By Chris Castle
[This post first appeared on Artist Rights Watch]
Mansplaining, anyone? If you remember Spotify’s 2014 messaging debacle with Taylor Swift, we always suspected that the Spotify culture actually believed that artists should be grateful for whatever table scraps that Spotify’s ad-supported big pool model threw out to artists. They were only begrudgingly interested in converting free users to paid subscribers, which still pays artists nothing due to the big pool’s hyper-efficient market share revenue distribution model.
And then there was another one of Spotify’s artist and label relations debacles with Epidemic Sound–Spotify’s answer to George Orwell’s “versificator” in the Music Department that produced “countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department.”
The common threads of most of Spotify’s crazy wrong turns–and they are legion–is what they indicate: An incredible heartless arrogance and an utter failure to understand the business they are in. A business that ultimately turns on the artists and the songwriters. As long as there is an Apple Music and the other music streaming platforms, artists can simply walk across the street–which is why Taylor Swift could make Daniel Ek grovel like a little…well, let’s just leave it at grovel.
But–this long history of treating artists and especially songwriters poorly is what makes it so important to preserve Apple Music as a healthy competitor to Spotify and the only thing that stops Spotify from becoming a monopolist. A fact that seems entirely lost on their boy Rep. David Cicilline’s anti-Apple bill that “seems aimed directly at Apple and has Spotify’s litigation against Apple written all over it.” (Mr. Cicilline runs virtually unopposed in his Rhode Island elections, which if you know anything about Rhode Island politics is just the way the “Crimetown” machine likes it.)
Why are ostensibly smart people given to such arrogance? Mostly because they are rich and believe their own hype. But never has that reality been on such public display in all its putridness than in a truly unbelievable exchange at the Sync Summit in 2019 in New York between home town independent artist Ashley Jana and former Spotify engineer Jim Anderson who was being interviewed by Mark Freiser who runs that conference (and who doesn’t exactly come off like a prize puppy either).
Ashley recorded the entire exchange in (what else) a YouTube video and Digital Music News reported on it recently. Here’s part of the exchange between Ashley and Mr. Anderson after Ashley had the temerity to bring up…money!
Jana: We’re not making any money off of the streams. And I know that you know this, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot. I’m just saying, one cent is really not even that much money if you add 2 million times .01, it’s still not that much. And if you would just consider —
Anderson: Oh, I’m going to go down this road, you know that.
Interviewer (Mark Frieser): This is really not a road we’ve talked about before, but I’m gonna let him do this —
Jana: Thank you again.
Anderson: Do you want me to go down this road? I’m gonna go down this road.
Frieser: Well, if you need to.
Anderson: Wait, do I go down the entitlement road now, or do I wait a minute?
Frieser: Well, you know what, I think you should do what you need to do.
Anderson: Should we do it now?
Frieser: Yeah, whatever you feel you need to do.
Anderson: So maybe I should go down the entitlement road now? Or should I wait a few minutes?
Frieser: Do you want to wait a few minutes? Maybe take another question or two?
Anderson: [to the audience] Do you guys want to talk about entitlement now? Or do we talk about —
[Crowd voices interest in hearing the answer from Anderson]
Jana: I don’t think it’s entitlement to ask for normal rates, like before.
Anderson: Normal rates?
Jana: No, the idea is to make it a win-win situation for all parties.
Anderson: Okay, okay. So we should talk about entitlement. I mean, I have an issue with Taylor Swift’s comments. I have this issue with it, and we’ll call it entitlement. I mean, I consider myself an artist because I’m an inventor, okay? Now, I freely give away my patents for nothing. I never collect royalties on anything.
I think Taylor Swift doesn’t need .00001 more a stream. The problem is this: Spotify was created to solve a problem. The problem was this: piracy and music distribution. The problem was to get artists’ music out there. The problem was not to pay people money.
You really should listen to the entire video to really comprehend the arrogance dripping off of Mr. Anderson’s condescension.