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US Congress query Spotify on controversial Discovery Mode

The House Judiciary Committee warned it “may set in motion a ‘race to the bottom’" for artists and labels

  • Paddy Edrich
  • 10 June 2021
US Congress query Spotify on controversial Discovery Mode

Congress members from the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee have requested more information from Spotify about Discovery Mode.

The controversially-received programme allows artists and labels to recommend songs to more listeners via Spotify’s algorithms in exchange for a lower royalty rate.

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When Spotify announced the mode in November, the streaming platform said: “In this new experiment, artists and labels can identify music that’s a priority for them, and our system will add that signal to the algorithm that determines personalised listening sessions.”

In exchange for this prioritisation, “labels or rights holders agree to be paid a promotional recording royalty rate for streams in personalised listening sessions where we provide the service.”

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However, the House Judiciary Committee has expressed concern that Discovery Mode “may set in motion a ‘race to the bottom’ in which artists and labels feel compelled to accept lower royalties as a necessary way to break through an extremely crowded and competitive music environment.”

The letter continued: “At a time when the global pandemic has devastated incomes for musicians and other performers...any plan that could ultimately lead to further cut pay for working artists and ultimately potentially less consumer choices raises significant policy issues.”

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Committee representatives have asked Spotify to answer questions including whether Discovery Mode will be a permanent programme and how the streaming service plans to calculate the reduced royalty rate.

This mode was met with criticism when first announced, with the Artists Rights Alliance describing it as “a new pay-to-play scheme.”

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Published on Rolling Stone, the Alliance added: “Spotify’s money grab would be unacceptable at any time, but it’s especially hard to swallow in the midst of a global pandemic that has cut off artist income streams.”

Spotify has until June 16 to answer the questions from the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee.

Paddy Edrich is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

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