Spotify is the Problem, Not Labels. (Well, Mostly…)

There is a narrative that keeps getting repeated by Spotify apologists and propagandists. It goes something like this, “The problem is not that Spotify pays too little to artists it’s that record labels are not paying the artists their fair share of royalties from Spotify.” Ha! When the gross payable is half a cent or less we think this has a lot more to do with Spotify than labels.

But this idea that labels are the problem pretty much means that Spotify ignores or otherwise feels that any artist not signed to a major label is unimportant in this conversation and that’s too bad.

We don’t know how many artists and small DIY indie labels aggregate to Spotify via Tunecore and CDBaby for example but we suspect it’s literally THOUSANDS of artists that are not signed to major labels (or ANY label). These are artists who are collecting either 100% of their Spotify royalties directly (Tunecore) or collecting those royalties after a 9% dist fee (CDBaby).

When Spotify shifts the blame for low royalties they are ignoring and invalidating all of the artists not signed to major labels, or any label. There are no industry middlemen taking Zoe Keating’s royalties from Spotify. The per stream rate is just incredibly, horribly bad. 

There are high profile artists such as Zoe Keating and others who echo the sentiments of artists across all strata’s of the business. The economics of Spotify are just unsustainable from the top down at present rates.

Everyone knows that record labels advance massive amounts of money to develop the careers of those artists signed. These advances are recouped from monies earned in royalties. One can argue about the recoupment mechanics but it doesn’t change the fact that with so little money being generated by Spotify the problem is much greater then the labels.

It’s also interesting that in all the talk of democratization and empowering musicians how little of it appears to be actually happening.

99.9% of Tunecore Artists Make Less Than Minimum Wage…

If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally?

We’ve detailed numerous times how at the top end of the food chain, the Spotify math just doesn’t work and would require more subscribers paying $9.99 a month then any other mature premium subscriber business has achieved to date.

Here’s some context for the chart above. Netflix only has 36m subscribers in the US, no free tier, and massive limitations on available titles of both catalog and new releases. Sirius XM, 26.3m in the US as a non-interactive curated service installed in homes, cars and accessible online. Premium Cable has 56m subscribers in the US paying much more than $10 a month and also with many limitations. Spotify… 3m paid subscribers in the US after four years. Tell us again about this strategy of “waiting for scale.” Three Million Paid… Three…

* 3m Spotify Subs Screen Shot
* 26.3m Sirius XM Subs Screen Shot
* 36m Netflix Subs Screen Shot
* 56m Premium Cable Subs Screen Shot
* $7b Music Business Screen Shot

And, just so everyone is clear, we’re not giving the labels a free pass either. But Spotify’s divisive punt to blame the labels for their own bad business model isn’t fair. We’ve reported on the 18% equity stake the labels took as part of their licensing agreements. That’s an 18% equity stake that we’re pretty sure the artists won’t participate in at the time of an IPO or sale (should there be one).

The larger issue in this conversation however is that if Spotify and on demand streaming services can not generate the same or more revenue then transactional sales, then the model is a net negative for artists.  This has nothing to do with labels and everything to do with a flawed business model. Removing the free Ad-Supported tier after a limited time is probably the first, best and most obvious immediate solution but not the only one that should be addressed.

Spotify can not hide behind their bad math by shifting blame to labels when so many artists are getting their royalties from Spotify directly without labels.

 


 

Spotify Must “Adapt Or Die” : Pricing For Sustainability

 

Five Important Questions For Spotify from Artists and Managers

 

Streaming Is the Future, Spotify Is Not. Let’s talk Solutions.

 

Sons of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter Is A Rock Star for Creators Rights

We love Kurt Sutter’s unapologetic response to Google and Silicon Valley’s assault on creators. Below are links to Kurt’s two editorials that are essential reading for all creators to understand what the “internet economy” means for artists of all disciplines.

Kurt Sutter Attacks Google: Stop Profiting from Piracy (Guest Column) | Variety

Google is in the process of systematically destroying our artistic future, and more importantly, the future of our children and grandchildren. They’re spending tens of millions of dollars each year on eroding creative copyright laws. I believe that if the creative community doesn’t intervene now, and by now, I mean, fucking now — we will be bound to a multigenerational clusterfuck that will take 40 to 50 years to unravel.

The last time this happened was in the 1950s, when the tobacco industry spent millions to hide the truth, and convince everyone that smoking cigarettes wasn’t really dangerous to your health.

Earlier this year, Kurt took to writing a response in Slate to an editorial by Google Lobbyist Marvin Ammori (which lead to a later editorial disclosure of Mr. Ammori’s relationships).

Not-So-Zen and the Art of Voluntary Agreements | Slate

Every writer, producer, actor, musician, director, tech wizard, and fine artist working today needs to be aware of what this all means for our future—we will lose the ability to protect and profit from our own work. Every kid out there who aspires to be an actor or musician or artist: This is your future that’s at stake. More importantly, everyone who enjoys quality entertainment: This impacts you most of all. Content excellence cannot sustain itself if it loses its capacity to reward the talent that creates it. Consider this clunky analogy: If your local car dealership started selling your favorite luxury car for $1,000, then $100, then started giving it away, what do you think would happen to the quality of that vehicle? Before long, the manufacturer would be forced to let go of the skilled laborer, the artisan, and the craftsman, and eventually cut back on everything in the production process. And before long, that fabulous, high-end car you so enjoyed will be a sheet of warped plywood on top of two rusty cans.

Yep, it’s cheap, and it’s shit.

Among the arguments that Kurt brings to light are the use of Merchants Of Doubt tactics by Silicon Valley interests, the mechanics employed by Google and YouTube detailed by The Digital Citizens Alliance and the ability for creatives of all disciplines to join Creative Future for a unified voice against these forces of exploitation.

Beastie Boys Respond to GoldieBlox in Fight Over ‘Girls’ | The New York Times

Keep your eyes on this story kids. This is an all out assault on artist and creators rights from Silicon Valley interests.

The Beast Boys Respond:

Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad.

We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.

As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads.

When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.

READ THE FULL STORY AT AD AGE:
http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/the-beastie-boys-fight-online-video-parody-of-girls/?_r=2