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Music artists: Does Spotify owe you money?

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2020 | Copyright Law

Streaming music platforms like Spotify are a good way for artists to get their music exposed to more people. But there can sometimes be problems with the artists being paid the royalties to which they are due from the streaming services.

Since first launching their streaming service to users in 2006, Spotify claims that it paid out royalties of $9.76 billion through the first quarter of 2018. These royalties were paid to music labels, publishers and the artists themselves.

Platform has dual licensing

Spotify holds both mechanical rights and public performance rights for the music they stream. The licensing of music rights is a very complex issue, but these streaming services must do all they can to ensure that songwriters, performers, music publishers and the owners of the recordings get paid.

The Musical Composition License agreements deal with those who own the actual song rights and Sound Recording License agreements are between the streaming service and those that own recording rights.

Some music publishing companies filed lawsuits alleging that songs they own were being streamed illegally. Examples include:

  • Some songs by Stevie Nicks
  • The Doors’ Light My Fire
  • Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty

Why licensing rights are so complex

Those are just some of the rules governing music licensing. To understand why that is so, here is one example:

In 1992, singer Whitney Houston recorded her incredibly popular version of the ballad I Will Always Love You that was featured on The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992. Although the performer was Houston, the actual owner of the recording is the Arista Records division of Sony Music Entertainment.

But the melody and lyrics of this song was first written by Dolly Parton. As such, Parton remains the owner of the composition. In order to legally stream this song, Spotify must pay Sony for the licensing rights. In turn, Sony then owes Houston’s estate a specific percentage of revenue from streaming the song. But because Parton retains publishing and songwriting rights, she also must be paid for those rights.

Are you being paid what you are owed for your song?

If you are a music artist, band member, songwriter or performer, you may not be getting paid what you are legally owed for your rights. An attorney with experience in copyright law can help you reap what you are owed.