Over the past 19 months, The Chainsmokers' hit single "Closer," featuring New Jersey singer-songwriter Halsey, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, earned 7x Platinum certification by the RIAA and on Spotify alone has racked up 1.2 billion streams.
While the song's success on streaming platforms has meant a big payday for the production duo, their guest artist, and the record label—in this case, Disruptor and Columbia—the songwriters behind the record can't say the same thing.
On Thursday, in a series of early morning tweets, Canadian DJ, producer and songwriter Shaun Frank—one of six co-writers on "Closer"—revealed the royalty disparity between the artist/label and songwriters.
Based on the accounting table in his opening tweet, as well as the 1.2 billion streams "Closer" has generated on Spotify since its July 2016 release, Shaun and his five co-writers have, to date, each earned $100,000 from Spotify in streaming royalties. According to Shaun, this isn't something that can be negotiated, either. "There are no contracts for this," he later tweeted. "This is how the money is paid out when songs are streamed on the internet."
In hip-hop, more often than not, the artist is also the songwriter, which means the artist is essentially able to double dip, earning performance and songwriting income. However, if a songwriter works strictly behind-the-scenes without appearing on the song itself, which is a common practice in R&B and pop music, he or she shouldn't expect a future windfall.
"Artists do fine. It’s the people behind writing their music that are getting screwed at the moment." —Shaun Frank
As Shaun points out in this third tweet, the imbalance in the streaming ecosystem is having an adverse effect on the quality and type of music being made. Without radio success or opportunities generated through a music synchronization license, a songwriter's long-term financial security is limited if streaming is their only major source of income. As a result, this means more songwriters will change their approach to songwriting in an effort to craft records that have a better chance to hit at radio.
We have reached out to Shaun for further comment on his experience.