Russian Around Licensing

Hey, we haven’t talked about Spotify in a while over here at The View From 214. Spotify is pretty cool, despite the fact that streaming royalties are essentially crap right now. Artists still get paid per stream and new artists are always popping up. I like to listen to my Discover Weekly playlist as I fold my unmentionables. I’ve got plenty of other playlists which I enjoy exercising and jamming to. I think it’s safe to say that I like Spotify.

You know who else likes Spotify? People in countries where Spotify hasn’t been licensed. Excuse me, what?

The biggest offender in this case is the country of Russia. Russia is a member of the group of counties where Spotify is not licensed. Spotify cannot keep track of royalties and pay adequately according to currency in certain countries, so the software isn’t licensed there. That doesn’t mean people go without however. In countries like Russia, all one needs to do to access Spotify is go through their web browser and go to either open.spotify.com or play.spotify.com and then get their music fix.

Now, allow me to state the obvious. This is a problem. One might even go as far as to call this a big problem. What Spotify can tell from these illegal activities is how many streams are rolling through. What Spotify can’t tell you is where the streaming royalties go. They can’t even tell if there are actual streaming royalties even flowing. Of course, you can pay an artist, writer, publisher, whoever with the royalties coming through any of the licensed countries, a list of which can be found here. However, this does mean that they may not be getting paid what their actually garnering.

How I see this situation is kind of like an artist’s relationship to a major label. Major labels, as we have discussed, only care about themselves. What is the artist doing for them? How can a writer profit them? Are they getting what they want. Meanwhile, the creative team is busting their behinds, producing great quality work, but they aren’t getting paid what their worth. You look at countries streaming unlicensed versions of Spotify, they’re sure as shooting getting what they want. They’re getting years’ worth of music as close to free as we know. The artist, however, they’re not getting paid worth what is actually happening in that country. Teence bit of a raw deal, one could say.

While this is upsetting, if you’re from the mindset that music should be paid for, this does invoke the thought of a newer, less used business model. Some artists have decided to make all the music they want but give it away for free. They then sustain themselves off of live shows, merchandise, and other services. There’s also the pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth model which has proven itself successful a few times.

I do see potential in these newer and less used business models, but we should address the matter at hand. Spotify didn’t just get hacked. It got torn open for the entire unlicensed world. God only knows how many other unlicensed countries are taking advantage of this loophole. This is one big ugly stain for Spotify to have to deal with. You know what all this means? Litigation! So. Much. Litigation.

For the future, of course, we’re going to explore new business models and how to sustain ourselves as creators. However, until we get there, we have to deal with the problems we are given. Like I always encourage, if you’re making music, get it out there. You may not get paid that well, especially if your cult fan group happens to reside in the former USSR, but you will be furthering your career.

I do smell copyright law changes on the wind and this only adds incentive to address streaming in the new copyright law. When you have things like this happening, it’s sort of hard to ignore for the well-being of your country. Then again, we did elect Donald Trump as POTUS… Anyway, streaming services should also be tightening up in the years to come. Cases like this don’t really hurt their listening body; it actually increases it. However, it’s a bit of a brouhaha on the legal front. Streaming services need to tighten up their online security so that unlicensed countries can’t hack/easily barge into them and give them inaccurate data. Much as creators want to be heard, we also want to be paid. Major labels of course want their artists to be heard, but they also really want to be paid. For the health of the streaming sector of the Music Industry, it’s time to revise some laws and crack down on our security.

I leave you with the following mental image: Putin illegally streaming Cyndi Lauper.

If you’d like to see the article that prompted this post, click here.

Once again, this has been the view from 214.

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