It seems the prospect of paying artists more money is about as well received with Daniel Ek as the sight of a wooden stake is for a vampire. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion at this point. Every opportunity Spotify gets, the billionaire refuses to pay more money to the artists who made him what he is today.
The reaction of Spotify to the pandemic told this to anyone who still hadn’t realised. At a time when musicians couldn’t tour, they stuck a donation button on their pages – in the same way a busker in the street might have a bucket or a hat for people to throw their coins into. An unworthy response, if ever there was one.
And now comes their latest wheeze. Spotify have done a deal with Shopify – any relation? – in order to allow artists to sell merchandise directly from their profiles. So in addition to listening to your song, they can now buy your T-shirt, mug or whatever other tat you’re trying to get rid of.
Now, a good idea is a good idea, and this one is very good indeed. The only surprise is why it hasn’t happened before now. But yet again with Spotify, I find myself asking – why does it always seem to be up to everyone but Spotify to fix the problem of artists not being paid properly for what they do?
It’s safe to say the whole of the Ibiza season this year has been pretty much a write-off. That’s two years now of being unable to operate entirely for much of the time. Heaven only knows I wouldn’t like to be the accountants who have to deliver the news about their finances right now.
Which is why this blog finds itself torn on the reopening of Amnesia in Ibiza. The Spanish authorities relaxed the rules to allow venues to open – subject to some restrictions – as of October 8th. However, this came so late in the season that the majority of clubs decided to sit the rest of the season out.
Only a few have opened – and Amnesia is holding both its opening and closing parties within 24 hours of each other as a result. And the lineup is stuffed full of business techno types – the more I look at this, the more it looks like a naked cash grab.
Normally, I’d be mortified at how shameless it is. But in the highly unusual circumstances they find themselves in, I can’t say I blame them for adopting the slogan “go big or go home”. I just wonder how much money they’ll have left after paying the gargantuan fees some of the names on the lineup normally command…
I’ve come to the conclusion that Daniel Ek hates musicians. And by that, I include artists, singers, songwriters, that bloke you got in to play the guitar solo bit, publishers and the rest. I simply cannot come to any other remotely sensible conclusion when I look at the evidence.
His website pays out utterly appallingly streaming rates. They always have done. And in 2018, when they were told by the US courts to raise their rates, they’re continuing to appeal against them now. Not only that, but they’re now trying to reduce the rates they pay songwriters.
Try as I might, I simply cannot come to any other conclusion. The music streaming industry increasingly give off the attitude they’d prefer they didn’t have to pay anyone at all for the music they have online. There seems to be a relentless battle within the industry to reduce royalties all the time – and I’m beginning to think it’s only a matter of time before one shows their hand on the issue.
And then people ask me why I don’t make music anymore…
As I write on this Monday morning, it hasn’t been a good weekend over at Glasgow Underground. Some weeks ago, Danny Tenaglia launched a highly selective attack on the record label after discovering they’d released a cover version of his 1998 release of “Music Is The Answer”.
His comments were made on August 18th and nothing else was mentioned by anyone since – until Saturday, when Glasgow Underground posted a rant on their Facebook page after “getting a bit of stick recently for being a ‘covers label’… this is for anyone who thought about joining Danny Tenaglia in his hate campaign against us – choose love instead!”.
Quite why it took them 52 days to respond is unknown. And yesterday, T. Markakis – who has released music via the label before – posted this…
At the time of publishing, no reply has been received by Markakis or Amateur’s House about the above comments. Either way, I get the feeling this isn’t how label owner Kevin McKay wants to start the new week…
Update – since this article was published, Kevin McKay of Glasgow Underground have sent Amateur’s House the following statement, reproduced here in full.
“I have read all of Tasos Markakis allegations, and none of them is true. We have released two of his tracks. One of them was successful, the other less so. In his demo for the second track, he used an Acappella from Candi Staton. Unlike his label, Little Jack, we do not use other label recordings in our releases. Instead, we recreate any vocals that we use. The recreation cost £500. Tasos share of that cost was £250. Recording costs are a recoupable expense. We deducted those from his royalty statement along with mastering costs (a very reasonable £59 per track).
Tasos did not understand his recording contract and is angry that we took these deductions. He has claimed he has lawyers who back him up. I have asked to speak to them to have a reasonable discussion about this, but he has, so far, not put me in touch. I have just completed his latest statement run, and we owe him over £500 from his releases.
However, we are now taking advice about his libellous comments and the hate and mistrust in Glasgow Underground that they have generated. I will happily share our communication with him so that everyone can see that we have operated correctly. We regularly send statements and pay our artists as hundreds of Glasgow Underground producers can testify.
I hope Tasos will get some help for his anger and some education in the music business. I hope he stops bootlegging other artists on his label. I urge the people who have supported him here to ask him for evidence of his claims or speak with me directly so they can retract their equally libellous statements.”
Money means everything to the people at the top of the music world – and quite a lot of those below the top. This is one thing that you must remember about the music industry above all others. And the other thing to know is they absolutely love algorithms, because it means they get to spend more time scratching their arses.
