As Spotify Wrapped makes its annual appearance to get music makers feeling warm and fuzzy inside, a reminder the only person winning in this system is Daniel Ek…

Earlier this week, this blog published all about Traxsource’s 2021 In Review. I offered up a defence of the platform for carrying out this annual tradition. And one thing I forgot to include in that write-up was the fact Traxsource do at least contribute to the culture which they make their profits from.

So as Spotify releases its annual Spotify Wrapped for the year – which basically tell you how many streams you’ve had this year, how many countries are people listening in and so forth – you might imagine that I would adopt a similar shield of armour for Daniel Ek’s platform, right?

Well, if you do, you’re clearly new to this blog. Because there are few things I hate more in this world than Spotify. They contribute literally nothing to the culture which makes them huge amounts of money – yet somehow still not enough for them to turn a profit once in their 15 years of existence. 30% of every single stream goes into their coffers – which adds up when you have billions of them.

In any case, Traxsource’s statistics do at least mean something. The fact you had a genre number one, for example, might mean you only sold 75 copies, but this is quantifiable in at least some form. Spotify Wrapped isn’t. How many of those people streaming are signing up as fans? How long are they listening to each song, and to how many songs?

Without this information, what appears in their little badges is almost meaningless. But the final word on this matter has to be left to The Secret DJ. Replying to a follower’s tweet, he simply said this…

Indeed…

Why ARE the dance music press so slow at reporting the news? Resident Advisor finally tell readers about Spotify’s Daniel Ek investing €100million in defence company – two weeks after a one-man blog did!

Traditionally, new editors are appointed to publications when the old one decides they’re leaving or the management think new energy or a different direction is needed. And having studied some sociology a very long time ago, I quickly learnt that great editors put their mark on their magazines or newspapers.

I would like to think my mark has been firmly stamped here on Amateur’s House, but that’s for my readers to decide. What I can say for certain is that Resident Advisor shows little difference after Whitney Wei was appointed editor-in-chief than it did before. Which is hugely disappointing, to say the least.

Resident Advisor, like most of the dance music press, also seem to have newsrooms that operate like it’s still 1995. They’re so hopelessly slow at delivering news – and they simply should not be in this digital age. Hence why I was highly amused when I read this article last night.

I kept thinking that this story sounded familiar – and that’s because it was. You see, I reported the story back on November 15th – two weeks ahead of the job-creating Resident Advisor. They’re an operation with staff and a newsroom, I’m one person with an eye for a good story who mostly blogs from his smartphone.

Yet I’m the one who published the story first. They just keep proving how irrelevant they are, don’t they? The dance music world deserves far better than – with one or two notable exceptions – the current shower supposedly keeping us up to date with developments in the scene…

Is there something they’re not telling us here? They don’t want to pay Four Tet more in royalties – but Domino Recordings DO want to pay someone to assist the staff who pay out the royalties…

Over the past week, I have noticed that the long-running legal dispute between electronic musician Four Tet and Domino Recordings. The spat is over the way Domino appear to have interpreted how much to pay out from streaming royalties working off contracts written before the technology existed.

Early last week, Domino made the decision to remove three of Four Tet’s old albums from streaming services entirely. The decision by the label has been dismissed by many quarters as childish, petty and vindictive – and this blog happens to entirely agree that this is exactly how it looks.

Domino have not replied to my emails asking what was behind their decision. So in the absence of this, I believe it was done for one of two reasons. One, Domino’s lawyers have decided this is some kind of leverage they can use against him – and it also stops the amount of royalties potentially due from piling up due to the interest the legal action is bringing.

Or two, the relationship between Four Tet and Domino is appallingly bad. If this is the case, a straightforward divorce might be the best thing they can do. Whatever the truth, I find it a little ironic they were recently recruiting for a Copyright and Royalties Assistant right now…

I’ll be watching this case closely. Because there could be precedents for others here…

Want to know why Amateur’s House backs the #BrennanBill? These four men are worth over £3½ BILLION between them, yet they preside over an industry where a third of musicians made nothing this year – things cannot go on like this…

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll have no doubt seen the above photo a few times. It features Daniel Ek, Rob Stringer, Stephen Cooper and Lucian Grainge. They are the CEOs of Spotify, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group respectively.

