It’s Not Just Musicians Who Claim Spotify’s Not Paying Them Enough

The streaming giant is facing a new push to pay comedians both as writers and performers

Comedian John Mulaney wearing a suit and tie and holding a microphone at the American Museum of Natural History's 2019 gala
John Mulaney onstage at the American Museum of Natural History's Gala in 2019.
Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

If you’ve tried and failed to listen to your favorite comedy routine from Kevin Hart or John Mulaney on Spotify recently, there’s a reason for that. In late November, the streaming giant took down a number of comedians’ material due to a dispute over what the artists were due in terms of royalties. While a number of musicians have long argued (compellingly) that Spotify doesn’t pay them enough, it appears the time has come for comedians to do the same.

At the center of the issue is Spoken Giants, described on its website as “the first global rights administration company for the owners and creators of Spoken Word copyrights.” Members include Roy Wood Jr., Lewis Black and Patton Oswalt.

As an article at The Wrap explains, Spoken Giants takes the position that the author of a joke is entitled to comparable royalties as a songwriter would be. In other words, if a musician is being paid royalties for both writing and performing a song, the same should hold true for a comedian or spoken-word performer.

Evidently, Spotify does not agree. According to The Wrap’s article, Spoken Giants was in touch with the streaming service on the subject of royalties, but they said that they did not request that comedians’ work be taken down.

The arguments that musicians have made for why they should be paid more by Spotify are resonant ones, and the same goes for comedians. Spotify is, by their own account, making a substantial amount of money — and at a time when artists are finding touring more challenging, it’s not hard to see the case for artists earning a larger share of that.

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