Spotify addressed one of the long-standing complaints about its service with the introduction of a new songwriter credits feature, which is initially available on the Spotify desktop app. The streaming service has had a contentious history with songwriters, who have continuously accused the company of not licensing or paying them for the use of their music. This ultimately led to Spotify paying out a $43.45 million settlement for a class action lawsuit songwriters raised with the company back in 2017.
The 2017 settlement wasn’t the first time Spotify found itself paying out tens of millions due to licensing issues, either. In 2016, the National Music Publishers’ Association settled with Spotify for more than $20 million, over the service’s use of songs owned by its members.
Spotify has always said that it wants to properly license and credit songwriters, but didn’t have sufficient data in order to do so.
As part of the 2017 settlement agreement, Spotify was directed to improve the “gathering and collecting of information about composition owners to help ensure those owners are paid their royalties in the future.”
Adding songwriter credits won’t solve Spotify’s licensing issues, of course, but it’s a start. It will at least indicate what data Spotify does have available about songwriters and producers whose tracks stream on its platform.
According to Spotify’s announcement today, desktop users will now be able to view the songwriter and producer credits for tracks by right-clicking the track, then selecting “Show Credit” from the menu.
This will display information about the performers, songwriters and producers in a pop-up interface, as well as the source of the information.
The company says this data, at launch, comes from record label metadata – which Spotify admits may be “incomplete or may contain inaccuracies.” However, Spotify notes that this is only the first step in its larger plan to better develop this feature in the future.
“The feature will continually evolve to become more efficient, provide better functionality, and incorporate more information from industry partners over time,” reads the announcement.
Spotify has already been investing in alternative technologies for rights management that would go beyond sourcing record label metadata. Last April, for example, the company acquired the blockchain startup Mediachain to help solve this attribution problem.
Prior to joining Spotify, Mediachain had developed a number of technologies focused on improving attribution, including a decentralized, peer-to-peer database to connect applications with media and the information about it, plus an attribution engine for creators, and a cryptocurrency that rewards creators for their work.
We asked Spotify today whether it had started to put Mediachain’s technologies to work.
A spokesperson declined to answer specifically, saying only that: “We are constantly experimenting with new ways to make this feature more efficient and provide better functionality.”
The company also declined to say when the credits feature will arrive on other platforms, like mobile. But Spotify is promising more improvements will come.
“The more we share information, the more opportunities we can help create for songwriters,” said Annika Goldman, Spotify’s Director of Music Publishing Operations, in a statement. “This is just the beginning of making songwriter and producer credits more easily available to Spotify listeners, and we look forward to continually improving that information, in close collaboration with our music industry partners.”
The launch follows on several other songwriter-focused initiatives at the company, including the launch of the “Secret Genius” program. This includes an ambassador program, global songwriting workshops, The Secret Genius Awards, podcasts and curated playlists, says Spotify.