As Copyright Royalty Board Affirms 15.1% Rate Increase, Songwriters Take Sight on Additional Revenue Streams

As American Songwriter magazine and other media outlets recently reported, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has reaffirmed its plans to increase the headline rate of royalties paid to U.S. songwriters and publishers from streaming platforms from 10.5 to 15.1 percent, for the years between 2018 and 2022, despite continued opposition from Spotify and other streaming platforms.

It’s a shame that the appeals process took four years for the three-judge board to reach this decision, but it is still, nevertheless, a win for songwriters throughout the U.S.

Songwriting Royalty

Now both sides of this royalty rate issue are gearing up for another battle as the CRB will begin a new trial this Fall which will determine the royalty rates for the five-year period between 2023 and 2027.

I was listening to Marty Dodson, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of the popular songwriting community, SongTown, talk on the Clubhouse social audio platform about how he’s seeing more instances of songwriters negotiate bigger and better deals that include some rarely-seen stipulations like “share of Master recording rights”, percentage of merch sales and so forth. An interesting discussion ensued on whether it was fair or not that songwriters start receiving revenue from areas typically enjoyed only by artists (merch sales, licensing fees received from exploitation of master recordings, etc.). After all, artists typically absorb the additional costs associated with making a professional recording, creating designs and printing merchandise, etc. However, is it fair for an artist to use lyrics or song titles for songs that they did not write or co-write on merchandise and not give a publishing or licensing fee to use while still profiting from that creative work?

If an artist makes thousands of dollars from TikTok or YouTube monetization off their recordings, but the songwriter only earns a few dollars from that song being exploited that way, is that fair? Will that songwriter be willing to co-write again with that artist in the future if they don’t receive a fair share of the revenue generated from that hit song?

Now, I’m not advocating that artists have to give equal percentages of their non-writing revenue received to the writers of the songs they perfom. But something is definitely better than nothing and I believe that offering SOMETHING to songwriters creates a healthier and more attractive environment for songwriters and artists to want to continue collaborating in the future.

Obviously, artists have much more influence or control than songwriters do as to what songs are recorded, released as singles and performed on stage. But in the spirit of creating a bigger revenue pie for everyone involved (artists, managers, producers, writers, agents, etc.), is it not better to incentivize everyone to produce the best product possible to generate the most revenue possible for everyone?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. I’m glad that the Copyright Royalty Board upheld the decision made four years ago to increase the mechanical royalty rates, but I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how songwriters can generate more equitable revenue for the songs they write.