A new feature Spotify is testing in a pilot program has caught Congress’ attention. Discovery Mode, first announced in the fall, allows artists and labels to agree to take a lower royalty on certain tracks in exchange for higher priority in the algorithms.
Spotify’s November 2 announcement described their personal recommendations as “complicated” and said they wanted to find a way to explain an artist’s priorities, while ensuring that listeners get what they want. “In this new experiment, artists and labels can identify music that is a priority for them, and our system will add the signal to the algorithm that determines custom listening sessions,”
House Judicial Committee Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and Internet Chairman Rep. Hank Johnson Jr. (D-GA) is concerned that the program could lead to lower salaries for artists and fewer choices. for consumers. On Wednesday, they sent a letter to Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek asking for more information about the feature.
“This could set off a ‘race to the bottom’ where 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, which is embedded below, reads. “Depending on how the program is implemented, there is a further concern that accepting lower prices for this promise in Spotify’s algorithm may not even guarantee more airplay if almost all commercial artists do the same.”
Congressmen are also concerned that this will benefit artists who are still vulnerable after taking financial hits during the pandemic, especially when the artists are already reportedly earning less than a penny a stream.
“Nuclear copyright industries such as music play an integral role in the US economy, and the vitality of the industry is undermined when artists’ hard work is underestimated,” the letter said.
Here’s what they want to know about Discovery Mode: Will it be permanent? How will Spotify ensure that widespread participation in the program does not result in interrupting algorithm improvements? How will the promotional price be calculated, and will it be the same for everyone participating? How will the effect on streams be measured? Will Spotify allow artists and labels to recover lost royalties if it is determined that their participation in the program did not result in increased streams?
Spotify, which has not yet responded to a request for comment, has been told to answer congressional questions by June 16.