The drama heated up in January 2018, when the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board decided to boost the royalty rate that Spotify, Apple Music, and similar streamers must pay songwriters and publishers. Flash forward to last week, when Spotify, Google, Pandora, and Amazon revealed they were each planning to appeal that ruling. The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) blasted the move, claiming that Spotify and Amazon had chosen to “sue songwriters.”
Perhaps fueled by this incendiary wording—which a NMPA spokesperson tells Pitchfork is “shorthand for the technical legal process of them appealing”—backlash against the streaming services quickly spread among songwriters and industry figures. This week, Spotify responded to the criticism with a blog post noting the complexity of the situation.
Apple is not taking part in the appeals. As such, the NMPA and other industry figures were quick to praise Apple as pro-artist. That said, if the appeals succeed, Apple could conceivably have its cake and eat it too, enjoying the benefit of lower rates without the ire of coming out in favor of them. Apple’s vast phone business and huge cash reserves also mean it’s more insulated from higher costs of doing business than Spotify would be.
It’s a mess.