And it’s no exaggeration to say these four men are incredibly wealthy. Whilst it’s hard to say for certain how much they’re worth, estimates from my research in this article vary between £3½ and 4 billion. If these men presided over a booming industry where people were paid fairly from top to bottom, their insane wealth is something this blog would be very relaxed about.

But the simple truth is they don’t. In the UK during the week, a charity called Help Musicians revealed their research had told them a third of musicians had still earned nothing after lockdown restrictions were lifted in the summer across Britain. Almost 90% earned less than £1000 a month and 22% wanted to quit altogether.

It’s a damning indictment of an industry which has failed abysmally to look after its people at a time when they needed it the most. The majors make over $1million each hour of the day from streaming – once you allow for currency conversion, it means they get the £1000 that the 90% of musicians make a month within around four seconds.

The truth is they can quite easily afford to pay out more money. Lucian Grainge, the baron boss at Universal, is set to make at least £150million this year. They benefit from legacy contracts which continue to pay out the same royalty rates as they did 40 years ago, despite the fact music is now largely digital than physical.

And whilst this situation persists and these men’s bank accounts get fat off the hard work of others, they’re still too stupid to realise they’re slowly killing the industry which made them filthy rich. Because if the next generation cannot make enough money from music to pay their bills, what incentive is there for anyone to enter the industry?

This is ultimately why I’m throwing my support behind the Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians etc) Bill, to use its full name. Is it going to resolve all the problems musicians face? Certainly not. Is it one hell of a good start? Yes.

The record labels – mostly the majors, but some independents too – have been given long enough to resolve this problem. Seeing that they directly benefit from it, they’ve decided they don’t want to. And if this bill was to become law, they’d only have themselves to blame…

As MPs get ready to vote on Kevin Brennan’s renumerations bill next week, will they listen to the artists who want a fairer share – or major label lobbyists who don’t?

One story that’s been bubbling away in the background over the past year or so is the #BrokenRecord campaign. The mission behind this crusade sounds like a simple one – streaming doesn’t pay artists properly, and they want that remedied. This blog wholeheartedly supports such an idea.

This campaign has decided to go down the legal route – but not the traditional legal one of suing people. No, they want changes made to the law to ensure everyone involved in the making of music is compensated fairly by streaming services. In a week where Four Tet revealed Domino Records had removed his music from such services as a petty response to a legal dispute, it seems especially relevant.

The bill itself has now been published. MPs will be voting on it next Friday, December 3rd. Having read it, I found it a good attempt to resolve a lot of problems – but this analysis by Complete Music Update is better than anything I could write. And the Association of Independent Music dismissing it before the bill was even published was beyond foolish.

But there’s one group which have remained mysteriously silent over all this – and that’s the major labels. Whilst Baron Grainge might just be excused on the grounds he’s too busy counting his money, where everyone else is remains a source of absolute bafflement. They’re not usually shy about making their views known, so what’s happening?

Could it be the threat of an anti-competition inquiry which is leaving the labels unusually reticent? A source from within one of the majors tells me that they’re feeling “relaxed” about the bill. He explains “It’s a private members bill on a Friday. Most MPs will have long gone home for the weekend by then. Unless Boris and his pals get behind it, this won’t get very far.”.

And in response to an article in Music Business Worldwide on the subject, he simply said “Let’s just say we’re content for the BPI to take the flak on this one”…

Do we need yet more reasons not to tune in? The Brit Awards tinker about with gender neutral categories – yet the biggest winners of this plaster sticking exercise will be four white men!

One of the things that bugs me about the times we live in is an increasing tendency to tinker pointlessly with the edges whilst not addressing the central problem. You see this in politics on a daily basis – Donald Trump wanted to build a wall to stop Mexicans coming to the USA is just one recent example.

Now, I’m all in favour of treating people the same. This blog doesn’t care whether you’re male, female, somewhere between the two or neither. I also don’t care about your sexuality, the colour of your skin or your religion. I’m interested in whether you’re a good person. Do you treat people fairly? Do you stand up for what’s real?

