Tag Archives: Spotify

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…

Will all the songs be ten seconds long? TikTok’s owners launch their own streaming service in China – oh to be a fly on the wall at Daniel Ek’s office…

I have to say that my knowledge of Swedish swear words is incredibly limited. Normally, this would not bother me in the least – but I can think of one situation where it might have come in useful. And that occasion was a day or two ago, in Daniel Ek’s office at Spotify.

Heaven only knows how he must have responded when the announcement landed on his desk that TikTok’s owners had decided to launch their own streaming service. Somehow, I cannot imagine the entitled Ek, who thinks music is a product that should be pushed out like chickens in a factory, would have been too pleased to see yet another competitor on his patch.

Here’s the bit I don’t understand though. Why? What’s the appeal of setting up a streaming service? None of them seem to make any money. Spotify has never turned a profit once since its inception in 2006 – something which would put any company in almost any other sector out of business and its directors hauled in by the authorities for a probing, but totally accepted as normal in the music sector.

What is TikTok going to be able to bring into music streaming which everyone else isn’t? The answer to this question is equally unclear. All the streaming sites basically have the same music. The TV streamers have noticed this. Disney, for example, broke away from Netflix, Sky and the rest to set up its own platform. If Lucian Grainge wakes up one morning and decides that he wants to be even more rich than he already is, and decides that setting up a Universal Music streaming service is the way to do it, Ek is stuffed.

It’s the same for any other streaming platform with Universal’s music on it. Grainge could choose at any time to withdraw his company’s music and place it on his own platform. Yet for some reason, no one in the streaming industry has yet noticed this fatal flaw in their own business plans.

Streaming is heading for big changes, government inquiry or no government inquiry…

Isn’t £2.6billion enough money for you to live on, Daniel? Now Spotify is making clear it’s only interested in helping people out with money, questions are asked about what new artists should do…

Yesterday, I wrote about the Campaigns feature which Spotify are currently allowing a limited number of artists to test out – because they’re kind like that, obviously.

This would basically put Spotify into a similar position to Facebook – where in order to give yourself any sort of significant reach, you have to dig into your pockets and send money to Mr Zuckerberg. Because $130billion is obviously not enough money.

Which poses a question. If you’re a new or upcoming artist, why on earth should you waste your time putting your money on Spotify? Because the blunt truth is, they don’t want you there. They’re not going to promote you. They’re not going to help other people find your music. And they’re definitely not going to be paying you – quite the opposite if the Campaigns feature kicks off.

If you’re starting out now, it quite literally makes no sense to bother with Spotify. When you’re on Bandcamp or your own website, you can communicate with the people whom are listening to your music or buying your merchandise. You can get their email addresses and stay in touch. You can send them nice little extras. On Spotify, or any of the streaming sites? You can’t do any of those things. Anything which might send you away from Spotify, they simply won’t let you do it.

Since I stepped back from making music myself, I’ve come to realise a few things. I was always wary of streaming, but I see the full story now – and it infuriates me. Streaming doesn’t exist for the benefit of artists – it exists solely for the benefit of rich majors, who own stakes and shares in Spotify, and to enrichen Daniel Ek.

The company can afford to pay an average salary of $132,000 a year (according to 2019 figures) yet it also expects us to believe it can’t afford to pay artists a penny a stream.

What a load of absolute rubbish. And a whole generation of promising, talented new musicians are being terribly let down by this shambolics system that just doesn’t care about them…

What’s next, paying a fee for an algorithm to consider plugging your music? Spotify unveils its new Campaigns feature to a limited few – and what a surprise, artists absolutely hate it!

By all rights, Spotify should have been declared bankrupt and closed down years ago. If it operated in any other sector of the economy, it would have done. The company doesn’t like to talk about this, but it has never made a profit even once during its entire 15 years in existence.

If this had occurred in a large company elsewhere, you can be absolutely assured the authorities would have been combing through everything to find out why.

The streaming giant is constantly under a certain amount of pressure to actually make some profit by its long-suffering investors. The pressure goes up and down over time, and currently seems to be on the rise.

Last week, Spotify revealed they were trialling a new plan, where users would pay 99p per month and get to listen to as much as they wanted. The downside? You’d still have to listen to adverts between songs, something removed from the £9.99 plan.

And now, they’ve decided to start charging the artists and labels who allow the site to exist. A new feature called Campaigns is currenly in Beta mode. I haven’t been allowed in, but someone who has got in touch with me. This person was incandescent. There’s no other way to put it. Rest assured that a large number of swear words were coined in the direction of Spotify themselves and boss Daniel “Mr Burns” Ek…

Using the Campaigns feature, artists would have to pay Spotify to show their own followers that they’ve just put out some new music. I kid you not. Such a policy might work for the majors – who, in many cases, have control over their artist’s Spotify accounts – who know they’ll be making their money back easily.

For everyone else? This just looks like a kick in the teeth.

Once you’ve paid, your song is promoted to your fans. And each time one of those fans subsequently clicks on the promotional link generated by Spotify, the artist has to pay Spotify again! This money is required upfront, not billed afterwards. This effectively means that the artist has to stick money in an account with the site which gets deducted afterwards. No money in the pot equals no promotion via the site.

It’s really no wonder that Pete Townshend once called Daniel Ek “a f***ing crook”, is it?


Thanks to Fourth Strike Records for initially making me aware of this story.