Cracker’s David Lowery on His $150M Spotify Lawsuit: ‘It’s an Infringement Machine’
At the end of last year, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery lodged a class-action lawsuit against Spotify for its use of copyrighted songs without the necessary mechanical licenses. (Those licenses are required on top of the royalties streaming platforms owe to ASCAP and BMI.) Depending on how the whole thing shakes out, Spotify may have to pay up to $150 million in damages. Lowery has opened up about the lawsuit and why he’s doing it not for personal gain, but rather, for all songwriters.
“It’s possible we could have done a settlement, but I don’t think it would have been fair to all songwriters,” Lowery told Billboard. “I’m not sure anyone believes this but I really did decide to do this on behalf of indie songwriters who publish and manage their own catalogs.”
Lowery noted that the National Music Publishers Association’s recent $30 million settlement with Spotify over unmatched and unpaid royalties will not address the root of the problem, which the singer believes is the platform’s failure to acquire proper licenses for its songs. “Spotify is larded with unlicensed tracks,” he said. “And it still will be, even after the NMPA settlement. It is an infringement machine.”
For Lowery, a class-action motion is the only way to fully resolve the problem. “If we’re going to have a fair market, we have to start with the fundamental rules on how to use songs,” he said.
The Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven leader has been a relentless advocate for artists' rights and has often delivered scathing indictments of copyright infringement and piracy, however, his motivation for the lawsuit is not to force Spotify into shuttering its doors.
“I’m not trying to put Spotify out of business,” he said. “There’s a moral hazard to letting them off the hook, but I hope they don’t go out of business -- I hope they just clean up their act. If one guy like me can bring down a Goldman Sachs-backed firm valued at $8 billion, then, trust me, it’s not my f—k-up.”