Update: The protest will be held outside 9200 Sunset Blvd. from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28, the 100 Percenters revealed on Instagram. The West Hollywood address is a popular office space for entertainment companies, including Spotify; the Soho House is located on the top floor.
In the wake of ebbing controversy against Spotify’s partnership with podcaster Joe Rogan, Grammy-winning songwriter Tiffany Red and the advocacy group the 100 Percenters are planning a peaceful protest against the music streaming service on Feb. 28. The 100 Percenters were founded by Red in 2020 to advocate for more equitable payments for songwriters. The location of the protest and other details will be announced in the coming days.
“Spotify was built on the backs of the music creators, yet we have the smallest piece of the pie,” Red said in a statement announcing the protest. “Songwriters and producers deserve to make a living wage, but instead, the [digital service providers] and record labels are making billions while we make peanuts. Enough is enough; our voices will be heard.”
Spotify and other streaming services have taken legal action to protest a 44% increase in royalties paid to songwriters that was decreed by the Copyright Royalty Board, which determines streaming rates every five years.
Artists including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have pulled their music off Spotify over the last few weeks in response to the platform’s handling of coronavirus misinformation on Rogan’s podcast. Spotify removed 70 pre-COVID episodes of the podcast after India Arie pulled her catalog in response to Rogan’s use of the N-word.
“Neil Young opened a door that I must walk through,” Arie wrote in an Instagram post on Jan. 31. “I believe in freedom of speech. However, I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons other than his Covid interviews. For me, it’s also his language around race.”
But Red and the 100 Percenters say their grievances are beyond the content of Rogan’s podcast; it’s what the controversy represents for songwriters who depend on income from streaming services.
“Songwriters are currently paid less than a penny per stream by Spotify, despite the streaming giant offering Rogan hundreds of millions for a podcast that spreads anti-vax propaganda and racial slurs,” the 100 Percenters said in a statement. “Years of paltry royalty rates, the recent Joe Rogan controversy, and a mass exodus from the platform by high-profile artists have created the perfect storm; the Spotify curtain is being pulled back — and underpaid songwriters are finally being heard.”
Spotify and other DSPs have extremely complex systems for paying artists — or, rather, labels and publishers — money for the music that is streamed on their platforms. Last year, Spotify unveiled a new website to explain the process, and revealed that as of 2020 the company had paid more than $23 billion to rights holders. However, it’s impossible to quantify the exact amount songwriters make from their songs, since every song is different.
More than 521.3 million people subscribe to DSPs around the world as of 2021, according to a January report. Streamers have continued to grow, with Spotify holding down 31% of the market share, followed by Apple Music with 15%. However, Those platforms and others pay varying amounts for music, but artists and songwriters have notoriously received very little of the cut after it is divided.
“2018’s Music Modernization Act finally demanded a 44% pay increase from streaming services to songwriters, which Spotify is fighting against at a Copyright Royalty Board trial in April,” the 100 Percenters said, adding that the fight for fair royalties is “a ruthless battleground, where many music creators’ livelihoods hang in the balance.”