UMAW "Justice at Spotify" Movement Demands Increased Transparency and Royalty Rates for Musicians
The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers has launched the “Justice at Spotify” campaign to advocate for major change in streaming platform Spotify's business model.
The group of musicians, DJs, producers, road crew, managers, and other industry workers has collected more than 4,000 signatures from individuals in the music industry, hoping to "collectively take resources and power from the few wealthy companies that dictate our industry.” Among the many who have signed are King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Frankie Cosmos, Zola Jesus, and Ezra Furman.
The UMAW has stated several (inter-related) demands of Spotify. The union has proposed a per-stream royalty rate of at least one cent, paid via a user-centric payment model. The group has also asked for transparency in contracts and deals with labels, listed credits for anyone involved in recordings, and the cessation of lawsuits targeting artists.
Spotify currently uses a pro rata system to divide up the total royalty pool — generated by paid user subscriptions and profits from ads — and assigns portions to rights holders based on the number of total streams the music generates. Switching to a user-centric model would allow for distribution of royalties directly to the people who own the rights to the work on a per-stream basis. This drastic change to Spotify policy would require approval from Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group, which use the rights to their extensive catalogs to get monthly advances from Spotify. These deals are made under the table, determining the splits of the royalty pool well before independent artists or labels stream a song.
The UMAW has made a public statement announcing its demands, and plans to present them to Spotify's offices in person "via a socially distanced delivery," and will "escalate" the movement if their demands are not met.