Music-streaming giant Spotify is being sued for $1.6 billion for failing to properly obtain licensing for more than 10,000 songs. While the suit could be a speedbump in the company’s path to going public, it underscores a larger problem that many online music services will need to sort out: figuring out who wrote the songs.
Robert Weitzner, an assistant teaching professor in Westphal’s Music Industry program and a founding executive of the American Association of Independent Music, recently shed light on the issue in a Mashable story about the lawsuit.
“There’s an information problem here,” Weitzner said in the story. “There’s incomplete metadata that’s delivered to streamers. The information around the songs — who wrote it, who recorded it — needs to be readily available to people.”
This information is not readily available to the companies when they are licensing the songs, so it takes some time to track down publishers and artists to properly compensate all of the rights-holders. And waiting for those licenses can mean lost revenues for the companies. Lawsuits, which have plagued Spotify and other companies in the past, are a result of the rush to get the music online, according to Weitzner.
“That’s what’s going to happen. What we’re seeing through these lawsuits is the system working its way through that,” Weitzner told Mashable.
But as a 20-year veteran and a leader within the independent music industry, Weitzner suggests a concerted effort between artists, record labels, music publishers and streaming companies as the only way to keep the industry moving forward in a way that mutually benefits all parties.
“We have got to sort this out now,” he said. “It’s important to see Spotify survive. It’s important for the industry to see Spotify successfully navigate this transformative period.”
Weitzner is the head of North America for leading digital music asset management company CI and a founding director of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). He has also served in management positions with TVT Records, eMusic.com and the SONY-acquired digital distribution, marketing and technology firm IODA. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in economics from Stanford University.
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