Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings labored arduous to deliver their Black tradition podcast, The Nod, to life in 2017. While working full-time on different packages for Gimlet Media in addition to on an impartial podcast referred to as For Colored Nerds, Luse and Eddings brainstormed The Nod’s idea, recorded and edited a pattern 20-minute episode together with a 10-minute section and a trailer, after which pitched the present to the higher-ups at Gimlet Media, a podcasting community now owned by Spotify. They ultimately received the inexperienced mild and commenced releasing an episode per week for almost three years. On their present, they shared their ideas about tradition and occasions, and in Luse and Eddings’ eyes, they made The Nod, not Gimlet or Spotify.
“Our show is the way we, Brittany and I, see the world,” Eddings tells me. “We call ourselves Blackness’ biggest fans. We don’t call ourselves, necessarily, experts. We feel like we have a unique way of looking at things, and our show is our exploration of that.”
But when Eddings and Luse thought of increasing The Nod’s universe past podcasts, they bumped into an issue: Spotify owns all of the rights to the model, that means in the event that they wished to store The Nod identify round for a e book deal, film deal, or some other use of its identify, they’d want Spotify’s permission.
“At the end of the day, investing in someone’s talent isn’t the same as having the talent yourself,” Luse tells The Verge. “It’s very unusual that [Spotify and Gimlet] are the one individuals who can declare possession over [The Nod and its segments].”
That present bears our faces. It’s in regards to the distinctive lens by way of which Eric and I see the world. It’s critically acclaimed, beloved, and extra related than ever. It’s spinoff of a present we created earlier than we’d even heard of Gimlet. Do we not deserve to personal even a fraction of it?
— Brittany Luse (@bmluse) June 18, 2020
Luse and Eddings are solely two of the podcasters who’ve begun talking out in regards to the constraints of their podcasting contracts, which had been written earlier than they hosted profitable reveals. Misha Euceph tweeted about missing management over her present overlaying Muslims’ lives within the US, which is owned by Southern California’s KPCC. Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, the hosts of BuzzFeed’s now-canceled Another Round, additionally lately tweeted their need to personal their podcast’s again catalog, aka their RSS feed, which not solely comprises their present’s former episodes but in addition provides them the power to publish new ones to current subscribers.
“BuzzFeed may simply curry some favor from me (and I think about others) by granting me and [Clayton] the rights to the [Another Round] again catalog, a factor that’s free and is straightforward to do,” Nigatu wrote. Under the hashtag #FreeAnotherRound, former and present BuzzFeed workers tweeted in assist together with different media figures — even Lin-Manuel Miranda joined in.
These hosts don’t personal their reveals as a result of they created and hosted the collection whereas employed by a media firm that paid their salaries. But the intimate format of podcasts could make that company management contentious. Listeners and hosts really feel linked, and followers want to see reveals proceed even after a community cancels them, as within the case of Another Round. That’s why management over a podcast’s again catalog, or RSS feed, has turn into a focus for hosts. Once they go away a community or their present ends, the podcast networks have free rein to pivot their feed, insert new adverts, and even relaunch a present with a brand new host.
“The podcast feed is the factor, like, it’s the keys to the dominion,” says Amanda McLoughlin, CEO of Multitude Studios, a podcast collective and manufacturing firm. “It is the only way that you connect with 100 percent of your audience. People can have social media personally that listeners go ahead and follow, future projects mailing lists, but your audience is totally and utterly composed of the subscribers to your RSS feed.”
And whereas we’re sharing our experiences, I do not personal a single % of Tell Them, I Am. It’s a podcast largely primarily based on my story. I pitched it in my first week as an worker at KPCC. I used to be 24, did not know something about IP or representatives.
— Misha Euceph (@meuceph) June 18, 2020
This implies that if hosts want to inform their listeners a few new venture, the only finest method to accomplish that could be by way of audio printed on their already established feed. Access is essential. But corporations have causes to not want to fork over management of a present they funded and aren’t obligated to hand over: they will reuse that feed to kickstart a brand new present, launching with an viewers that’s constructed on the work of the previous hosts. On prime of advertising potential, corporations may also proceed getting cash off RSS feeds, even after reveals finish, as a result of of dynamic promoting, which lets them insert adverts into outdated reveals which may achieve listens.
“That’s what people are talking about. The fact that even though I have left and you’re no longer paying me a salary, you continue to make money on the work that I did for you, and I am left with nothing,” McLoughlin says. “I can’t talk to my audience. I can’t make money on that work.”
What makes the podcasting surroundings particularly fraught is that not all creators are handled equally. Other Gimlet Media staff labored out co-ownership offers, for instance, Luse says. At BuzzFeed, Ahmed Ali Akbar, the host of See Something Say Something, says he didn’t pay for the switch of his RSS feed when he went impartial and began supporting himself off Patreon. A BuzzFeed spokesperson says the corporate nonetheless places adverts into his present, however that Akbar may take the podcast to one other community if he wished. Akbar tells me the choice was made by govt management at BuzzFeed News. (He didn’t reply about whether or not this was distinctive to his contract and written and agreed upon forward of time.)
It’s usually massive names with the leverage and the facility to negotiate who’re in a position to keep away from restrictive contracts. Joe Rogan, for instance, is licensing his present and feed to Spotify solely and can share within the advert income. Kim Kardashian West also isn’t giving Spotify full possession of her present.
But different, smaller podcasters have had to begin over once they go away a giant community however want to hold their present alive. Failing Upwards, for instance, a former Barstool Sports podcast, had to rebrand as Throwing Fits in January after its hosts left the community. The present began a brand new feed from scratch and had to regain its viewers beneath a brand new identify. It’s now funded by way of Patreon.