In the olden days, they had to make calculated risks and guesswork to work out what songs were going to do well. Not only that, but they had to invest big sums of money into music to get it out there – all those CDs and vinyl don’t press themselves, and distributing all that stuff wasn’t cheap. Nowadays, the fact it’s mostly MP3 and WAV files on computers being sent from one place to another reduces their costs to a fraction of what they used to be.
And the internet removes much of the guesswork. Social media, streaming and the rest enable record labels and artists to see what’s being listened to, what’s being skipped and almost any other metric under the sun. Which means if they see something is doing well on streaming, they can get more music like that out very quickly.
It also means that labels can immediately cash in whenever controversy occurs. According to Rolling Stone magazine, streams of R Kelly’s music went up by 22% in the week following his conviction on eight sex trafficking and one racketeering charge. Streams on video – such as on YouTube – went up by 23% and physical album sales rocketed by 517% in the same period.
The “he may be a sex offender but his music is great” line is obviously one that holds some water with sections of the public. Which is a pretty unedifying fact – and also helps explain why no audio streaming services, including the Daniel “Mr Burns” Ek owned Spotify have made an executive decision to remove his music from their services.
They’re under no obligation to host it and can remove it whenever they like. I mean, are the record labels so incredibly thick that they’re going to take legal action so the music of a sex offender is more easily available to the public? I couldn’t see this going down well once the revelation hit the press, can you?
Incidentally, I’d be curious to find out whether the controversy surrounding Derrick May has helped push up the number of listens his music gets online. I’ll start researching this one and hopefully get back to you soon…
Much of the music press today is trying to pretend that the industry they cover is serious about changing its ways. This blog, of course, sees through their lies on the subject – the difference being I have no hesitation whatsoever in calling it out.
YouTube have announced that two channels on their site relating to convicted sex trafficker Robert Sylvester Kelly have been deleted. However, what they haven’t done is banned his music from the platform entirely. Which completely defeats the point of taking down those two channels in the first place.
The simple truth is that YouTube is a private company. If they don’t want to host R Kelly’s music, they’re under no obligation to. But they’re trying to have their cake and eat it here – all they’re doing by removing two verified channels is their own name from the process. In the meantime, they can continue to pretend that uploads of his music by site users – i.e. unofficial uploads – have nothing to do with them.
Either you’re prepared to host his music or you’re not. There’s no middle ground here – it’s a binary choice. And YouTube’s choice is to insult its viewers intelligence by saying they won’t upload his music in an official capacity – but will allow users to do so, inevitably allowing monetisation of those videos in the process.
They must think the public are morons. Fortunately for them, a fair few journalists who cover the industry are precisely that…
When festivals and clubland went into a sort of forced hiatus last year, a lot of soul searching started to take place. This isn’t something which comes easily to the people who run the scene. They’re so fixated on whatever’s coming up next that the idea of reflection is practically anaethema to them. So when people started to notice that festivals in particular were filled with rich, white men, they promised to change.
The promise to change, of course, meant as much as a promise from a violent husband to his battered wife, worried she’s about to leave him. He has no intention of following through with his empty words – and the festival bosses are exactly the same. As I wrote recently, the rich white men are the ones paying their bills right now – and neither has any intention of moving aside for anyone.
I wrote recently about the Isle of Wight Festival 2022 and pointed out almost no women were on the bill. And now, Annabel Ross – a journalist who helped bring allegations of sexual abuse by Derrick May to a wider audience – has been “crunching the numbers”, as she puts it, over the Electric Daisy Festival, due to take place in Las Vegas later this month. It’s worth reading her four-tweet thread on the subject for context. She doesn’t hold back…
I just crunched the numbers on the Electric Daisy Carnival lineup so that you don't have to. By my count, 285 artists are appearing over the three day event. Of those 285, 23 are women, 9 are Black and 15 are NBPOC (non-Black people of colour). pic.twitter.com/aZYcQWEaCG
She’s right, though. 285 acts, 23 women and just 24 acts who aren’t white. For a scene which was founded largely by black gay men in the likes of Chicago and Detroit, that is an utterly depressing indictment of where things are today.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that the dance music world has been utterly colonised…
This coming weekend, Black Coffee is on the bill for an event at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago. We know this because his name appears in a ridiculously large font on this flyer, alongside some kind of image of him. But anyone taking a quick glance at the flyer below would be half forgiven for thinking he’s the only one making an appearance…
Notice anything? Derrick Carter is also due to make an appearance on the same evening. But am I the only one wondering what on earth is going on with this poster? His name is absolutely tiny – and the appalling choice of font makes it barely legible.
And spare a thought for poor old Dom Brown. When I first saw this flyer, dodgy typeface included, I honestly thought it said Don Brown. He runs the Activist:Chi movement in the city and was hailed in June 2020 for organising a 30,000 strong protest – in the middle of a pandemic…
Nonetheless, I can’t help but think it’s a little bit sad that two Chicago natives don’t have more support in their own city. Or are the organisers just trying to hint – as subtly as a brick over the head – that Black Coffee’s pay is significantly larger? This blog is happy for you to decide on that one…