Makes you wanna stream and shout

Folk musician Joanna Newsom has hit out at Spotify claiming it's actually a damaging thing for musicians. Serena Bhardwaj explores this argument and the world of streaming in general

3rd November 2015

Spotify: a commercial music streaming service which polarises both listeners and artists. It’s the fat cat of the industry, with more than 15 million paying users and over 60 million subscribers. Those who have been unable to warm to the likes of Soundcloud, Apple Music and Tidal usually fall into the welcoming playlists of Spotify.

there are countless misconceptions about Spotify which Newsom probably should have researched so that she didn’t come across so misinformed...

The main debate surrounding Spotify is how little money artists make from it. Supposedly, each time a song is streamed, the musician will receive between $0.006 and $0.0084. Many artists have flat-out refused to have their records uploaded to the service; The Beatles, Taylor Swift, Radiohead are some of many who are unable to be tracked down on the site. Recently, indie folk player Joanna Newsom, called Spotify a ‘villainous’ service which ‘robs their artists’. Upon initial thought, I would agree with her – it seems incredibly unjustifiable on the artists’ behalf. But, what I didn’t realise is that there are countless misconceptions about Spotify which Newsom probably should have researched so that she didn’t come across so misinformed…

Spotify responded to Newsom’s accusations by clarifying that in fact, they pay out approximately 70% of their revenue in royalties. This percentage is then split across the rights holders, in other words - owners of the music, depending on its popularity which I suppose is only fair. What’s more, Spotify is much more than just a music listening service; it’s a way to stumble across new music which inevitably helps out musicians as they get their sound put on such a popular platform. What I find slightly ironic is that it’s the well-known names which are more likely to object to having their music on Spotify even though they earn more money from it. In 2013, a global hit record would produce $425,000 in monthly royalties whilst in comparison a niche indie album would produce a mere $3,300. Big artists in particular make so much money already from gigs, advertising, TV appearances and merchandise so what I can’t understand is why they’re complaining. Maybe this just reflects society’s drive for more and more money, which is a real shame.

In terms of the industry in general, it’s changed remarkably and rapidly; the musical era that we’re in now is almost unrecognisable compared to how it was for our parents’ generation. Society is becoming increasingly driven by the internet and smartphones which makes digital downloads second nature to us. Sadly, it’s just a fact that streaming generates little profit for musicians but Spotify is actively trying to change that. Plus, surely it’s better to encourage the use of legitimate streaming sites to dissuade listeners from piracy which is even more detrimental to artists. Since the introduction of Spotify it’s clear that piracy has reduced. I for one switched in a heartbeat from YouTube converter to legal streaming. If more musicians got on board with the service it could grow even bigger and make even more money which in turn will benefit the artists themselves. Spotify has so much more potential, it just needs a bit of backing.


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