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Spotify: Helping Or Hurting Independent Artists?

by John Oszajca on December 11, 2014

Spotify monster

A few weeks ago I posted something on the MMM Facebook page about the Fact that Taylor Swift recently pulled her entire catalog from Spotify. She was quoted as saying “I’m not wiling to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music… And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free”.

Long story short, the post ignited a s#!t storm of comments. It seemed that people were fairly split down the middle. Many applauded Taylor Swift for the move, others thought she was… Well, let’s just say that others were not so kind.

More than just lighting up my Facebook feed and my email inbox, the story seemed to really trigger an avalanche of news stories and general discussion about Spotify, and streaming music in general.

So I thought it only appropriate that we raise the issue here on the latest episode of the Music Marketing Manifesto Podcast.

For this episode I asked NCS entertainment CEO, Niels Schroeter, to join me to really try and address the many different concerns and questions that independent artists are raising at the moment.

Is Spotify destroying the earning potential of both main stream and independent artists, or is it the future of music? Listen in to get our take.

To listen to the interview just go to iTunes >> Search “Music Marketing Manifesto” >> and subscribe. The episode should start to download immediately. You can also click here to find the MMM podcast on iTunes.

Or if you prefer, you can also listen right here on the site. Just click the play button below. (Note*** For more player control please listen in iTunes)

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If you enjoy this episode then please do me a favor and go to iTunes, click “subscribe”, and leave a rating and/or review. Those ratings and reviews are crucial to the success of the podcast. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. What’s been your experience with Spotify? Is it helping or hurting independent artists?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan January 17, 2015 at 2:30 am

A podcast on the windowing technique would be great! Thought this episode would be a bust (no new info) but your guest was a great interview choice. Thanks for all you do!

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John Oszajca January 18, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Thanks Jonathan, glad you enjoyed the episode.

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Martin Miller January 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Hello John;
I read most of the comments and like everyone else, I too have an opinion. I started playing music some 50 years ago working in a local night club. I went from playing for the love of music to playing for the money I earned from it. At age 63 I am back to playing for the love of music. Perhaps most musicians also go through these changes? I do believe that if you work hard at something you believe in and happen to enjoy it, you should expect to be paid for it. I have songs that I have written that I could put on the internet. The problem is they are not copyrighted and I fear they would be pirated. I don’t have the money (there we go again with the money) to have them copyrighted, so I suppose my recordings will simply die with me. Anyway, it’s just my opinion and personal perspective on the subject. Thanks, Martin Miller

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John Oszajca January 11, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Hi Martin,

Thanks for joining in. I appreciate your experience and perspective.

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CowboySlim December 15, 2014 at 11:55 pm

For those of you who doubt that Spotify manipulates their payments to avoid paying, I offer evidence. I just this moment took a screenshot of my cdbaby account. It shows the most recent payments I have received for my music. The points I made about Spotify manipulating data to avoid paying cash are still valid. Multiple payments for the same song, split so that the money doesn’t add up. Different payment rates for the same song. Why in the world don’t they pay the same RATE for the same song on the same day?? And why do they have different rates anyway? If I sell a download, or you sell a download, shouldn’t there be ONE RATE for a download?? But here I am selling two downloads on the same day of the same song, and the compensation rate is different. I don’t see any way to attach a screenshot here, so I will invite you ALL, anyone who is interested in seeing the proof, email me and I will send a copy of the screenshot by return email. cowboyslim@netzero.com

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Doug Clyde December 15, 2014 at 10:16 am

Thanks John for including us in this conversation! One topic that didn’t come up was cover songs. Royalties cost 1 penny per stream for covers (plus fees). So, if Spotify only pays out one third of a penny at the most, that means you loose most of your money. I made the mistake of putting a cover album on Spotify. It has generated thousands of plays which I’ve lost a lot money on. Thankfully, there’s been enough download sales to balance it out, but there needs to be a better streaming service for cover albums. The most I’ve been paid for streaming was through Rhapsody, a paid streaming service. They use to pay about one penny per stream (not sure how much they do now). So, you could almost break even with them, but not quite. Perhaps cover songs shouldn’t even be on any streaming service. Any thoughts?

