Music Publishing News: Amazon and Google Under Fire for Not Paying Songwriters


By Songtrust

Every month, our friends at Songtrust compile a monthly round up of the most noteworthy developments in music publishing. Catch up on all the industry news in our Music Publishing News archive!

APRA AMCOS reports record revenues.

Australian collecting society APRA AMCOS reported revenue of ⅓ of a billion Australian dollars for its financial year 2015-2016. The main driver for the revenue gains was over A$20 million ($15 million) in digital revenue from downloads, subscriptions, and ad-funded streaming services, video on-demand, websites, and user-generated services. CEO Brett Cottle said, “the sheer volume of music being consumed is growing exponentially, which means that the fruits of this growth are being spread over a vastly increased pool of songwriters.”

What does that mean for musicians? This good news from Australia shows a prosperous picture of the global music industry as a whole, and specifically for songwriters and rightholders. For musicians from the US who are planning to expand their global reach, Australia is a great place to start.

Spotify and Apple Music cut a deal with Dubset to allow “unofficial” mixes.

Unofficial, user-created content is now available on Spotify and Apple Music. Thanks to agreements with Dubset, a music rights management service, Spotify and Apple Music now allow unofficial mixes to appear on their platforms, placing them more directly as competitors to SoundCloud. By scanning an entire mix and matching every part of the track to official songs, Dubset makes sure original rights holders are identified and distributes the proper royalty shares.

What does that mean for musicians? The real winners here are not only music consumers, but also artists and rightsholders. Musicians can share their derivative works without being pirates, and rightsholders can easily be paid for the use of their music in mixes.

Google and Amazon both found to be using copyright loophole to get away with not paying songwriters.

Google and Amazon are under fire for utilizing a loophole in US copyright law to exploit songwriters’ work without compensation. These services have been sending notices of intent to use songwriters’ works to the US Copyright Office if they’re unable to find the songwriter’s contact information, allowing them to continue to use the songs without paying royalties until the songwriter is found. Songwriters are sometimes never found, and the services are legally allowed to continue to use their work for free due to compulsory licenses mandated by the US Government.

What does that mean for musicians? This means that if your songs are being streamed via Google or Amazon products and are not properly registered with PROs/mechanical collection societies, you are likely not being fairly compensated for your work. (Sign up with Songtrust now to make sure your songs are registered so that Google and Amazon can find and pay you!)

+ Learn more about your options for affiliating and how to get started in our article “The Great PRO Round Up: What Is a PRO and Why Should You Affiliate?”

Sony Music settles deal with publishers regarding royalty rates.

Sony Music Entertainment has filed a joint agreement along with US publishers and songwriter organizations to the Copyright Royalty Board concerning proposed new statutory mechanical royalty rates. SME has agreed to withdraw its input from the section of the proceedings regarding on-demand streams, quelling the bad blood between the major label and publishers who had accused it of following a label-led agenda to reduce songwriters’ potential share of streaming payouts. The joint statement from SME, the NMPA, and the NSAI notes, “Sony Music and the music publishing community value their relationship.”

What does that mean for musicians? Now that we see streaming revenue overtaking revenue generated from downloads and CD sales, it is important to make sure songwriters are getting their fair share of streaming revenue. It’s encouraging to see songwriters and publishers having a fair conversation with labels over royalty rates, which are typically skewed to favor labels and master recording owners.

Recent study finds that a US Copyright Act exemption may be causing over $150 million in lost revenues for composers.

A recent study by consultancy firm PMP Conseil revealed that an exemption in the US Copyright Act that allows some small businesses to not pay public performance fees could be costing rightsholders more than $150 million a year. The research was funded by GESAC, the organizations of European composers groups, in an effort to push the US to change its copyright laws. The issues stem from 1998, when Congress passed the Fairness in Music Licensing Act which allows restaurants and bars of less than 3,750 square feet to play music without a license, provided they meet certain conditions.

What does that mean for musicians? This exemption, allowing small businesses to play music for free, actually adds up to quite a bit of lost revenue for songwriters and publishers. As revenue streams for songwriters change, it seems that it’s time for legislation to catch up. But what this will mean for small businesses going forward, remains unknown.

+ Read more about earning money by having your music played in restaurants and businesses in “5 Alternative Ways to Make Money from Your Music.”

US Dept. of Justice filed a notice appealing BMI’s consent decree decision.

The US Department of Justice is appealing the September ruling that concluded that fractional licensing is allowed under the BMI consent decree. Federal Judge Louis Stanton ruled in September against the DOJ’s decision to uphold the consent decree and enforce 100% licensing for performing rights organizations, ASCAP and BMI. The appeal does not come as a surprise to the PROs, publishers, or songwriters; BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill said, “it is unfortunate that the DOJ continues to fight for an interpretation of BMI’s consent decree that is at odds with hundreds of thousands of songwriters and composers.”

What does that mean for musicians? There’s been a lot of back and forth between the US Government and the PROs about whether the law states that one PRO can license an entire song, even if it doesn’t represent all of the writers/rightsholders. If this decision is upheld, it will drive licensing rates for songwriters way down, as licensees can go to the PRO with the lowest rate and bypass any negotiated rates co-writers may have with a service; this will also discourage collaboration between songwriters affiliated with different PROs.

For more news on music publishing, check out our collection of music publishing articles on Flypaper!


Songtrust provides a technology platform that enables independent songwriters, artists, publishers, distributors, managers, and other music industry professionals to collect their publishing royalties worldwide. Our industry-leading online solutions simplify music rights management, including the administration of music publishing assets, performing rights, and digital licensing. Songtrust helps collect the royalties you’ve earned from airplay, streams, and live performances around the world with simple one-stop registration, no legal headaches, and all while maintaining 100% ownership of your copyrights.

Use Code SOUNDFLY10 to get 10% off your registration fee when you sign up for Songtrust, and begin collecting royalties on your tracks today!

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