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Streaming services must give songwriters a 44 percent pay hike

It's not the exact deal writers wanted, but it's a start.
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Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Songwriters just claimed a major victory in the fight for better pay from streaming giants like Apple and Spotify. The US Copyright Royalty Board has ruled for an increase in songwriter rates that will give them a 43.8 percent pay raise over the next 5 years. They also won't have to jump through hoops to figure out how much they're owed: they'll claim either a percentage of revenue or the total content costs, whichever pays the most. There are no longer caps on writer rates, for that matter.

This isn't exactly what writers wanted. They were hoping to be paid per stream, which would give them a direct stake in the success of a popular tune. However, the National Music Publishers Association's David Israelite called it the "best songwriters have ever had" under the current compulsory license system.

There's no guarantee this will make writers happy. Musicians frequently complain about low royalties from streaming services, and songwriters frequently get the short end of the stick even in those conditions. It also raises questions about how the streaming companies themselves will account for this pay raise. They may not have to increase your subscription rate to make up for the difference, but that could mean having to accept thinner profits to get your business. Mind you, this could help everyone involved if it convinces more artists to stream their music.

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