Union of Musicians and Allied Staff launches “Justice on Spotify” marketing campaign

The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers has launched the “Justice on Spotify” campaign to advocate drastic changes to the streaming platform’s business model. The collective of musicians, DJs, producers, street crews, and other workers who organize to “collectively take over resources and power from the few wealthy companies that dictate our industry” has garnered more than 4,000 signatures from music industry employees, including Downtown Boys, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Ted Leo, Lorely Rodriguez von der Kaiserin von, Moormutter, Zola Jesus, Palehound, Deerhoof, Jay Som, Frankie Cosmos, WHY ?, Sad13, Fugazis Guy Picciotto, Sheer Mag, Ezra Furman, Amber Coffman and many more.

The UMAW platform lists several interrelated requirements from the Stockholm, Sweden-based digital streaming platform. First, a license fee of at least one cent per stream, paid through a user-centric payment model. Transparency in contracts and dealings with labels (some of which guarantee the majors favorable terms at the expense of smaller, independent labels); the elimination of “Payola” or “Pay-to-Play” agreements in the playlists curated by Spotify; listed credits for all work involved in recording; and an end to lawsuits against artists.

While Spotify doesn’t currently pay royalties per stream, the company uses a prorated system to allocate rightsholders (based on paid user subscriptions and advertising dollars) portions of the total royalty pool based on the proportion of the total streams work they themselves generate – a switch to one user-centered model would enable direct distribution to rights holders on a stream basis. Such a move would require the approval of the largest rightsholders – Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group – who are using the rights to their extensive catalogs to secure monthly advances from Spotify. These deals are done in secret and split the royalty pool long before an independent artist or label ever streams a song.

In a statement, the UMAW said it plans to personally present its claims to Spotify’s offices “via socially distant delivery” and the campaign will “escalate” if its claims are not met.

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