Fair Trade Music

Guest Post by Eddie Schwartz, Songwriter & Artist

As a songwriter, record producer and artist, I understand and sympathize with David Lowery and fellow songwriters who recently announced they are suing Spotify, alleging massive copyright infringement.

“Suing the bastards” has its appeal, and those of us who make music for a living certainly have serious grievances these days, as we have seen dramatic declines in income at a time when our music is making more money than ever for others in the digital music value chain.

So yes, I get it.

But at the same time, I have to wonder about other potentially guilty parties. Given that the music value chain is complicated, convoluted, opaque, inefficient, and increasingly dominated by multinationals who command and control the digital space between music consumers and creators, there are no shortage of other suspects – or willing accomplices. I am by no means letting Spotify off the hook, but the bad actors in the music value chain are often plural, and difficult to identify.

And although litigation may shine some much-needed sunlight into the dark recesses of the digital music value chain, it is not a solution for what ails the music industry. Fixing that will require nothing less than rebuilding the music value chain so that it is ethical, efficient, transparent and sustainable for both music consumers and creators.

And there is some potentially very good news on that front.

Thousands of songwriters, artists, composers and performers around the world are working together to create a path to a real solution – to realize the enormous potential of the digital revolution, and to ensure both those who love music, and those who make music are not left out. This initiative is called Fair Trade Music. 

Much like its agricultural counterpart, Fair Trade Music (FTM) rewards good behavior in the music value chain by offering a certification process for digital streaming services, and those who provide access to music. In order to qualify for Fair Trade Music certification, music businesses must agree to criteria that ensure they conduct their affairs in an ethical, transparent and sustainable way.

Fair Trade Music will make public for all to see who the good players in the music value chain are by means of a certification seal, so that both music consumers and creators can make informed choices about which services merit their business.

 In coming weeks the Fair Trade Music criteria will be available online, and the work of certifying the good actors in the music value chain will begin.

And streaming services like Spotify will have a way to clearly show us which kind of actor they are.


Fair Trade Music is an initiative overseen and operated by an alliance of artists, songwriters and composers from Africa, Latin and South America, Asia, Europe and North America.

Kareem Clarke