Spotify Faces Backlash Over Audiobook Streaming As Authors Fear Unfair Payment
SoA expressed concerns that Spotify would result in authors making less money.
Some authors and literary agents have expressed deep concern about Spotify's new audiobook feature as they fear they won't see much in royalties. According to The Guardian, the Society of Authors (SoA), a British union for writers, cited "the devastating effect that music streaming has had on artists' incomes", and expressed its fear that authors may suffer in a similar way. Notably, Spotify announced last week that it will offer 15 hours of audiobooks per month for paid subscribers, first launching in the United Kingdom and Australia before rolling out in the United States this winter.
But now, the SoA has said that it is "deeply concerned" about the new audiobook provision. "The streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales and is even more damaging than music streaming because books are typically only read once, while music is often streamed many times," the SoA said in a statement, as per the outlet.
The British union for writers also claimed that publishers made deals with Spotify even though "authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms" and agents were not consulted about giving Spotify permission to use their titles. It expressed concerns that Spotify would also result in authors making less money. The group claims streaming for books could be more dangerous than streaming music, since music may be streamed many times while an audiobook would likely be listened to only once.
"Publishing contracts differ but in our view most licences given to publishers for licensing of audio do not include streaming. In fact, it is likely that streaming was not a use that had been invented when many such contracts were entered into," the SoA said.
Further, speaking to The Guardian, Literary agent Imogen Pelham, who represents British author Yara Rodrigues Fowler, said that her client was not consulted before her book appeared on Spotify. The agent criticized the "total obscurity of the deal". "It's impossible to understand what the benefit is supposed to be for authors," he said.
Jonny Geller, an agent at Curtis Brown Literary Agency, also said he and his colleagues were not approached before their clients' work was put on Spotify. Mr Gellar expressed fears authors will face the "disastrous path the music industry went down".
Also Read | 'Call Of Duty' Maker Activision To Be Bought By Microsoft For $69 Billion
The Society of Authors is now seeking author and agent approval of these deals. The organisation is also calling for publishers to provide a number of protections for authors, including negotiating "an appropriate share of the receipts on a clear and equitable payment model" and ensuring "that licences include safeguards to prevent pirating of authors' and narrators' works and voices including for use in AI systems".
However, despite concerns, some authors and publishers expressed hopes Spotify's entrance into the audiobook market would introduce healthy competition and prevent Audible from continuing to dominate. According to The Guardian, Penguin Random House, the UK's biggest publishing house, is "excited" to have its titles included in Spotify's catalogue. "We're thrilled by this exciting opportunity to bring our authors' works - and voices - to Spotify's 220 million paid subscribers," the publishing house said.