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Warner/Chappell’s Co-Chair Criticizes Streaming Companies’ CRB Appeal: ‘We Have to Draw a Line’

On a day that saw Spotify and Apple trade barbs in the public arena via strongly worded blog posts, Warner/Chappell co-chair COO Carianne Marshall has written an open letter to songwriters criticizing the four streaming services — Spotify, Amazon, Google and SiriusXM/Pandora — for their recent appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to increase the compulsory mechanical rates paid to songwriters by some 44% over the next five years. The streamers have come under fierce criticism for the move, which they claim is over the complexities of the CRB’s rules but is widely assumed to be an attempt to obtain a more favorable rate.

As with outgoing Sony/ATV chief Martin Bandier’s similar letter yesterday, Marshall’s note is remarkable for its clarity and calm tone, which makes a striking contrast with some of the other statements made on this issue in recent days (although she does link to some of them). Her letter appears in full below.

Marshall was named COO of Warner/Chappell last April and upped to co-chair earlier this year at the same time Guy Moot was announced as co-chair/CEO; he will assume that post in April. As things often go in the small world of publishing, Moot is leaving Sony/ATV to replace outgoing Warner/Chappell CEO Jon Platt, who is replacing Bandier as CEO of Sony/ATV.

An Open Letter From Carianne Marshall to Songwriters

Hello,

You may have heard about the tech companies’ appeal of a recent CRB ruling, and we wanted to make sure you were clear on our stance on this crucial issue.

Last year, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) granted an increase of the compulsory mechanical rates paid to songwriters – from 10.5% to 15.1% over the next five years. The decision came after rigorous consultation with many parties, including a wide range of tech companies, as well as songwriters and music publishers. There were strong arguments made on both sides, and the resulting rate increase was fair as well as overdue.

That is where the debate should have rested. Instead, last week, Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora submitted an appeal of the CRB decision, apparently with the aim of reducing or eliminating the rate increases granted to songwriters by the CRB. The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and other trade bodies, of which Warner/Chappell is a member, are being very vocal in their opposition to this appeal.

We value our relationships with the companies who help us deliver music to fans, but we have to draw a line on this issue.  Their attempt to roll back rates fairly determined through the CRB process is unacceptable.  As such, we will vigorously seek to protect the value of music and passionately promote the rights of songwriters.

We are working with NMPA and policy makers in DC to defeat the appeal. We also encourage you to lend your support to NMPA by retweeting them here.

If you have any questions, we’re always here to talk.

Carianne

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