Don’t Let Spotify Monetize Your #BlackGirlMagic. Intellectual Assets = Generational Wealth
This open letter and call to action is co-authored by Janeya Griffin, founder & CEO of The Commercializer, and Patrice Perkins, principal attorney of Creative Genius Law
Dear Beautiful Black Queens,
2018 has been a successful year for Black Excellence, but specifically for us Black Women.
#Blackgirlmagic has been at an all-time high. From politics to businesses and beyond, we have
showcased our true power as transformational leaders on the world’s global stage. However,
many people have capitalized on this magic and leveraged it for their own success without
giving us our just due beyond obvious, immediate payouts. Obviously, this isn’t anything new,
but now is the time to really pay attention to our intellectual assets (our ideas).
“Social media” went into a frenzy when Spotify announced a new podcast contest for the
chance to attend the Sound Up Bootcamp and win $10,000 to support these efforts. The day
before the music streaming giants’ IPO, Spotify released this announcement geared towards
helping women of color launch a new podcast, giving women an opportunity to submit unique
content and learning the podcast trade. This also includes a free, all-expense-paid trip to the Big
Apple, NYC. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well let’s see.
Here’s what we know: In Jeff Goins’ book, “Real Artists Don’t Starve”, we were reminded that
Jay-Z retained ownership of his masters as an early legacy-building strategy. Last month, 2
Chainz made the same move. Necole Kane of xonecole.com built an independent content
platform that was acquired by Will Packer earlier this year. Online television network,
Black&Sexy TV, owned by Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch, started on YouTube but
transitioned to their independent platform. A few years ago, they licensed the series
“RoomieLoverFriends” to BET and continue to retain ownership of their content. Across
industries, we’re seeing Black content creators leveraging their intellectual assets for more —
revenue, wealth or control so that they have the freedom to choose how to leverage it later on.
So, here’s the question: How does that $10,000 prize (ultimately, a short-term gain) impact the
revenue-generating and wealth-building potential of your creative assets in the long term? Let’s
First, if you’re not selected and Spotify decides to launch a podcast of their own, strangely
similar to the concept you pitched, you have no recourse.
If selected, Spotify will own an exclusive license to your content. Specifically they will own:
● A fully paid (meaning you aren’t entitled to a dime for anything beyond the $10,000).
● Royalty free (You know how artists receive a royalty each time their music is streamed
on Spotify? You won’t receive that).
● Transferable (Spotify gets to transfer this right to anyone).
● Sub-licensable (They get to grant the same license you granted them to anyone and
potentially get paid).
● Perpetual (lasting forever more with no end date),
● Worldwide (self-explanatory) to use your name, likeness, etc….
It only gets worse from there. Spotify isn’t gifting you $10,000. They are paying you $10,000 in
exchange for very broad rights to your content and your likeness forever more. If you’re just
starting out, you may think that the exposure outweighs the opportunity. Give yourself more
credit. If you’re winning this thing, it’s because you deserve to do so and your content is brilliant.
The value of your content and your likeness will rise with time. And, according to these terms,
you’ll be stripped of opportunities to generate additional revenue from content created on
Spotify’s platform. Those opportunities will far exceed the $10,000 gained up front.
Content Creation is an intellectual property (IP) asset that should be protected and a part of the
generational wealth conversation. Using IP for monetization is key. We talk about ownership, we
talk about wealth creation and innovation, but then we let other cultures leverage and monetize
what we currently own, without getting anything that will increase our level of wealth or our
future generations during that process.
Although it’s difficult to agree with Spotify’s terms, as a culture we cannot continue to point the
finger. Spotify is doing exactly what they should –utilizing resources and lean strategies to
increase their bottom line. It’s up to us to do our due diligence to make sure terms we agree to
are favorable and allow us to own our intellectual assets to help generate wealth for not only
ourselves but our families.
Intellectual property is not some elusive concept that lawyers toss around, just because. It’s
actually a major way to level the playing field of Black America. We are insanely creative people
but taking the steps to protect the ownership of our creative assets could allow us to build
generational wealth, spurred by our creativity alone. But, we have to slow down and always
think big picture first.
At this point, you may be reevaluating Spotify’s motive for this boot camp and even questioning
their ethics. However, that is not the aim of this letter.
This is a call to action!
While Spotify’s call for women of color to produce more podcasts is great, at the end of the day
Spotify, and companies akin, still have a job, and that is to generate revenue. You have a job as
well, that goes way beyond creating, and that is to protect ownership of your intellectual
property and monetize your creative assets for generations to come.
We’re not saying Spotify is all bad. What we’re saying is, read and understand the fine print ,
especially when it comes to ownership and terms that attempt to place a value on your
Intellectual Property = Generational Wealth
Your content is queen. It’s no secret that content distribution deals with independent creators
can come with an offer price of more than $10,000. So, think about the long term— how might
today’s “opportunity” limit you in the future? What future opportunities will you have to leave on
the table? How will the value of your stock increase between now and then? Then, make a fully
informed decision from there. It may be too late, since you’ve already submitted, but it’s never
too late to use this as a learning experience that will help you with future decisions.
It’s time we start focusing on generating wealth, monetizing our own intellectual assets, and
stop these big brands from monetizing our magic for their corporate gain. It’s time for you to bet
on you. We aren’t saying it will be easy but we are saying that it will be worth it.
Respectfully, your sisters in IP,
This open letter is co-authored by Janeya Griffin, founder & CEO of The Commercializer, and Patrice Perkins, principal attorney of Creative Genius Law.
Patrice N. Perkins is the principal attorney of Creative Genius Law® , a business, new media, and intellectual property law firm for entrepreneurs and businesses in the creative industries. She helps creative entrepreneurs and businesses protect their creative capital in order to expand their impact on communities and industries, preserve the legacy of their creations, and create generational wealth. Patrice has been recognized by the American Bar Association as a “Legal Rebel” for being an innovator in her space and frequently facilitates legal ed workshops. She is a board member of the Chicago Artists Coalition.
Janeya Griffin is founder & CEO of The Commercializer, a strategic consulting firm that collaborates with entrepreneurs and institutions to actualize intellectual property, bring ideas and talents to fruition, and increase economic growth opportunities. Focusing on technology, entrepreneurship, and inclusive innovation, Janeya is an experienced business development strategist. Her clients include small business owners, HBCUs and underserved community organizations.