Why the work of John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, and hundreds more comedians has been disappearing from Spotify
Looking to stream an album by your favorite comedian on Spotify? You may be disappointed. Over the past week, the streaming service has dropped hundreds of comedians' work, including albums by John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, and many more, amid a new dispute over royalty payments.
A growing number of comedians are seeking to get paid royalties when their jokes are played on streaming or radio, much the way songwriters are compensated for usage of their music and lyrics. The company Spoken Giants, which counts such performers as Gabriel Iglesias, Patton Oswalt, Paula Poundstone, and Roy Wood Jr. as members, is attempting to secure a more lucrative deal for "spoken-word creative works," according to its website.
"Compared to music and other media, Spoken Word assets are under-represented in today's sonic landscape and more importantly key rights, provided for under copyright law, are not paid by the very channels that obtain great value from using comedy works, podcasts, and other spoken-word assets," a statement on Spoken Giants' site reads.
Again, it's helpful to compare the situation to the music business. When a song is played on a streaming service, both the performer and writer of that song receive a royalty payment for their work. However, while comedians are paid as performers when their material is streamed, they do not receive royalties as writers, which is what Spoken Giants is trying to change.
The company argues that "hardworking artists, performers, and rights owners have missed out on their legal and rightful licensing opportunities, and as a result, are robbed of the royalties they deserve."
After negotiating with Spotify, Spoken Giants received an email shortly before Thanksgiving saying that content it represented would be removed from the streaming service until an agreement was reached, the company told The Wall Street Journal.
"Spotify has paid significant amounts of money for the content in question, and would love to continue to do so," a Spotify spokesperson told EW in a statement, while also calling on the comedians' various labels to help address the matter. "It's imperative that the labels that distribute this content, Spotify, and Spoken Giants come together to resolve this issue to ensure this content remains available to fans around the globe."
The dispute reflects the ongoing turbulence across the entertainment industry, which has been rocked by the growth of streaming over the past decade. Indeed, similar disputes are underway in the music industry, with songwriters and artists seeking bigger payments from streaming platforms, and in the movie business, as stars' compensation has begun to shift away from box-office revenues with more and more films going straight to streaming.
"There wasn't much to collect before," when comedy albums weren't listened to as widely as music, Spoken Giants CEO Jim King told the Journal. "Now it's a completely different world where a [Jim] Gaffigan or a Mulaney have billions of performances across these platforms."
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.