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…

No cash to pay artists properly, but lots of money for new defence tech companies – Daniel Ek’s investment of €100million into AI business raises all manner of ethical questions…

This blog firmly believes that Spotify hates the artists and labels signed up to its platform. Their incessant attempts to reduce the amount of royalties they pay out, plus ongoing legal battles to stop themselves from having to pay more tell me all I need to know about this heartless company.

Last year, Spotify’s boss Daniel Ek announced he was going to invest €1billion of his own money. As he’s obviously entitled to do, having made it off the backs of musicians who don’t even earn enough from his site to pay their rent. But the bit which raised eyebrows everywhere was where he was going to spend it.

You see, he wasn’t going to splash his cash on musicians who desperately needed more help amidst a pandemic which had robbed them of numerous opportunities to earn their daily crust. No, he’d decided he wanted to splurge a billion on upcoming technology companies. That’s some way to thank the musicians who made you what you are today, Daniel…

Nothing much has happened since – until Ek mentioned he’d made his first investment of €100million into a company called Helsing AI. The purpose of the company appears to be to deal with things like cyber attacks, by collating information from numerous sources and assessing it in real-time. The idea is to allow quicker decisions to be made.

At which point, I can’t help but wonder if Ek has walked into the kind of future moral quandary even Helsing AI couldn’t help him with. First of all, this company says it helps “liberal democracies”. How do they assess what a liberal democracy actually is, and what happens if a less scrupulous regime wants to get on board – would they say no to working with them?

Secondly, the company claims the information could be used for what it defines as “kinetic” situations. What does this mean? Are they saying governments could use the data to make pre-emptive attacks on other states, and what kind of attacks could these be? Or are they saying it could be used in a war situation where you have troops on the ground? It’s not exactly clear.

And thirdly, artificial intelligence is precisely that – artificial. I’m no expert here, but I sense that artificial intelligence is one of those things that, as human beings, we don’t fully understand. Infact, because it’s what we define as artificial, it might even be possible we can’t entirely understand it.

It’s not just me saying it – Stephen Hawking said back in 2014 that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. And Elon Musk has warned in the past that artificial intelligence is “our biggest existential threat”.

Doubtless, however, that Ek does not agree with such a take. Still, I can’t help but wonder what Spotify’s staff – who aren’t known for being shy and demure when it comes to expressing their views – think of his latest venture on the side.

And questions must surely be asked about who advises Ek. Whilst the final decision was clearly his, did no one at any point suggest it might not be a good idea for a man who made his money out of music – count the number of anti-war songs versus pro-war songs – to invest in a defence company.

Helsing AI appears to make very much of the fact they consider themselves an ethical company. Exactly how ethical they will be remains to be seen – but if I were Daniel Ek, let’s just say I’d be keeping a very close eye on this promise…

Did your takedown requests get lost in the post? DJ Sneak – who promised to take his music off digital stores in January – still has hundreds on Traxsource…

On December 29th last year, DJ Sneak decided to make a few changes to the way he did business. And one of those was to declare his music would be coming down from digital services. This was taken to mean download and streaming sites, although Sneak never elaborated further.

So since January, I’ve been helping DJ Sneak keep to his promise by regularly detailing how many records he still needs to take down on Traxsource. He had 613 tracks up there when this series first started. And it looks like I’m in this commitment to my readers for the long run…

Because at the last update, 596 tracks were on his profile. As of this morning, the number is 599. And the number has never fallen below 572.

Either DJ Sneak never had any intention of following through on his promise, or he’s since discovered he’s signed all kinds of in perpetuity contracts over the years. These are contracts in which the master recordings are signed over from the artist to the label – forever. And if that’s the case, it’s going to cost a lot of money to get them down.

Sneak has been contacted for comment…

Spotify teams up with Shopify to allow artists to sell merchandise through their profiles on the streaming site – so is any excuse to avoid paying better royalties good enough now, Mr Ek?

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?

And yet again, I find no answers forthcoming…

Do you feel like Eric Cartman yet? Threatened probe by UK competition authorities into streaming and the majors has just moved one step further…

The very first episode of South Park, broadcast in 1997, featured Eric Cartman having an alien probe stuck up his backside. Cartman would spend the entire episode denying its existence, yet he would frequently complain of farting fire whilst the alien probe occasionally made itself known to everyone but the boy himself.

Which broadly describes the position record executives at the three majors are in right now. The Competition and Markets Authority in the UK are thinking of rifling through their business to see whether they’re treating their artists as fairly as they say they are. They don’t like the prospect one little bit – even though they’d publicly have you believe otherwise.

The CMA has now launched what it calls a market study into streaming and the three majors. This is roughly the equivalent of doing a sweep around your house to see where you left your keys – and depending on who’s looking, they might find other things they didn’t plan to in the process.

But be in no doubt, the three men who run Sony, Warner and Universal – Rob Stringer, Stephen Cooper and Lucian Grainge – won’t welcome the prospect. The majors have always prided themselves on their secrecy, usually stretching the definition of “commercially confidential” to breaking point.

And if the regulator finds something it doesn’t like? Things move on to a full probe, much like forensics would carry out at the scene of a crime. Which is something they’ll like even less. But I can’t help but think that this probe into the majors – necessary as it is – only fixes part of the problem.

No one seems to have looked at the other culprits yet – and yes, I’m looking at you, Spotify boss Daniel Ek and all the other streaming platforms. When will their role in this devaluation of music be scrutinised?

Spotify wants to reduce its royalty payouts to songwriters – so just WHY does Daniel Ek’s website hate the people who made him a multi-billionaire?

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…

R Kelly’s streams went up by 22% in the week after his conviction for sex trafficking, and his album sales rocketed by 517% – so it’s no wonder Daniel “Mr Burns” Ek refuses to take his songs off Spotify!

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…

Is he still behind the sofa looking for more money to buy Arsenal? Daniel Ek hasn’t tweeted about Spotify in two months – and talk of him snapping up the football club has vanished too…

I haven’t written anything about Daniel “Mr Burns” Ek and his cash cow Spotify for a while now, have I? So I thought I’d put that right and have a good look to see what the minted Swede has been getting up to recently.

The answer appears to involve spending very little time on social media. Perhaps he’s been busy rummaging around the backs of sofas at Spotify’s offices in Stockholm looking for a few extra hundred million dollars so he can buy Arsenal football club – just like he said he wanted to months ago?

Even more curious, however, is the fact he hasn’t tweeted anything about Spotify – bar one tweet on September 14th in reference to a podcast which he features on himself – in two months. Infact, the last thing about his non-profit making site that he mentioned was on July 29th. Two months ago today…

I’ve been getting the feeling for quite some time that Ek is getting bored of Spotify. During the pandemic, he announced he was investing nearly £1billion in deeptech – it tells you a lot about the man when at a time of hardship for the musicians on the site which made him a billionaire, he decides not to do anything to help them. An unworthy act from an unworthy person.

And of course, let’s not forget his expressions of interest – rebuffed so far – in purchasing a football club. The only part of Spotify he does show an interest in is podcasts, and given the eye-watering sums being paid to sign some of them – $25million alone for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

So far, the couple have only made one podcast, and it was their celebrity pals talking about how they spent 2020 – meaning they did almost no actual work on it! When they’re paying out such gargantuan sums of money to get this content, they have to shift a ton of advertising to break even, let alone profit.

Still, there is one piece of good news for Spotify. The British government has recommended the Competition and Markets Authority probe the major labels. I suspect it’s a prospect Daniel Ek is quite comfortable with – the heat being on the labels means the heat is off his site’s utterly abysmal payout rates…