– Doug Clyde
ALBEDO MUSIC

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John Oszajca December 16, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Hi Doug,

This is a totally valid concern. I suppose one needs to weigh out whether or not the potential for exposure is greater with the cover, than the revenue lost for using it. But thanks for raising the issue.

Let me know if I can ever help with anything else.

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John Oszajca December 16, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Hi Doug,

This is a totally valid concern. I suppose one needs to weigh out whether or not the potential for exposure is greater with the cover, than the revenue lost for using it. But thanks for raising the issue.

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Jenelle May 3, 2016 at 8:32 pm

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Roman Kahlone December 13, 2014 at 9:32 am

Great Podcast John,I believe it’s fine if it’s short lived just for a small hype.And a lot of you may not know but a lot of digital companies put you on there anyways.s So I wonder how legit a lot of the digital companies are?There for sure is a grey area.It is confusing and really think there needs to be more involvement in genre marketing also.I have free downloads all over the net with a lot of piracy.To me there is good and bad but feel like everything is controlled.Radio is great, but it seems like the public always finds a ways for free downloafs.So I am stuck in the middle and believe digital sales are starting to hit downstream as hard copies have.Respect Roman Kahlone,and if your dealing with Asia,they will funk you around even more.Roman Kahlone http:// http://www.romankahlone.com/

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John Oszajca December 14, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Thanks for listening Roman, glad you enjoyed the episode.

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Bryan December 12, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I agree 110% with “paul ms” how much more free does music have to be? While Swift banks on spotify plays, and makes way more off plays than most indy’s, she may as well get a new contract for Spotify alone to compensate her writers, work for hire, etc. Probably 95% of music-listeners download full albums and singles when they come out(and before) with torrents, etc. Anyway. Time to start touring and making new merch, cuz music for sale is gonna be done for in the next 5 to 10 years. Younger generation I have seen doesnt ecen care about sound quality whereas id rather a wav file then 192kps mp3 any day.

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a December 12, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I don’t think music should be free, but the reality is that it is…effectively. And, we can sit around arguing and complaining about it, or we can accept the paradigm and try to find a way to make it work for us.

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John Oszajca December 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Amen!

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C Gray December 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Absolutely agree with Jeff Michaels and Rick Stone, jon, paul ms etc. Couldn’t have said it any better.

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Jeff Michaels December 12, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Thanks C Gray! And PS – Artists DO giveaway music all the time, which is what John’s MMM program is all about! It’s part of the overall strategy. In fact, anyone is welcome to grab my new holiday tune if you like: http://www.allthingsjeffmichaels.com/freeholidaysong

Cheers!

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George Lallier December 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Hi John-Yeah I can see where you may have awakened a sleeping lion,,,but truth be, sites like Spotify, etc., are really good for new independent artists, and can be a tool for the major artists as well,,,the definitive factor lies within how the artists & bands choose to use it,,,technology, innovation, & progress in idustry standards are a constant change in life that cannot be avoided, so that being, the issue should be how an artist or band,(in the case of music), uses these changes to their advantage…Let me give you an example of what I’m saying,,,Years ago, furniture, cabinate making, and woodworking art were usually produced and sold by highly skilled craftmen in that industry, and was a talent that took years of hard work & training to master, but was well worth the investment as the fine quality and product in demand was based on the talents of these craftmen,,,with today’s new tools, technology, computer engineering & designs, and manurfacturing machines, these products are easily obtainable, and can be made by the average do-it-yourselfer, furniture outlet manurfacturers, as well as the still hand made craftmen,,,does this mean furniture, cabinetry, and woodworking art should be free ?? Of course not, it just opens up a few more doors to accessablity, ,,, and gives another option to even the highest quality manurfacturers & craftmen to display, produce, and sell their products,,,perhaps a cheaper line, but, they have the opportunity to present what they have to offer, sell a small quantity of their less expensive line, and offer their higher quality products for a more pricier fee,,,,but they are gaining two important factors,,,cheaper adversment, and sales on a lower line of products,,,Not let’s translate that to musicians, bands & artists,,,If used as a tool in a sensible manner,,,the same applies,,,especially for the new bands & artists,,,A smart individual wouldn’t put all their music up on these sites for the free taking,,,but maybe give away a few free downloads as promotion to an album that contains 8-9 more songs that can be bought for a fee…or offer downloads of other individual songs at a reduced fee on a by the song deal,,,so even the major artsts can benefit from the advertising, the ease of distribution, and the sales generated from these sites they are part of,,,,Copyrights are still intact for the artists, as are the publishing & licensing rights,,,it’s just another change in the standard, and can be a profitable tool if used correctly….I hope I have helped a little bit with sharing my view on this subject without getting into too much detail and business strategies, and have kept my opinion easy to understand in a simple form…keep me posted on the out-come of this debate, and feel free to ask me to submit additional in-depth details as to what I have just tried to explain in a nut shell…Peace !

