Well, not so evil it’s going to stop me plugging the latest song I’ve mastered. “Wish”, by my good friend Ewan Buckley and his band Public Son, is out on the streaming platforms including Spotify.
A common criticism is Spotify doesn’t pay artists enough. However, the majority (73%) of Spotify’s streaming revenue already goes to artists (or rights holders at least), so the only way for artists to receive significantly more is for that revenue to grow. Convincing subscribers to pay more is tricky, but getting more subscribers is rapidly happening, as this graph illustrates.
Recorded music revenues peaked in 1999, then through the powerful force of ever-changing technology, and the never-changing human desire for convenience, droves of people decided they didn’t want to pay for the CD format anymore. The market was well into a pitch dive before Spotify came on the scene in 2007.
A model then emerged whereby listeners were happy to pay a small monthly fee for easy access to a large library of music they didn’t have to source or manage themselves. Now through growth in streaming the market is turning up again, doubling in size between 2014 and 2021. Sure, it’s not yet reached the giddy heights of the “CD peak” (circa 1990 to 2005), but it’s heading there.
This isn’t to say it’s now easy for artists and they necessarily should put all their eggs in the streaming basket. Recorded music is still a damn competitive business and only exceptionally compelling songs will generate significant revenue. I like to take a long-term view that music in recorded form is a series of blips in recent human history, but there is always a desire for music in its more participatory forms: live music and music teaching.
Some artists are also successfully returning to an old fashioned patronage model, where they find folks willing to “subscribe” directly to the artists themselves, providing a regular income to make art without the pressure of having to sell a “product”.
Other artists are promoting NFTs (non-fungible tokens), but be warned they are “worthless, fraudulent magic beans, with massive CO2 generation per transaction”.
Returning to Spotify, it certainly has a dark side, racking up blemishes on its record including:
- Paying $200 million to Joe Rogan who has spread some dangerous misinformation.
- Experimenting with a “promotional” royalty rate option that verges on payola.
- Commissioning cheap filler music for some editorial playlists that disadvantages “real artists”.
- Excesses of the corporate elite who have made a lot of speculative money through Spotify’s perceived value on the stock market (though this criticism probably applies to most streaming companies, and to the record labels who are major shareholders in Spotify).
So in the interests of not being too Spotify centric, I’ve now made my “Volume 6” playlist available on Apple Music. Keen listeners may notice one song is missing – Isolationism by Ben Salter. He has decided to remove his songs from streaming platforms as a form of protest. It’s all rather complex, isn’t it? What are your thoughts on streaming and the future of music?