Apple Music forced to cough up increased songwriter royalties

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Apple Music will be forced to cough up increased royalties over the next five years. The Copyright Royalty Board has ruled to boost interactive streaming rates by nearly 44 percent for songwriters and publishers — but there is no increase for artists.

Music streaming services like Apple Music make music more accessible and more affordable than ever before. But the royalty rates they offer music-makers has long been a controversial topic, with even the most popular tracks paying peanuts for some.

Songwriters draw the short straw

Songwriter Kevin Kadish, who co-wrote the 2014 Meghan Trainor hit All About That Bass, claims to have been paid just $5,679 from 178 million streams on Pandora. Roney Jerkins, who co-wrote Justin Bieber’s As Long As You Love Me, earned just $278 from 38 million streams.

“That’s as big a song as a songwriter can have in their career, and number one in 78 countries,” Kadish told Tennessean. “But you’re making $5,600. How do you feed your family?”

After a series of hearings held from March through June of last year, the CRB has decided songwriters and publishers deserve more than the 10.5 percent of monthly gross revenue they are currently assigned. The rate will rise each year until it reaches 15.1 percent in 2022.

Writers had hoped to secure a per-stream rate for their work, but that was not achieved, Ars Technica reports. The rate increase is still seen as a victory, however, especially given its significant rise over the next five years.

All streaming services will have to pay up

Apple Music won’t be the only service affected by this change, of course — all streaming services will have to pay the increased rate. Apple, Amazon, Google, Spotify, and others are yet to comment on the ruling, but Sony’s Martin Bandier welcomed the change.

“As the leading music publisher, we believe that overall this is a very positive ruling by the CRB as it will deliver an unprecedented topline rate increase for songwriters and publishers over the next five years,” Bandier told Variety.

“While we are disappointed not to get the per-stream rate that we wanted, the planned rate increases go a long way to fairly compensate our songwriters for the essential contribution they make to streaming’s success story.”

The CRB’s decision can be challenged at the U.S. Court of Appeals, but it seems unlikely in this case.