Spotify pulled the content down following an impasse between Spoken Giants
Spotify Technology SPOT 0.1% has removed the work from hundreds of comedians including John Mulaney and Jim Gaffigan, in a new battle over royalties.
Tiffany Haddish, Mike Birbiglia, and many other well-known acts joined a group entertainers who are trying to get paid a royalties on a copyright for jokes that they made when they were played on radio or digital service providers such as Spotify, SiriusXM and YouTube.
Spoken Giants is the main force behind the comedians’ efforts. Spoken Giants, a global rights’ management company, was founded in 2019. It seeks to collect royalties from underlying composition copyrights for spoken-word media. This is essentially comedians’ words, similar to how songwriters get paid for their music and lyrics.
After reaching an impasse in negotiations with Spoken Giants, Spotify pulled the content.
When their recordings are used on a digital platform, comics can be paid as performers by their distributor or label. They don’t get paid as authors of the work, but for what Spoken Giants calls their literary rights.
Comedy comedians are complaining because songwriters and artists want to be in control of their work and make more money from streaming services and radio.
Spoken Giants is managed by Jim King, an ex-executive at BMI music performance rights organization, and Ryan Bitzer, cofounders of comedy label 800 Pound Gorilla Records. It began by representing comedians and joke writers. The company plans to expand into podcasts, speeches, and lectures.
In the spring, the organization started reaching out to streaming services as well as satellite and terrestrial radio stations. Spoken Giants has been in contact with other radio and service companies. Spoken Giants reported that it had been in negotiations with Spotify and received an email from the company on Thanksgiving stating it would take down works owned by the organization until an agreement was reached.
Spotify provides entertainment with exposure and access for large audiences. “It is detrimental to the individual creators of their work,” Mr. King stated.
Spotify stated that it had paid “significant amounts for the content in issue” and would like to continue doing so. It also noted that comedians’ labels as well as distributors are part of the conversation.
The funding for the new royalty payout would be one of the challenges. Spotify made deals with distributors and labels of comedians to ensure that all rights were covered by the new royalty payout. Spotify will have to pay a percentage of the royalties it receives to distributors and labels for the copyrights.
Word Collections, a digital rights company, was launched last year. It focuses on getting comedians and other spoken-word performers paid for their literary works.
This dispute highlights the changing media landscape that streaming has disrupted. ASCAP and BMI were established in the early 20th century to collect licensing fees for composers and songwriters. Comedy was a relatively new medium. This has all changed, Mr. King stated, with comedy albums now available on streaming platforms, SiriusXM, and other stations dedicated to comedy.
“There wasn’t much to collect before. He said that it is now a different world, where Gaffigans and Mulaneys have billions of performances across these platforms. It makes sense to have a collective licensing company.
Eddie Pepitone, a stand-up comic, said that he did not realize he was not paid royalties until he joined Spoken Giants one year ago. He said, “It’s mind-boggling that comics don’t get paid for their material.”
Similar issues are at play in music. publishers want more streaming revenue for songwriters. Spotify and other companies offer lower royalty rates.
Spoken Giants were formed by Gerrit Elzinga and Spoken Giants when the pandemic exploded. He feels lost and confused after his two full-length albums were removed from Spotify.
He said, “It’s just bummer because it’s actually my favorite Spotify.” People say streaming is bad for artists. But, I see it as a long-term revenue stream. People do listen to music and that is what makes it a revenue stream.