By Nuria Berbel Torres and Cameron Phillips
Findaway has recently announced that it will be removing its 20% distribution fees on audiobooks purchased on the platform Spotify. Our Audiobooks team wanted to discuss their opinions on the move, what it means for independent authors and what we would like to see happen next.
Findaway normally offers an 80/20 split of royalties with its own authors. That means Findaway authors keep 80% of their royalties and Findaway gets 20% in fees, but this comes after a 50% charge is paid to retailers on audiobooks published independently. With this new move, Findaway authors that sell on Spotify now get to keep their 50% share, which means that Spotify now offers the most royalties to those independent authors in the audiobook sector (this does not apply to traditionally published authors). This move seems to be motivated by a desire to expand Spotify’s platform beyond music, making it more attractive to independent authors. Spotify has commented that this news marks one of the first steps in their journey to help independent authors expand their reach.
This is a bid to draw more indie authors away from Findaway’s competitors, but nonetheless it’s a good move. Companies such as Audible, who hold the biggest share of the audiobook market, have been widely criticised for their high revenue split. This results in the online platform paying independent authors less than bookstores do, while the stores have to deal with physical storefronts, staff and warehouses. It makes it difficult for independent authors to find their space in the industry.
Spotify is very new to the audiobook business and the platform still has a long way to go in terms of practicality. Currently, books are purchased individually and are restricted only to the website version of the platform. However, the move gives authors freedom to browse, compare and decide which company best fits their needs and offers the highest revenue. This might prompt competitors to make similar moves and look out for their indie authors.
The Publishing Post previously published an article breaking down the royalties that some audiobook authors receive from using Audible to distribute their work, and it could be said that the findings were not favourable towards the authors. This is a fantastic step in the right direction, and whilst it must be acknowledged that distributors are vital for the role they play in providing a conduit for audiobooks to reach the large streaming and podcasting websites, they should not overestimate their overall role in the creation of audiobooks. I think it is important that the question around royalties is tackled slowly and deliberately, because these giant companies, rightly or wrongly, will not be easily budged from their profit margins, and any progress that is made towards securing fair and proper reward for the creatives of this world is a good one.
The company’s decision appears to attempt to undercut Audible’s share in the audiobook market. To Spotify’s credit, it has made big investments into the audiobook and podcast markets, and if this move is anything to go by, this foray will not end here.
This is a step in the right direction, especially given that Findaway is owned by Spotify, a company that has had, and continues to have, a dubious relationship between the artists they stream and the royalties which they pay said artists. Cynics may say that this is an easy move to make in the audiobook market in order to attract indie writers and publishers towards their platform, but perhaps this is the first step in a positive trend for Spotify and its relationship with royalties. Singers and songwriters next please!
Other platforms can learn lessons from Spotify and Findaway’s business direction. Many independent authors share royalties with their narrators as well as having to pay production fees on top of everything, and in the current climate, both financially and culturally, there is a greater need to recognise the work being done by authors, illustrators and voice actors.