As comedians fight for royalties, Spotify removes their content

Songwriters get paid royalties for their written work, however, comedians don’t, therefore, the latter is hoping to change that, especially considering the popularity of their content on digital platforms.

As such, Spotify removed the work of hundreds of comedians, including big names such as John Mulaney, Jim Gaffigan, and Kevin Hart, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

Spoken Giants – a global rights company, which represents Mulaney, Gaffigan, Hart, and other comedians – is leading the fight to get radio and digital platforms, such as Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora, and YouTube, to provide comedians with royalty payments for their written work.

The streaming giant been in negotiations with Spoken Giants, according to the outlet, but has yet to reach an agreement. On Thanksgiving, Spotify informed Spoken Giants that it would pull all work by comedians represented by the organization until they could come to an understanding.

In rebuttal, Spotify defended itself in a statement, saying that “It paid a significant amount of money for the comedy material and would prefer to keep paying, and that distributors and labels also had a say regarding payouts. Some material remains from those comedians on Spotify as of this writing, but much more of it is available through rivals like Apple Music.”

“Spotify has paid significant amounts of money for the content in question, and would love to continue to do so,” a Spotify spokesperson said.

“However, given that Spoken Giants is disputing what rights various licensors have, it’s imperative that the labels that distribute this content, Spotify and Spoken Giants, come together to resolve this issue to ensure this content remains available to fans around the globe,” it noted.

If Spotify also had to pay writing royalties, the service would either have to pay more overall or set aside some of the existing share for distributors and labels.

On his side, Spoken Giants CEO Jim King, a former executive of music rights company BMI, said the company has a “clear process” for engaging with digital service providers, digital platforms, and radio to discuss compensation for comedy writers. Unfortunately, he said, Spotify removed the work of individual comedians rather than continue negotiations.

“In music, songwriter royalties are a very basic revenue stream, so this is not an unfamiliar concept, and our work is based on established precedents and clear copyright language,” King said.

“With this take-down, individual comedians are now being penalized for collectively requesting the same compensation songwriters receive,” he stressed.