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Musicians ask Spotify to triple payments to cover lost concert revenue

Musicians are calling on Spotify to triple its royalty rates following the coronavirus pandemic. Due to government guidance, many venues have closed and tours have been cancelled, removing what has become a key revenue stream for the majority of artists.

An online petition posted by musician Evan Greer asked Spotify to triple its rates permanently and make a $500,000 (£432,140) donation to the Covid-19 fund of Sweet Relief, a California-based charity that provides financial assistance to musicians and industry workers.

A spokesperson for Spotify told the Guardian: “There’s no question this is a challenging time for our creator community and we are working to assist them through MusiCares’ Covid-19 relief fund to provide much needed assistance.”

They added that the company had made a portion of its ad inventory available for governments and charities to share information about safety during the pandemic, and supported these efforts through the CDC Foundation emergency response fund and Covid-19 solidarity response fund for WHO.

Spotify does not disclose how much it pays artists per stream, but analysts have calculated it at about $0.00318, meaning that a rights holder would receive $3.18 (£2.74) per 1,000 streams. Musicians including the cellist Zoë Keating have shared their Spotify statements over the years, revealing how the royalty rate appears to have dropped.

In 2017, Spotify asked labels to lower their royalty rates so it could become economically sound. In 2019, the company appealed against the US Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to award songwriters and publishers a 44% rate increase by 2022.

George Clarke of Deafheaven, whose label Sargent House has welcomed Bandcamp’s support for artists during the pandemic.
 George Clarke of Deafheaven, whose label Sargent House has welcomed Bandcamp’s support for artists during the pandemic. Photograph: Joseph Okpako/Redferns

Analysts for Quartz found that Spotify streaming figures appeared to have dropped during the pandemic. In Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries by Covid-19, the Top 200 most-streamed songs domestically averaged 18.3m total streams per day in February 2019. Since the national lockdown was announced on 9 March, that figure has not topped 14.4m. Quartz found a 23% drop in the Top 200 streams on 17 March compared to 3 March. It reported similar findings in the US, UK, France and Spain.

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