Music publishers accuse Spotify of ‘bait-and-switch subscription scheme’

Spotify has once again drawn the ire of the music industry. The National Music Publishers’ Association has called on the Federal Trade Commission to examine the streaming service’s addition of audiobook content into all of its paid subscription plans. According to the group’s FTC , Spotify’s recent actions are part of “a scheme to increase profits by deceiving consumers and cheating the music royalty system.”

This requires some backstory. In November 2023, Spotify announced that it would include as part of all its Premium subscription plans. A few months later, the company unveiled , offering the same number of listening hours for $10 a month. The publishers’ organization claims that Spotify’s are based on offering that extra audiobook content, and that paying customers are automatically being charged for a service they didn’t choose and can’t opt out of without switching to the free, ad-supported listening experience.

And the additional revenue from the higher Premium subscription costs may not go to the music composers. According to the FTC complaint, Spotify will pay about $150 million less in music royalties over the first year of these new bundled Premium plans.

The NMPA letter goes so far as to call the new audiobook-only plan “a sham” that “exists solely to allow Spotify to claim that audiobook content is a significantly and independently valuable aspect of its ‘bundled’ Premium Plan, as the Audiobook Access Plan costs only $1 less than the Premium Plan with the exact same audiobook content and music.”

At this early stage, it’s hard to say whether this issue will impact Spotify’s . Both artists and publishers have routinely criticized the streaming ecosystem at large and Spotify in particular for the creatives behind the music.

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