Spotify – Disgusting Thief or Admirable Music Promoter?

Ever since their inception in the mid nineties and their boom after the turn of the millennium, music streaming services have caused wide debate between fans, entrepreneurs and the musicians themselves. The debate, in essence, revolves around whether or not the artist gets a good deal by allowing their music to be streamed by services such as Spotify or Lastfm.

Spotify have hit the rock headlines through the tweets of Atoms For Peace (and Radiohead) front-man Thom Yorke and fellow band member and producer Nigel Godrich. In protest to the perceived bad deal they and other bands are getting, they have removed the Atoms For Peace debut album ‘Amok’ from the streaming service (well worth checking out – as mentioned at the bottom).

Nigel Godrich argues that “new recorded music needs funding”, which has deeper consequences for new artists. The amount of money the new music would generate on these sites would not be able to cover all the recording expenses associated with creating a professional studio album in the twenty-first century.

Naturally there is a play-off; the loss of money from sales weighing itself against the added promotion received from being on the site. In the modern world where rock music isn’t privileged to mainstream radio attention and combined with the fact that record stores are dwindling, artists have turned the majority of their attention towards the internet. Recently, Swedish metal band In Flames highlighted the importance of a powerful online presence: “the Instagrams, the Facebooks, the Twitters – it’s hard to do all these things”.

Therefore is it only right that Spotify can underpay artists for streaming new music, when every last drip of online ‘real estate’ is so precious in the current market? After all, their service provides free promotion and zero maintenance required from the band, freeing up time to focus on other means of marketting. In this sense, Godrich admitted that Spotify was perfect for promoting and earning money off a back catalogue of music. What could be simpler than letting Spotify deal with your past, whilst you focus on the present and your future?

Whilst Spotify might appear to have the upper hand, Godrich was keen to show how the artists can grab the power back. He argues that if “all new music producers [are] bold and vote with their feet, they have no power without new music.” Although his argument makes sense, such an elaborate and widespread boycott of streaming services would be almost impossible to pull-off. Perhaps this is why Thom Yorke added that although only one album has been removed they are “standing up for [their] fellow musicians”.

This might seem like a drop in the ocean, but if the protest works and other bands follow suit, this could be a turning point in the modern online music scene. Whilst streaming services, like Spotify, are clearly trying to squeeze all the money possible out of the artists, they do this because they, too, are a business and they hold a massive percentage of the available online promotion. Just think how easy it is to stumble haphazardly across new music on these services and you can see why they can afford to take the margins they do. It is always a shame if new artists are being stifled by other corporations, but just remember opportunities for new bands are much greater than in the past due to the extensive promotion offered from all manner of social networks, web pages and online music streaming and selling services.

Thieves? No. Business Hats? Most definitely.

This Week’s Recommended Listening:

  1. Atoms For Peace – ‘Dropped’
  2. Atoms For Peace – ‘Default’
  3. In Flames – ‘Come Clarity’
  4. In Flames – ‘Sleepless Again’

2 thoughts on “Spotify – Disgusting Thief or Admirable Music Promoter?

  1. It is kinda argueable that today is easier to promote your band. Until the beggining of the 90’s we had really all sorts of bad skilled musicians/bands making it JUST BECAUSE they were a band. Nowadays you have access to stuff you didn’t in the past, but still, as you have access to better gear, better media and stuff, richer people have access to much better gear and much better media stuff.

  2. As you mention the bigger artists have access to better gear. However, today there are so many fairly cheap and very accessible recording software available, that being able to record demos and spread interest that way is vastly more achievable than in the past. All in all, I would rather be a new artist in today’s climate. If I cross briefly into the world of books, the author Hugh Howey is now a bestseller for his Wool Trilogy, which he independently published via Amazon. You could have never done that before. That is why the internet is truly a great platform for the aspiring creative.

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