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!”