The net worth of the CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, is estimated at over $4 billion,… sure it’s not Jeff Bezos’ $180 billion, but it’s very comfortable, right? For common people, it’s actually difficult to imagine owning billions of dollars, I know it’s difficult for me, but it’s also somewhat puzzling to think that some people desire so much money. I know, I may sound very naïve.
Spotify is the biggest subscription service in the world and the debate about streaming royalties regularly comes back for a good reason.
Every musician is suffering right now, there is no tour and no money to make so the debate is raging even more. This petition is calling the company to permanently triple the amount they pay artists per stream and make a $500,000 donation to Sweet Relief’s COVID 19 fund… so far it has only collected a little more than 2,000 signatures, which is very little and demonstrates how much the music world is resigned to its fate.
But no matter how many times Spotify is asked this boiling question, nothing is done because, first, Spotify pays labels, distributors, publishers and collecting societies, not directly musicians who are paid by their labels. Secondly, Spotify doesn’t pay by the stream but has a royalties pool (the money coming from their subscriptions and advertisements) then divide that pool by the total share of streams each artist has received… Artists are certainly gonna divide their paycheck from Spotify by their number of streams and find the number absolutely ridiculous, but this is not exactly how things work.
in a recent interview with Music Ally published on Thursday, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek refuted criticisms that Spotify pays absurdly low royalties to artists, claiming that a ‘narrative fallacy’ had been created
‘Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape,’ Ek said,’ where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.’
‘The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans,’ he added.
Ek even cited Taylor Swift as an example of an artist who has always engaged her fanbase, saying that her recent album ‘folklore’ was already streamed 80.6 million times, and adding that ‘unequivocally, from the data, there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself.’
As most artists are approximately receiving between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream, this brings between 266,000-350,000 in Taylor’s pocket. But can we take her as an example? Of course not, Ek took the most successful artist of the decade, it’s not fair.
As expected, he got vehemently criticized by numerous artists after this declaration… rightly so. His statement implies that music is not an art anymore but a commodity, that music is just a product to engage fans, and feed the masses… It sounds outrageous but probably expected, coming from a guy who made a fortune selling other people’s art.
Is art about production? Are the most prolific artists the best ones? Of course not! I never valued art in terms of productivity, but we are in 2020, with a short-attention-span population, used to consume and throw away a product the following day. Art deserves respect but the corporate machine has swallowed it and I am afraid there is no solution knowing that only 3 major labels own about 80% of music content, and have all a deal with Spotify
Spotify and other streaming services have transformed art into a money-machine and Ek dares to say to artists, work more, release more albums, right in the middle of a pandemic when musicians cannot tour anymore and cannot make any money. Does he understand that recording an album required some investment?
Streaming has changed the mentality of the population, youth doesn’t care about owning a physical album, streaming is enough and there is no coming back from that. However, streaming implies a gigantic amount of music at the tip of anyone’s finger, as there is so much on the market to consume while I had 10-15 vinyl to listen to when I was a teenager. This encourages consumption at the highest level and considerably devalues great art. Between cancel culture and streaming culture, the indie scene will not survive this pandemic and I guess the market will be soon reduced to the Beyonce and Taylor Swift of this world, not much else.
There is still something unclear, what percentage of their revenues do they really put in this royalty pool? It’s certainly not fair that they are keeping such a high percentage for their salaries, I guess they do, otherwise, how would you explain a $4 billion worth net CEO?
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