If you were to tell me I had to lose every single website and app but could keep one (on my desert island apps interview) I would keep Spotify. I adore the music service and have been a subscriber since it first made its apps available.
The way in which I can listen to music as the artist intended, as a whole album played in the right order, as well as being able to access that huge back catalogue makes Spotify for me the most important innovation since the web itself.
However increasingly the service is coming under attack from musicians – the latest to stick the boot in are Thom Yorke and music producer Nigel Godrich, who claim that the service is failing new music.
Nigel Godrich’s argument is detailed in a series of tweets here, but to paraphrase, he believes that Spotify is great for listening to back catalogues, but fails new bands as they don’t make enough money from its royalties pay outs. The industry average offers 0.4p per stream – meaning that 1m streams of a song generate about £3,800. Most songs receive far fewer streams, which in fairness won’t even keep some bands in plectrums for long.
Godrich finishes his rant by throwing down the gauntlet. He says that either Spotify needs to change its approach to new music, or that musicians should vote with their feet and follow Thom Yorke’s example and takes their tunes off the service.
To be fair to Godrich he doesn’t come across as being too anti-Spotify, but he is addressing the fact that there is a very real issue with how the service works. He has been retweeting some interesting pro-Spotify replies too.
Some of the other tweets and posts this morning though have been a lot more critical of the service.
I am not too convinced though that the Spotify bashing is really that helpful – here’s why.
1 Spotify is the best things that has ever happened to music online - Almost every significant album in history available for users to stream at any time. Come on, ten years ago that was the stuff of dreams. How many new bands have created music that is influenced by older bands – and the first place they got to hear the Gang of Four, Soft Boys and Cleaners From Venus etc was on Spotify.
Also some snooty musicians have been moaning about how Spotify has opened up the floodgates to all kinds of hapless amateurs. This is utterly wrong IMO. I have heard many more great new bands in the last three years than I did in the ten that proceeded them. There has been an explosion of new music and that has been fuelled by Spotify.
2 Spotify has got to get its business model right - The problem here is that Spotify could charge £20 a month for its services and give a big chunk of that to the musicians who provide new releases. But is anyone going to pay it? Personally I wouldn’t have any issues with that. There is however a much more deep rooted problem. It revolves around the under of music in our society now. One musician friend of mine recently tweeted that people seem happier to spend five quid on a big bag of popcorn at the cinema than they do on an album.
At the other end of the scale there are those who are using Spotify’s free service yet forking out the best part of £20 for new album releases on vinyl. Spotify has got to get its business plan right. It has many real and potential rivals and quite a few of them come from companies that are way more aggressive like Google, Amazon and Apple. I know which of the four companies which one I’d rather give money too.
3 How can it change that business model? Godrich makes many good points, but he doesn’t offer any real suggestions as to what Spotify should do. Here’s a few ideas.
* Charge people an extra £5 a month to hear albums and tracks that have been released in the last five months.
* Introduce an optional levy on subscriptions where people can pay extra to support new artists
Err that’s it. Unless anyone else has any better ideas.
Spotify won’t push number one because – well people won’t pay more for streamed online music and it creates an opportunity for a rival to offer that serve more cheaply.
Spotify could do two, but ultimately it wouldn’t do musicians any favours as it makes them look like charity cases.
If musicians take their music off Spotify then ultimately it will wither away.
4 Musicians never made that much money from royalties anyhow - Let’s be serious about this, did radio plays of anything other Walking On Sunshine and Unbelievable generate enough money to pay anyone’s mortgages? Thought not. Here’s a view on this from the legend that is @solobasssteve . Musicians have traditionally made their money in other ways. At the very least Spotify does give bands profile, and that profile could lead to much greater things.
5 New musicians need to use Spotify strategically - Rather than place their whole album on there why not stick a few tracks on Spotify. Put the rest on Bandcamp, where incidentally people can still stream for nothing, or make the music available just as downloads. If people get hooked enough on your music then maybe just maybe they might pay for it.
6 Spotify needs to reach out to musicians more - How about some dialogue? Get some musicians on a board with maybe one of their representatives as part of the management team. It would be good PR for the company and might even help to resolve some of the issues musicians have with the service.
So finally can we please stop bashing Spotify. The big challenge for musicians, and indeed anyone who loves music, is to create a culture in which it is valued and that people are prepared to pay for it. Any ideas on how you achieve that are much appreciated.
Btw here’s a load of great new music – if you like a bit of psych/shoegaze/dreampop
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