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Why aren’t book club pods more of a thing?

Plus, a big win for music publishers

It’s a chill news week in the audio world, which fits because I could use the break ahead of Labor Day weekend. A quick reminder that we are off tomorrow, so no Friday newsletter. My plans entail making a big bowl of pasta and setting up a screen in our backyard for a Sunday night viewing of Daylight with our friends (the movie was chosen by the group — I have no idea what it’s about, and I could google it, but I won’t). I’ll also watch the new LOTR show because my best friend, Jude, is both obsessed with Elrond and refuses to pay for Amazon Prime.

Today, music publishers win big, and we’re getting a big fat corporate book club podcast.

Music publishers score big win in royalties fight with streamers

After a lengthy fight between streamers and music publishers over royalty rates, the publishers have emerged victorious. Between 2023 and 2027, streamers like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora will have to pay out 15.35 percent of their music revenue to songwriters and publishing copyright holders.

The new rate is only 0.25 percent higher than the one established for 2018 to 2022, but it reaffirms the new status quo for publishers. The old rate was 10.5 percent, and streamers fought hard to revert back to that. In July, the Copyright Review Board upheld the current 15.1 percent rate, basically assuring that would be the new floor. That being said, it could have been much worse for the streamers — publishers were fighting for a rate as high as 20 percent.

“This historic settlement is the result of songwriters making their voices heard. Instead of going to trial and continuing years of conflict, we instead move forward in collaboration with the highest rates ever, guaranteed,” said National Music Publishers’ Association CEO David Israelite in a statement.

The royalty rate is also a reflection of how much the music publishing business has changed in recent years. When interest rates were at rock bottom, music catalogs became big business because they were seen as safe, long-term investments that could bring in more money than bonds. Hipgnosis Songs Fund, traditional private equity firms like KKR, and the publishing arms of music giants like Universal and Sony started gobbling up everything on the market, resulting in the nine-figure deals for the songbooks of music legends like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

All of this is to say, yes, this is a win for songwriters. But as their publishing rights are bought and sold like stocks, it is important to remember that the major corporations that have come to dominate the business are the real winners here. As for the streamers, it makes sense that they are pursuing avenues outside music like podcasting and audiobooks.

Lemonada Media and Penguin Random House partner on book club

Podcast network Lemonada Media and Penguin Random House are buddying up to launch a book club. Book of the Month programming will be hosted across Lemonada shows and feature titles and authors from PRH. The first selection is a shrewd one (if a little on the nose): the debut crime thriller by Crime Junkie host Ashley Flowers, All Good People Here. Upcoming titles include Be Not Afraid of Love: Lessons on Fear, Intimacy and Connection by Mimi Zhu and Sweet Soft Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell.

I am honestly surprised that podcast book clubs haven’t become more of a thing. There are plenty of indie shows, like Black Chick Lit and Books & Boba, but no ongoing shows from the large-scale book clubs like Reese Witherspoon’s and Oprah’s (though Oprah did host a miniseries for Caste by Isabel Wilkerson). Part of the magic of Oprah’s book club when her show was still on the air was the access readers got to author interviews. Lemonada says that the book club will have interactive opportunities for listeners down the line, like Q&As and audience engagement. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it works (for Lemonada and PRH’s sales), and Spotify probably should, too. Book club pods could be an opportunity for the streamer as it moves into audiobooks.

Anchor is still the top podcast publisher, but Buzzsprout is gaining ground

According to the latest data from Livewire Labs, Spotify’s Anchor was the most-used podcast publisher in August, with a 22.9 percent market share. As in months past, the breakdown is pretty much Anchor with a quarter of the market and everyone else below 10 percent.

Still, one publisher seems to be breaking away from the pack. Buzzsprout came in second, logging a 9 percent share, up from 7.9 percent in July. It’s a chunk higher than its closest competitors, Spreaker (6.3 percent), Libsyn (5.2 percent), and Omny (5.1 percent). 

I was a little surprised that Buzzsprout was the runner-up and so much higher than the rest. I feel like I hear about Libsyn and Acast more, but it’s a good reminder that publicity is often not reflective of the real world. If you use or have recently switched to Buzzsprout, hit me up! I’d love to hear more about your experience and what factors go into choosing between publishers.

That’s all for today! I hope you have a relaxing holiday weekend and, if you happen to live in Ditmas Park, are not too bothered by the Stallone sounds coming from my yard.