Addendum: Spotify

I wrote a comment on Anna’s blog about Spotify, and originally wanted to post this in full. However, I felt it best to cut down my comment into a much smaller, streamlined one. I wanted to keep my original post, so here it is in full:


Hi Anna,

I love that you’ve raised the topic of Spotify, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with your conclusions. Whenever an artist decides to pull music from Spotify or refuses to let their music be put on there, the response from Spotify is always the same “If people are listening on Spotify, at least they aren’t pirating it!”

Now, I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying this. It relies on three assumptions:

1) That pirating is necessarily a bad thing

2) That Spotify gives artists a liveable wage

3) That there are no better alternatives for artists

I find these to be severely misguided and I’ll tackle them one by one. Firstly, this article by Anthony Hill (http://www.broadbandchoices.co.uk/news/2013/05/piracy-downloads-130315 – seemingly my go-to article as of late) shows that piracy often leads to MORE album sales and not less. I know this from experience with friends and acquaintances who pirate as a way of “trying before they buy”. They are often those who spend the most on music, or if not, often say they would if they had more disposable income.

Secondly, Spotify still pays artists a ridiculously low rate per play. For the artists who are in the Top 40, that’s not a problem – the sheer number of plays on their hit singles mean they rake in the cash. However, take, for instance, the case of King Crimson – such a large, succesful and influential band must be able to make a lot off of Spotify, right? Well, Robert Fripp has never been a fan of Spotify, and thus only two tracks were ever made available on there. Between them, they garnered 618 plays, leading to Spotify sending a massive £1.61 (Yes, you read that right) to the record company (http://www.dgmlive.com/diaries.htm?entry=15629). The money then went through the company and had to be divided between the label and the band members. What was paid out to them is so little it’s not even worth calculating.

Honestly, if King Crimson can make so little money from their tracks, what hope do small, unheard-of bands have? 618 plays is probably about as many plays as such a band will acquire in a year, and that pittance can hardly be considered a liveable wage.

I did a little number crunching of my own to investigate. Even IGNORING the multiple £100+ collector’s boxes that I have bought from King Crimson, I have spent at least £100 if not £200 on King Crimson’s music. By comparison, I have listened to them over 5000 times in the last few years according to last.fm (and are my most played artist) which, after a few sums equates to about £13-14 paid to the label. In other words, I would have to listen to King Crimson for over 30 more years at the same rate to give King Crimson anywhere near how much I’ve paid for music (again, excluding the collector’s sets). And I will no doubt be buying more music from them as the years go on.

Spotify claim that people still buy CDs and downloads even when using Spotify, but I question this. From my own experience, a lot of people I know who once pirated and now use Spotify rarely, if ever, buy music any more. They believe that by enduring adverts or paying a subscription fee, they can sufficiently support the artists they listen to, because Spotify presents itself as an endgame and not as a stepping stone to further supporting the artist.

Now, there is no doubt that the playing field has changed. The old record industry model doesn’t work any more. But there are better platforms, in my opinion, than Spotify. I truly believe that Bandcamp, which I mentioned in my vlog this week, is a far better platform as it mostly cuts out the money-grabbing middle men, and allows artists to share music on their terms.

Sorry this is such a long rant but I hope it was at least interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks,

Calum

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