Hosts usually have little negotiating energy when beginning a present, particularly once they’re already working at a media firm and don’t but have an viewers. These offers supply hosts some actual benefits — for one, networks entrance manufacturing prices and supply a construction for reveals to promote adverts and market themselves, whereas impartial hosts have to do that each one on their personal. Plus, networks give hosts a gentle wage, well being care, and a workforce of producers and editors to assist them deliver their imaginative and prescient to life. Luse and Eddings say Gimlet allowed them to make the present they wished full-time, which they particularly valued throughout a time once they each wished and wanted a constant revenue after making their impartial present for years.
Eddings says the advantages of a community may outweigh the loss of their identify and catalog, however provided that the possession guidelines had been constantly utilized — not selectively given to individuals who have the identify recognition or sources to negotiate their personal offers. Luse and Eddings say that being Black doubtless factored into their negotiations, whether or not unconsciously or not on Gimlet’s half.
“Who could have known that when we were structuring these very one-sided deals five, six, seven years ago that there would be so many more lucrative opportunities to explore new platforms using original podcasting content,” Luse says. “Or who would know that a company like Spotify or someone like Kim Kardashian would be interested in figuring out how to monetize their content through a platform such as podcasting?”
Spotify declined to remark.
Podcast contracts, like Luse and Eddings’, are structured equally to previous music contracts, points out writer Cherie Hu in a bit first printed within the Hot Pod publication. Networks personal the IP and full catalog of episodes indefinitely, like labels usually do with albums. Unlike podcasters, nonetheless, even musicians locked out of their personal content material are allowed to tour beneath their identify, launch merch, and put out spinoff works.
“In contrast,” Hu wrote, “many modern podcasting and digital-media contracts appear to seek to buy out all of a producer’s intellectual property, encompassing the original deliverable and all resulting derivative works.”
This implies that podcasters like Eddings and Luse not solely have to ask for permission to publish new podcast episodes, however in addition they want Spotify’s blessing to promote anything with The Nod identify and certain give the corporate a minimize in trade. Currently, The Nod podcast is on pause whereas the workforce works on a video model of the present for Quibi. Gimlet negotiated that deal, and Luse and Eddings are govt producers on the present and not Spotify staff.
The similar goes for Euceph, who labored at KPCC and was compelled to cease making her present. “Like many other studios, SCPR owns the rights to the content we produce,” says Herb Scannell, president and CEO of Southern California Public Radio, to The Verge. “But we are also actively having conversations with Misha about the future of the show and evaluating our creator engagement models.”
Both Euceph and The Nod’s remedy is customary throughout corporations; most networks retain management over the reveals they pilot. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti stated as a lot in a tweet reply to Another Round host Nigatu.
“Investing in content and transferring the IP free of charge is not a small thing,” he tweeted. “It never happens.”
In a leaked Slack chat and in that tweet, Peretti stated he provided the Another Round IP, or its identify, to the hosts without cost, however wouldn’t give them entry to their RSS feed with out charging. He suggests the hosts may license their feed.
Funnily sufficient, @peretti seems to assume that the literal naked minimal assist given Another Round was above and past. And possibly it was, however that must be embarrassing in and of itself, as a result of it was bullshit. I do know this as a result of I used to be instructed to cease pitching podcast adverts. https://t.co/S1vE1Y3uOk pic.twitter.com/AQAdMnjhZk
— kaye toal, ghost rights activist (@ohkayewhatever) June 17, 2020
“Yes, you giving us the show to take somewhere else was an unprecedented move, but that is not a reflection of your goodness, kindness, or love of the show,” Clayton tweeted in response. “It’s a reflection of the sad state of media and how it uses Black content creators every day.”
Peretti responded, finally saying his attorneys and the hosts’ may discuss and check out to come to an settlement, doubtless one that will contain Nigatu and Clayton paying for entry to their present. A spokesperson says the corporate is providing Nigatu and Clayton an settlement comparable to the one See Something Say Something has. Nigatu and Clayton didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Although most podcast contracts are restrictive, some networks try to upend the system. Juleyka Lantigua Williams, the CEO and founder of the Lantigua Williams & Co. community, says she shares all IP and possession rights with creators, itemizing each their names on trademark requests. She fronts the associated fee of manufacturing to begin, however as soon as the present makes sufficient cash to pay her again, she shares the income, whether or not it comes from adverts or a film deal, with the present hosts. If they ever wished to take their present outdoors the community, they’d have to pay her again for the upfront prices, which might then give them possession of their feed. She says probably the most precious half of these podcasts is to iterate past them throughout varieties and platforms. Sharing income incentivizes creators to intention excessive.
“Because that is the most important thing, I always want to find collaborators who also think about their ideas in multiple ways and in multiple platforms,” she says. “And so doing a contract that pleases them and their creativity is basically the way that you create really fertile soil for ideas and innovation because who doesn’t want to be supported in their growth? Who doesn’t want to be encouraged to dream really big?”
For corporations that don’t work these offers out from the beginning, creators have turned to unions for extra of a voice. Gimlet Media’s union, nonetheless, continues to be in negotiations with Spotify, and BuzzFeed News’ union hasn’t ratified a contract with BuzzFeed, both, although each are searching for some management over staff’ artistic works. Luse notes that, proper now, most podcast networks basically personal hosts’ faces, voices, concepts, ideas, opinions, and writing indefinitely.
“The point is that that day has come,” Luse says. “We’re here, and we’re really and truly past the point where we can continue as an industry to present creators with deals like this, it’s not ethical. It’s not fair.”