Spotify withdraws top comedians’ albums amid copyright dispute

If you’ve been wondering where your favorite comedy album went on Spotify, you are far from alone. The Wall Street Journal reports that Spotify pulled hundreds of comedian albums after that, and rights administration company Spoken Giants blocked a written royalties deal. The missing albums are from stars like Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and John Mulaney.

As with previous disputes between songwriters, this last fight is about making up for more than performance. Spoken Giants want their performers to receive royalties as joke-makers, not just for the time they spend behind the microphone. The rights company began talking to online services in the spring, but learned just before Thanksgiving that Spotify would be pulling back comedians’ work until there was a deal.

Spotify defended itself in a statement to Newspaper. The company said it paid a “significant” sum of money for comedy material and that it “would love” to continue paying, and that distributors and labels also have a say in the payments. There is material from these comedians left on Spotify as of this writing, but much of it is available through competitors like Apple Music.

It’s no surprise that Spotify bumps into Spoken Giants. If Spotify were to pay writing royalties as well, the service would either have to pay more globally (a clearly ideal Spoken Giants result) or reserve part of the existing share for distributors and labels. Either one could hurt Spotify’s bottom line, and it doesn’t have much leeway as its average income per person was around $ 4.91 last quarter.

At the same time, however, the dispute and referral come at a particularly sensitive time. With a live stand-up still far from what it was before the pandemic, some actors are still very dependent on albums and other digital releases. They are clearly keen on improving that income and may experience additional pain when they lose heavyweight support from streaming.

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