Biting the hand that feeds: why does Spotify hate artists?

Biting the hand that feeds: why does Spotify hate artists?

Music streaming platforms have long been criticized for not giving artists their fair share, but with the launch of its new song booster service, Spotify is taking things to the next level. In this article, I am asking the question - why does Spotify hate artists?

Let's unpack this song booster nonsense then. This week, Spotify announced a new tool that will allow recording artists to achieve more 'reach' for their music in exchange for reduced royalties. Essentially, Spotify will crunch the numbers and tweak the algorithm so that certain songs are more heavily promoted, for a price. Both artists and record labels can choose the songs they want to promote in the new song booster service. Here's what Spotify says is the thinking behind this one:

In this new experiment, artists and labels can identify music that’s a priority for them, and our system will add that signal to the algorithm that determines personalized listening sessions. This allows our algorithms to account for what’s important to the artist—perhaps a song they’re particularly excited about, an album anniversary they’re celebrating, a viral cultural moment they’re experiencing, or other factors they care about.

So it sounds like songs that have been selected for promotion will appear more frequently in relevant automatically generated radios and autoplay systems. Spotify also mentioned that it will continue to keep boosting songs that are being listened to by users. This is different from a regular promotion campaign on Spotify, where labels set a budget for the promotion of certain songs or artists. An official statement said that listener satisfaction is a priority for Spotify and that it won’t guarantee placement to labels or artists, only ever recommending music it thinks listeners will want to hear. Still, put quite frankly, this is a simple 'we'll promote your music more if you agree to take even less money' system. And it stinks!

Spotify Streams 102720 v4
How Spotify recommends music to subscribers. / © Spotify

How much are we talking about here?

None of the music streaming platforms like to talk about how much they pay artists for their music, but Spotify is widely reported to shell out somewhere between $0.0033 and $0.0047 per stream. For comparison, a report from 2019 suggested that Apple Music pays an average rate of $0.0056, Google Play Music (now YouTube Music) pays $0.0055, and Deezer around $0.00436. We'll have to take these figures with a grain of salt, of course, but if the reports are correct Spotify is already among the least profitable platforms for artists as it is.

The point I'm making here is that artists are already unhappy at the measly royalties Spotify pays them. Earlier this month, more than 4,000 artists signed up for the Justice at Spotify campaign. On the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) lists of demands in a minimum one cent per stream royalty rate. "The company behind the streaming platform continues to accrue value, yet music workers everywhere see little more than pennies in compensation for the work they make," states the campaign. As well as increased royalties, Justice at Spotify is calling for transparency in practices, and for the platform to stop fighting artists.

A UMAW statement reads: "Music workers create all of the enormous wealth Spotify accumulates for its CEO, its investors, and the major labels. But we artists continue to be underpaid, misled, and otherwise exploited by the company." You can imagine, then, how well this new song booster scheme has gone down with artists.

Where do we go from here then?

As a music lover, it pains me to see the direction the industry is heading in. It's a grim time to be an artist, let's face it. Sales of vinyl records maybe experience something of a comeback, but music streaming platforms have decimated record sales in general since their peak era between the mid-60s and the mid-00s. Today, the live experience is where the bigger artists make their money, and it's been eight months since many of them were allowed to put on a gig. Spotify's latest move is yet another kick in the teeth for many talented musicians who deserve better. Without artists, you don't have music, and without music Spotify has nothing.

I strongly believe that if you love artists' work, you should pay them for it. I too am guilty of relying on Spotify too heavily, and failing to supports the bands I love as a result. In a pre-Covid world, I would attend the shows any time a band I even remotely enjoyed came to Berlin, but I could do more. Ultimately, though, it's the music streaming platform that could really have the biggest impact on supporting artists financially so that we can continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor - the music!

What do you think about the new Spotify song booster scheme? And how do you support the musicians you love? Let us know below the line.

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Source: The Next Web

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