If the last few years has taught us anything about consumption of music, it’s that streaming is the preferred method of hearing it. Yet as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon and more continue to capture the ears and wallets of music lovers everywhere, it’s still kind of the wild west out there when it comes to monetization. Spotify still has yet to turn a profit, even as it has the biggest piece of the pie. And what artists get paid ranges from ridiculously little (we’re looking at you, YouTube) to still not all that much. However, as Spotify prepares to go public this year, they’ve been hit with a $1.6 billion lawsuit from Wixen Music Publishing alleging that songs streaming on the service by Rage Against the Machine, the Doors, Tom Petty, Weezer and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, among others, are being played without a license and compensation.
The California based Wixen filed the lawsuit on December 29th, naming songs like The Doors “Light My Fire,” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” among those that they’re illegally playing. The suit is seeking at least $1.6 billion. However, the streaming service has settled suits before, with The Hollywood Reporter citing a class action lawsuit led by songwriters David Lowery (Cracker) and Melissa Ferrick. that settled for $43 million. They’ve since been hit by a few more suits, including one from Bob Gaudio, one of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons’ songwriters. The complaint suggests that as many as 21% of Spotify’s 30 million songs are unlicensed. Here’s an excerpt of it:
“Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement,” states the complaint. “Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works. For these reasons and the foregoing, Wixen is entitled to the maximum statutory relief.”
It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out, especially as streaming continues to catch on. Spotify might be sued out of existence before it reaches profitability, which is a crazy sentence to type. You can read the whole story at the Hollywood Reporter here.