the platform that they give to misinformation spreaders.

Many Spotify users are following Young and Mitchell’s lead and switching to other streaming platforms in protest. Martha DePoy ’22 is one of these protestors. When asked why she chose to cancel her Spotify subscription, she stated, “I’m switching to Apple Music because while I fully support free speech, I don’t agree with or support the platform Spotify has given to content creators who spread lies for money. If I’m going to pay for a streaming service, I want the music from all my favorite artists including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to be available to me.” With that being said, Rogan’s podcast garners millions of daily listeners, many more than Neil and Mitchell’s works, which presents an enormous financial opportunity for Spotify. This motive for Spotify’s course of action has left artists and music consumers alike wondering what the streaming giant’s mission is: are financial gains more important to the company than the health and safety of listeners?