Attorney Dina LaPolt Slams Spotify, Pandora, Amazon in Midem Talk

To describe veteran music business attorney Dina LaPolt as “outspoken” is an understatement of almost comic proportions, but she was in rare form Wednesday during her keynote Q&A at the Midem conference in France. LaPolt — who works with Britney Spears, 21 Savage, Fifth Harmony and played a leading role in the passage of the Music Modernization Act — slammed the streaming services who are trying to overturn the Copyright Royalty Board ruling that would see songwriter and publisher rates increase by 44% over the next five years. While four services are appealing the ruling — Spotify, Amazon, SiriusXM/Pandora and YouTube/Google; Apple Music is not — she singled out Spotify, which has been the most outspoken about the appeal.

Pandora has very little skin in the game, their interactive service is sh–!” she said. “Amazon are new, and they’re not a big player in the game. But here comes Spotify with its Secret Genius awards and putting [songwriter] credits on their service, while all this time they’re behind closed doors scheming and strategizing,” referring to the company’s efforts to engage the songwriting community with greater recognition.

She hypothesized that the streaming services’ attitude was to support the Music Modernization Act for publicity’s sake, and then appeal the CRB ruling: “‘Let’s get the [Music Modernization Act] passed with these dumbasses, and then we’ll appeal this ruling so we don’t have to pay,’” she conjectured.

She had high praise for Apple Music’s decision: “Apple is amazing, because they accept the appeal and say ‘Yup, songwriters deserve more money.’”

Even after such strong words, she finished on a note of reconciliation. “It’s not in anyone’s interest to have a divisive relationship with any of the tech companies,” she said. “I think there’s a way out for Spotify: If they withdraw their appeal. All relationships can be fixed.”

Reps for Amazon, Pandora and Spotify either declined comment or did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

She also spoke of sexism and the salary imbalances in the music industry, and noted that her relatively independent position as an attorney allows her to be more outspoken than executives who work at music companies. “Lawyers are at the front lines of closing the deals and agreeing the contracts — we are the ones who can make it happen. So if we call out companies [and say] ‘You’re paying a man a lot more,’ we can solve a lot of the problems.”

Ironically, LaPolt was originally scheduled to be interviewer in this keynote, but Epic Records CEO Sylvia Rhone came down with food poisoning Wednesday morning and was forced to cancel, so the roles were flipped, with Billboard editor Hannah Karp interviewing LaPolt. (Rhone had recovered by Thursday morning and accepted a Hall of Fame Award from Midem at a brief ceremony.)

Despite the heated topics she addressed during her impromptu keynote, LaPolt ended on a positive note, with encouragement to artists. “Be true to yourself,” she said. “Look at Billie Eilish: Has she compromised anything? Hell no!”

More Biz

  • Bert Salke and Jennifer Salke

    Feds Looked Into Amazon Studios Chief Jennifer Salke in College Admissions Scandal

    Federal investigators looked into Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke and her husband, Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke, as they conducted a sprawling probe of cheating in elite college admissions, a source close to the case told Variety. It does not appear, however, that prosecutors will charge the Salkes in the case. Related Amazon [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Big Blackout Looms as CBS, AT&T Go Down to Wire on Renewal Talks

    A blackout affecting CBS stations in major markets throughout the country looms as CBS and AT&T executives go down to the wire on negotiations for a retransmission consent deal covering 28 O&O stations. The sides have sparred publicly during the past few days as 11 p.m. PT Friday expiration of the previous contract approached. AT&T [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    ICM Responds to WGA Packaging Lawsuit: Claims are 'Baseless' and 'Absurd'

    ICM Partners has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed against four major talent agencies by the Writers Guild of America as part of the larger war between agencies and the guild over packaging fees on TV series and movies. The guild sued ICM, CAA, WME and UTA in California state court in April, [...]

  • New York City NYC Placeholder

    CityFM Podcast Takes a Deep Look at New York’s Music Scene (Listen)

    First among the many projects listed at the beginning of New York Music Month in June was a WNYE radio show and podcast called CityFM that promised to “explore the city’s music culture, emerging artists and trends, and upcoming events told through the lens of what’s happening around the city in Summer 2019.” And while [...]

  • Live Nation Logo. (PRNewsFoto/Live Nation)

    Live Nation Confirms Placing Tickets Directly on Secondary Market at Artists’ Request

    Representatives for Live Nation, the world’s largest live-entertainment company and owner of Ticketmaster, confirmed that it bypassed conventional channels and directly placed thousands of concert tickets on the secondary market upon artists’ request, in an article published in Billboard. In a statement shared with Variety, the company acknowledged that it has facilitated the transfer of [...]

  • Costume designer Michele Clapton

    Costume Designers Fashion a Plan to Fight for Pay Parity in Upcoming Contract Talks

    The Costume Designers Guild Local 892 is gearing up to fight for pay equity in its 2021 contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, establishing a pay-equity committee to raise awareness of the scale disparity between the mostly female CDG membership and the mostly male membership of the Art Directors Guild Local [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content