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Deny Spotify There is a new version of Robin Hood in town called Spotify, and he is taking from the poor to give to the rich.

Deny Spotify

There is a new version of Robin Hood in town called Spotify, and he is taking from the poor to give to the rich.

by Alan Rider, Contributing Editor
first published: January, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

A service marketed as giving you the freedom to access all sorts of music in a democratic way, open to all artists, is in reality actively discriminating in favour of the already wealthy and re-directing your money towards them without your permissio

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Anyone that follows a musician or band on Facebook and Instagram will have spotted irritating posts in the lead-up to the end of the year boasting about the number of Spotify streams they have accumulated over 2023.  What they won’t be boasting about so much is the paltry sums they have made from those, as the maximum you can earn in royalties on Spotify is, I gather, $0.003 a stream. That’s not going to buy you a lot of Lear Jets or mansions unless you are Taylor Swift.  As if it wasn’t galling enough watching Spotify rake in upwards of £56m of profits each year whilst screwing the majority of the artists that helped make them that money, upcoming changes to their royalty model mean that if you are one of the many thousands of smaller artists on Spotify, they won’t even be paying you that piffling amount.  From 2024 Spotify will stop paying anything at all to you if you have fewer than 1000 streams a year, potentially affecting tens of millions of songs, diverting that money instead to the needy.  ‘Needy’ in Spotify’s world means Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and their other mega-selling artists.

This is all down to the way Spotify distributes royalties for the music you stream. Artists are paid not by the individual listeners they attract, but by the proportional share they can claim of the total money in the system. That skews everything towards the bigger artists, where massive numbers of downloads make up equally massive proportions of the total pot. That means that if you decide to listen largely to lesser-known acts, most or all of your subscription money will still go to Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and their ilk, even if, as any right-thinking person should, you can’t stand them. It’s a cynical, industry-profit lead model rather than a user or artist-centric one like Bandcamp.  Spotify will claim that these changes will help make their platform better and more secure, I’m sure.  That’s the usual mantra trotted out to justify greedy profit-boosting changes. The fact that the major record labels have all welcomed the move speaks volumes.

If Spotify acting like an evil version of Robin Hood gets your blood boiling, there is sadly precious little you can do about it, other than leave Spotify.  There are alternatives, such as Tidal, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, Youtube Music and even Soundcloud, but they command only a fraction of the market share and reach of Spotify and many are run by corporate giants as bad as Spotify.  It’s an old story in the music industry.  Major labels and corporations will absorb any new trend and technology and collude to exploit it to the detriment of both artists and fans.  Faceless corporations have confidence in the lemming-like stupidity of the masses and their willingness to follow whatever trend they are told to, although I am sure I am doing a disservice to the humble Lemming, who are not known for supporting market-led exploitation.  This means that a service marketed as giving you freedom to access all sorts of music in a democratic way, open to all artists, is in reality actively discriminating in favour of the already wealthy and re-directing your money towards them without your permission.  They don’t care what you think about that either.  As a near monopoly, they don’t have to, and what’s more, if artists (in the US at least), club together to attempt to fight it, labour laws come into effect that regard the artists as suppliers, so any attempt to join forces is regarded as price fixing collusion and could land them in court!

Following on from Bandcamp’s acquisition by Songtradr and all that implies, the future is looking increasingly bleak for non-bland mainstream musicians and those who support them.  My hope (probably forlorn) is that at some point enough people will get fed up with all of this to spark a genuine pushback and real alternatives will spring up to draw support away from the giants.  Until then, you are probably best off putting in a little more effort and buying releases direct from the artists themselves where you can. Oh, and Happy New Year!

 

Alan Rider
Contributing Editor

Alan Rider is a Norfolk based writer and electronic musician from Coventry, who splits his time between excavating his own musical past and feeding his growing band of hedgehogs, usually ending up combining the two. Alan also performs in Dark Electronic act Senestra and manages the indie label Adventures in Reality.


about Alan Rider »»

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