Spotify has signed a deal with Warner Music Group, the last of the big three international music labels, the two companies announced on April 1. This means that significant holdouts in the Spotify catalogue in India, such as Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Linkin Park and a slew of other artists under WMG, will now be available on the streaming service. Their absence was a significant competitive black mark for the service, whose pricing in India is among its lowest in the world. (This also means, incidentally, that I can finally retire this Twitter account.) The companies said in their statement:
Spotify and Warner Music Group are pleased to announce a renewed global licensing partnership. This expanded deal covers countries where Spotify is available today, as well as additional markets. The two companies look forward to collaborating on impactful global initiatives for Warner artists and songwriters, and working together to grow the music industry over the long term.
This development is notable for the year-long drama that has surrounded Spotify and Warner in India. Spotify also told Gadgets 360 yesterday that it had reached a deal with Saregama, the label whose catalogue it was forced to take off its platform in April 2019.
When Spotify was launched early last year, it was already locked in a court battle with Warner Chappell, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Spotify had taken advantage of a quirk of Indian copyright law — Section 31D of the Copyright Act — to invoke statutory license, with which it was able to assert rights to stream Warner Chappell songs by simply notifying the government and depositing a fixed licensing fee it did not need to negotiate; this provision was introduced in 2012 to help radio stations and the like so that they wouldn’t all be locked in negotiations to broadcast music.
That kind of use took a beating when Airtel’s Wynk tried the same thing with Tips Industries, another music label. After Tips sued Wynk, the Bombay High Court ruled that Section 31D cannot be invoked by streaming services, which put Spotify in a tough spot, since their suit with Warner Chappell was pending in the same court.
Spotify signed a deal with Warner Chappell in January 2020, ending the lawsuit. But Warner Chappell was, after all, just a subsidiary, and WMG still needed to sign a broader deal for more label-wide content, which is what happened yesterday.