Bring out your shills… It’s no surprise that Spotify has once again enlisted it’s shills and PR machinery to defend it’s exploitation of artists, bad business model, and horrible royalties. The latest offensive comes as the major labels have announced that the unlimited free tier is not working for them (go figure, free doesn’t pay?).
Last year we wondered out loud, Who will be the First Fired Label Execs over Spotify Fiasco & Cannibalization? In February of this year we found out when Rob Wells exited his post at UMG. Around the same time public comments were made by Lucian Grainge for the need to get more paid subscription revenue. He also noted that the free tiers are not creating the type of performance required for a sustainable ecosystem of recorded music sales. Sony music chief Doug Morris has also come to the party stating, “In general, free is death.”
Generally speaking we’re not often fans of major labels (remember they have 18% equity in Spotify) but we’re glad they’ve gotten out the calculators. Right now, the three major labels are currently reviewing their licenses with Spotify which are up for renewal this year. This is the time for the major labels to renegotiate those licenses to be more fair for artists.
We’ve detailed the math here, Music Streaming Math Can It All Add Up? In that post we look at the numbers based only upon paying subscribers. The bottom line is that even at the current rate of $9.99 (per month, per subscriber) it’s going to take a lot more paying subscribers to even get close to the type of revenue earned from transactional sales. Free, ad supported revenue, not even close.
Here’s a couple more things to keep in mind that we’ve detailed:
* Spotify Per Stream Rates Drop as Service Adds More Users…
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* USA Spotify Streaming Rates Reveal 58% of Streams Are Free, Pays Only 16% Of Revenue
But perhaps the worst part of Spotify was outlined by Sharky Laguna’s editorial, “The Real Reason Why The Spotify Model Is Broken.” The well written piece details how the artist you play, may not be the artist who get’s paid due to the fixed revenue pool and market share distribution of revenues.
Now keep in mind we’re not anti-streaming. We completely believe that streaming is the future of music distribution and delivery. None of our arguments here are anti-streaming or anti-technology.
Our arguments are anti-exploitation and anti-bad business models. Technology and economics are different issues. We detailed our thoughts for moving forward with potential solutions in our post Streaming Is The Future, Spotify Is Not, Let’s Talk Solutions. We look at five practices that can make streaming music economics viable for all stakeholders and generate the revenue required for a sustainable ecosystem.
When a Spotify rep says, “We think the model works” keep this in mind as we review the Spotify Time Machine…
* 2010 A Brief History Of Spotify, “How Much Do Artists Make?” @SXSW #SXSW
Back in 2010 during Daniel Ek’s Keynote Speech an audience member who identified themselves as an independent musician asked how much activity it would take on Spotify to earn just one US Dollar. The 27 year old wunderkind and CEO of the company was stumped for an answer… Five years later we have a pretty good idea why.
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* 2012 A Brief History Of Spotify, “It Increases Itunes Sales”… @SXSW #SXSW
Ek strenuously denied that his streaming service cannibalises sales of music through services such as Apple’s iTunes.
“There’s not a shred of data to suggest that. In fact, all the information available points to streaming services helping to drive sales,” he said.
Of course, that was until this past year when Itunes sales are reported to have declined by 13-14% and that is pretty much directly attributed to the cannibalization done by Spotify. Hello…
It is said that one of the definitions of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results. Our suggestion to the those in positions of power is simply this, if you want something different, you have to be willing to do something different.
Sure, Spotify was a grand experiment but after half a decade we now have the data to know if that experiment is working out (or not). In the end, it’s just math and free doesn’t pay…