You’re not alone if you’ve wondered where your favorite comedy album went on Spotify. According to the Wall Street Journal, Spotify has pulled hundreds of comedians’ albums after it and rights administration company Spoken Giants failed to reach an agreement on written-word royalties.
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Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, and John Mulaney are among the celebrities whose albums have gone missing on the streaming platform.
This latest songwriter feud, like previous ones, revolves around compensating more than just the performance. Spoken Giants wants its artists to be compensated for their work as joke writers, not just for their time on the mic.
The rights company began discussions with online services in the spring but learned just before Thanksgiving that Spotify would pull comedians’ work until an agreement was reached.
In a statement to the Journal, Spotify defended itself. The company stated that it paid a “significant” sum for the comedy material and would “love” to continue paying, but that distributors and labels also had a say in payouts.
As of this writing, some of those comedians’ content is still available on Spotify, but much more is available on competitors such as Apple Music.
It’s not surprising that Spotify and Spoken Giants would clash. If Spotify had to pay writing royalties, it would either have to pay more overall (clearly Spoken Giants’ preferred outcome) or set aside a portion of the existing share for distributors and labels.
Either could have a negative impact on Spotify’s bottom line, and the company doesn’t have much wiggle room given that its average revenue per person was $4.91 last quarter.
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At the same time, the dispute and removal occur during a particularly sensitive period. With live standup still a far cry from what it was before the pandemic, some comedians rely heavily on albums and other digital releases.
They’re clearly eager to increase their earnings, and losing the support of a streaming heavyweight may cause them extra pain.