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Spotify adds songwriter credits to its desktop app

By | Published on Monday 5 February 2018


Spotify announced a new songwriter credits feature on Friday, which it will be hoping can address at least one of the main gripes about streaming within the songwriter community. Although it conceded that its credits may be “incomplete or contain inaccuracies” at launch.

Both songwriters and music publishers have become increasingly vocal in recent years about the lack of songwriter credits on the streaming platforms, which would tell subscribers who wrote the songs they are streaming. Record producers and sound engineers have also bemoaned the fact that the liner notes of physical music products have generally not been replicated on the digital platforms.

Aside from depriving digital music fans of important information that they may wish to use to help them navigate the millions of tracks available on the streaming services, the lack of credit on such platforms arguably infringes the moral rights of songwriters under the global copyright treaties. Most copyright systems provide songwriters with the moral right to attribution for their work, where such attribution is practical.

The main complication to date for the streaming services is that they rely on record companies to provide them with content and the accompanying metadata. Record companies don’t work with songwriters and haven’t generally provided that information as a matter of course in the past. Meanwhile, the lack of a publicly accessible industry-owned music rights database has made it tricky for streaming services to pull in accurate songwriter information based on the unique ISRC number assigned to each recording.

Outside the US, it’s not been necessary for the streaming services to know who wrote any one song for the purposes of payment. The DSPs provide the big publishers and the collecting societies with a report on all the tracks that have been streamed, and then leave it to the publishers and societies to work out what songs have been utilised, and therefore who is owed royalties. Therefore, getting songwriter data into the system is more about moral rights and user experience than digital licensing.

Spotify’s new songwriter credits feature will be relying, initially at least, on its label partners for the required data, hence the streaming service itself admitting there may be some limitations. The streaming firm said on Friday: “At launch, we’re showing information we have from record label-provided metadata, and will also display the source of the credits so you know where it’s coming from”.

It added: “We realise some of the label-provided credits are incomplete or may contain inaccuracies, but this is just the first step in displaying songwriter credits on Spotify. The feature will continually evolve to become more efficient, provide better functionality, and incorporate more information from industry partners over time”.

Spotify’s commitment to adding songwriter credits, which will initially appear only on its desktop app, follow a recent move by rival Tidal to go big on liner notes within its platform. It comes, of course, as Spotify tries to improve its relationships with the songwriter community, particularly in the US, where all the hoo haa around unpaid mechanical royalties has only exacerbated wider concerns about how much writers earn from streaming.

Bigging up the new feature, Spotify’s Global Head Of Songwriter Relations, Tiffany Kumar, said: “Songwriters are an integral force behind the music we love. With the newly launched credits feature, we aim to increase songwriter and producer visibility and, in turn, foster discovery among new collaborators, industry partners, and fans”.

Meanwhile the firm’s Director Of Music Publishing Operations, Annika Goldman, added: “The more we share information, the more opportunities we can help create for songwriters. This is just the beginning of making songwriter and producer credits more easily available to Spotify listeners, and we look forward to continually improving that information, in close collaboration with our music industry partners”.