It’s with this in mind I read the news that the Brit Awards are going gender neutral next year. So no more best male and best female categories. It’ll mean a shorter show, hence why they’ve dug up the long dead Best Dance category – something that’ll have the likes of Defected’s Simon Dunmore frothing at the mouth.

The trouble is that all this messing about with side issues fails to grasp the mantle of the central problem. And what is that central problem? It’s namely that much of what consists of pop music these days is crap. And don’t take my word for it – look at the viewing figures.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, we can see viewing figures going all the way back to 1999 – nearly ten million viewers tuned in to see show that year. Since then, the trend has been overwhelmingly downwards – they couldn’t even pull in three million viewers this year. Episodes of teatime game show The Chase score better.

There’s a reason they’re not watching – and it’s not just the largely appalling music on offer. It’s also the fact the show itself is dreadful. Time was you had to watch because you never knew what was going to happen. Remember John Prescott being soaked by Chumbawumba in 1998, or Brandon Block gatecrashing Ronnie Wood in 2000?

They weren’t the most edifying of events, but at least we remember them. Can you name anything remotely interesting that happened at a Brit Awards ceremony in the past decade? I certainly can’t. The music used to be interesting, and so did the show as a result.

And tinkering with awards categories will not change one single thing. All it will do is make it harder for acts to win awards and inevitably result in uproar if more men are given awards than women. The only people who look set to win no matter what happens are those who are already very rich.

Daniel Ek, Rob Stringer, Stephen Cooper and Baron Grainge of £150million

Whilst you’re at it, could you tell Spotify to pay more to artists? Adele requests Spotify remove shuffle as default button on albums – and Daniel Ek is too starstruck to ignore her!

Is there a way to get Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, to take any notice of you? Well, unless you’re Sofia Levander – she’s his wife and most men can verify you ignore the missus at your peril – the answer appears to be no. From calls to pay more to artists to uproar after he told them to release more music, he’s a man whose ears are impervious to criticism.

But this weekend, the world discovered that there is a second way to get Spotify’s billionaire tyrant to listen to you. And that’s if your name is Adele Laurie Blue Adkins MBE – known professionally simply as Adele. The brilliant but annoying singer pops up every couple of years, appears all over the media, then disappears again to count her money.

Well, she released an album the other day, simply called “30”. I had no intention of listening to it, but I just might force myself to do so after Adele managed the impossible. She got Daniel Ek to actually do something – remove the auto-shuffle option for albums.

In Adele’s own words…

Two possibilities here. One, Daniel Ek foresaw a big campaign playing out across social media if he refused the demand and agreed to it for the sake of a quiet life. Or two, he’s just starstruck.

Either way, perhaps Adele could use her newly discovered powers to get some other things out of Spotify. Like more money for artists, for example. A penny per stream sounds good. In your own time, Adele…

They bring it on themselves, don’t they? Now Universal ban artists from re-recording their music for longer – whilst profiting as Taylor Swift does exactly the same thing!

There are few people more cynical in the world right now than Universal Music Group. This one is a whopper, even by their standards. In 2018, Republic Records – whom they own – signed Taylor Swift as an artist. The deal was done in a blaze of publicity and featured the explicit clause that she owned her own masters.

Since then, she’s re-recorded a number of her past songs – following a dispute over the ownership of her old recordings. An album called “Red” was re-recorded recently and released by Republic. It’s done extremely well on streaming and Universal are raking in the money. And at exactly the same time, they’ve tightened up their own contracts to stop their other artists from doing it.

I thought this was a joke when I first read it, but sure enough, it’s true. And this news came out on the week we found out UMG boss Lucian Grainge would be taking home ar least £150million this year. It looks like the increasingly greedy record baron could be getting similar amounts in future years – and all off the back of his artists work.

A source at the majors contacted me this week to complain that my criticism of UMG has been “unfair, one-sided and totally tabloid”. And he is, of course, completely wrong. With moves like this, which just make Universal look like a protectionist racket, they bring it entirely on themselves…