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Self-Publishing News: Spotify Signs Audiobook Streaming Deals And The Society Of Authors Pushes For Clarity

Self-Publishing News: Spotify Signs Audiobook Streaming Deals and the Society of Authors Pushes for Clarity

ALLi News Editor, Dan Holloway

Spotify’s Daniel Ek has made no secret for several years now that when he says he wants Spotify to be a one stop shop for audio, he means all kinds of audio content, including audiobooks. The company has made repeated moves to bring this closer to reality, many of which have involved AI purchases aimed at making more forms of audio more widely available in more markets. ALLi's News Editor, Dan Holloway, reports on the latest moves from Spotify to take on audiobooks. 

Spotify Premium’s new offering, put in place on October 4th, really translates this for readers. From October 4th, those who pay the $11 a month Spotify Premium subscription fee will have access to 15 hours of audiobook content a month from a catalogue of 150,000 books.

To make this happen, the company has signed deals with all the big publishing houses. It is now looking to agree deals with indie publishers (not yet authors – though I imagine a deal with the platforms that distribute us will not be far behind).

What is not yet clear though, is what the terms of that deal are for the authors whose work has suddenly been made available en masse to Spotify listeners. This, of course, is hardly new for the audio streaming giant. It has a history of being less than transparent.

And that, coupled with what can be less than equal contracts across partners in the music industry, might well give rise for concern (entertainingly translated to the small screen in the one-off series The Playlist on (er, the streaming service – oops) Netflix).

Demands for clarity from the Society of Authors

The Society of Authors has taken up the cause of demanding transparency. It has issued a call to publishers to play hardball with Spotify and to be fair with their authors when negotiating licenses.
I copy below their demands to publishers as they are worth reading in full:
  • Inform their authors and agents with full transparency about the deals they have negotiated, to seek permission in full respect of their right not to give permission and to remove their books from the Spotify catalogue.
  • Negotiate an appropriate share of the receipts on a clear and equitable payment model, which should equate to no less than the amount that would be received from a sale of the same audiobook.
  • Ensure that with all licences that Spotify applies frictions, as with e-lending, such as time limited loans and guarantees of payment, whatever proportion of the book is read.
  • Ensure that licences are time limited and should not allow sublicensing or use on other platforms.
  • Indemnify authors if the unauthorised use conflicts with existing film or other such deals, or if it leads to claims of copyright infringement by rightsholders of quotations or images included in that.
  • Ensure that licences include safeguards to prevent pirating of authors' and narrators' works and voices including for use in AI systems.
Notoriously low and patchy pay per listen from Spotify is something we knew about years ago, and many of us have talked about repeatedly. Transparency is a key part of protecting writers.
Interestingly the one reference I have found to actual payments under the license comes from the Financial Times which cites an Amazon insider as saying payments look to be similar to Audible. If that turns out to be true I will leave it to you to decide if that’s a great or a terrible thing.

Find Out More About Audiobook Production with ALLi Guidance, including:

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


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