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Vi Wickam December 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Hey John, As a musician working to make playing and recording music a bigger part of my income, I can conclusively say that Spotify’s pay is awful relative to the other sources of income that I have within music. Each quarter when I get my check from CDBaby for electronic distribution, I’m lucky if Spotify plays are $5.00.

The other thing that concerns me about Spotify is that it appears to me that if I’m buying streaming licensing in addition to mechanical licensing that I lose money on every spotify streaming play.

It would be great if you could address the cost of the streaming licensing for the music recordings (of covers) relative to the amount spotify pays for the stream. Is spotify paying a licensing fee to the song writer? Am I supposed to pay for these? Thanks for continuing this conversation!

Vi

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gloria December 12, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Any Artist- be it Musician, Philosopher, Writer, Alchemist, etc..any Artist who has put in the time, effort and $$$$$$ should in the least have the privilege of benefiting from it’s profit. Someone else certainly will.

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gloria December 12, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I totally do agree! Fantastic article!!!

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Colin greenwood December 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Great,site for promotion.appreaciate it a lot

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mr angus smith December 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I would like to start by saying I am not a musician but my whole life I have always wanted to be like my father who was as he left without passing on his gift its my believe that it is a gift if I had it I would want to share it with the world for free if it makes a difference to some ones life for the better good its a hobby but not for some its a performance they want to make a living from there are two sides to this one some people spend years off there life on traveling lessons all has to be payed for but I saw how my father lifted a whole room of peoples spirits with a few tunes made his life worth living why do we always have to pay why cant we get one thing for free just once if it helps to lift people from the deapths of depression a song can change your life a tune lift you up when your down a lyric mean everything to you we should not have to pay for that that should be free to humanity

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jon December 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Food is delicious and it helps everyone and serves a sustenance of life, it should be free. Computers are a way of communicating with other people and gives anyone information, it should be free. We can justify anything to be “free”, the point is Music like anything else, is work. Creating, recording, marketing, promoting, etc. If it’s that powerful that would make it more valuable. People complain about the music on the radio but if you don’t pay for the music you like then the industry doesn’t see a need for it, so they go with the “safe-bet” and put out cookie cutter pop that parents buy for their tweens. Right now you think it is affecting only the Higher ups and the elite artists, but it is and will be effecting the general person as well. Less movies, video games, bands, etc. You complain that there isn’t anything original coming out… it’s because no one wants to take a risk. You asked for the “sure thing”.

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Sam December 12, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Well said.

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paul ms December 12, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I spend my life making music. I play many times for free, many of my songs are online for free, but for heaven’s sake, how much free-er do you want music to be before you starve me to death? It’s not free enough now? A good chair makes me happy therefor i shouldn’t even have to consider paying the craftsman who makes it for me? Doesn’t s\he have a right to eat? A musician shares and shares and the moment talk about them getting to eat to, getting to have a house and putting clothing on their children comes up, they don’t deserve payment for their craft? Musicians should all work other jobs to make money and only do music as a hobby? Great art comes from great artists who commit themselves fully to their craft. Why don’t they deserve to live from giving the world their craft?

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Jose Corea December 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Musician invest so much life energy into their music, because its their passion so it really sucks to know that are peoples who’s passion is to exploits others passion. I understand this is a business but how come we who are the musician, the content creators,we are the one who are actually empowering these corps to exists, but we get the low end of the profits… So what is the solution for me its been finding a way to generate constant traffic to my Spotify music via free traffic sources and I experimented with paid also, this strategy works because you providing valuable music to your audience for free, and if you can find a way you keep traffic consistent then your doing good…

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