Leave it out Thom Yorke! Why musicians need to stop bashing Spotify!

Ashley Norris Features, Music, Spotify, Top Stories 6 Comments

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

By Ashley Norris | July 15th, 2013





  • Joe

    I completely, endlessly disagree. I will just deal with each of your points in order.

    1. Spotify is the absolute worst thing that has happened to musicians EVER, online or otherwise. Where it was once possible to make various arguments, the very fact that you think it is amazing, even though as you point out, it doesn't pay musicians, is argument enough that it is the absolute worst thing to happen to musicians.

    2. Spotify's business model is very simple. Keep all the money, fuck the musicians. I'd say they have their business model pretty well straightened out. It is just that the business model is still the worst thing to happen to musicians.

    3. It won't change its business model. Too many people like you are bamboozled into thinking it is actually a good thing. So they keep all the money, and fuck the musicians. Spotify remains the worst thing to happen to musicians.

    4. You are completely mistaken. I don't have numbers for much of the world at hand, but here in the US approximately $2 000 000 000 a year are paid to musicians from royalties. You are also making the mistake in believing that somehow magically this only hurts radio-like royalties, when just a few paragraphs earlier you had heard “many more great new bands in the last three years than I did in the ten that proceeded them” this shows rather exactly that Spotify raping the musicians has diminished your spend on media. So Spotify keeps all the money, fucks the musicians. You reduce what you spend towards music. And Spotify is the absolute worst thing to happen to musicians.

    5. Spotify's viewpoint that they fuck the musicians means that the only way musicians should use Spotify is to remove all association with it. Otherwise, everything that I have already covered happens: Spotify keeps all the money, and fucks the musicians. You reduce what you pay to the artists. And Spotify remains the absolute worst thing to happen to musicians.

    6. Spotify needs to die. Accepting a rapist “reaching out” to their victims is not the way to prevent rape. Spotify only exists to fuck the musicians, by force if necesary. The only solution is to remove all content from them. Otherwise, Spotify keeps all the money, and fucks the musicians, you reduce what you pay to the artists, and Spotify remains the worst thing to happen to musicians.

    So for in many ways exactly the reasons that you gave, Spotify is the worst thing to happen to musicians. Spotify is the worst of the current offerings. There is only one reasonable solution, musicians needs to remove all their content from Spotify.

    I am one of many musicians that you will never find on Spotify, or any similar service.

  • Philip

    This article in a nutshell: 'I like Spotify and don't really care whether or not young musicians can afford to eat or, you know, make music.'

    How short sighted and heartless. Precisely the kind of thoughtless apologism that lets companies like this get away with exploiting the artists that their business depends upon.

    It's perfectly possible to imagine a service such as Spotify that both made money for the investors and paid a fair amount to musicians. Until recently Spotify had a monopoly on this kind of service. Now there's Google but that won't be much better.

    What the music world needs is a competitor service run for the benefit musicians, not just run so as to suck as much money out of them as possible. This would benefit us all because, guess what, musicians would have more time and freedom to make music!!

  • richms

    I use rdio, because at the time I decided to pay for music, spotify were requiring a facebook connection to join, regardless its basically the same.

    I pay for access to music I in the past just pirated because it is easier to access via the app, get it on the phone to play in the car etc. If I was not paying for it, I would either be not listening or sticking to downloads, giving the artists nothing.

    What is produced is of minimal value to me, be grateful that you are getting anything for it IMO.

  • Ab

    I don't expect much agreement to my opinion here, but maybe someone else feels like this and it will help.

    The article reads like someone wrote it simply because something they like was bashed, and they aren't used to being disagreed with or even being uncomfortable. I'll go as far as imagining… they're probably attractive, and very young. Unused to any opposing attitudes. Not just the new wave of fake smiles hiding slanted views… but true disagreement with ugly true facts.

    Spotify was suggested to me by a young person who thought it was great, and I was not thinking about the fact that his taste is much different than mine, and doesn't mind the “everything at once” style that these websites use to find music for you.

    First, I can't stand how spotify throws thousands of tribute and karaoke albums at me without saying they don't have any of the actual albums of say, the Beatles for example. I search, “the Beatles” and that's all I should get; the Beatles or nothing, unless I ASK for more than the Beatles. Sure, others like google work that way, but it's illogical. We're just used to it so we work with it. It's stupid and shady.

    I also don't care if someone wants to release a whole album, or if it's new.

    A piece of music is like a painting, or a movie. I don't want to be saturated with more of anything, even if you think it's got to be good because it's by the same artist. Let a new artist work to get popular by people liking the song, not with package deals and speed of the internet. When they're actually good, pay them well with royalties like you should. The article barely sounds like it defends the cause of the title. Just celebrating “more”, to answer the complaint about “floodgates opening to hapless amateurs..”. What? That's the PROBLEM, remember?

    Even if spotify were as great as some claim, it should have the way to cancel right up front and obvious. If the product is good, there should be no reason to worry about someone deciding to leave; you'll have other customers, right? Because it's so good? Then why is it so hard to find? Why the hassle? Because you're not even convinced of your own product.

  • Michael Jelacic

    Who buys music I surely so not. Everyone I know would not pay for music these says the industry needs a new plan all together iTunes sucks I don't buy music spotify I never even tried since it is linked to Facebook from what I know.

    Bottom line I want my music free when and where i wantIt.. I have a thousand CD's and at this point with the evolution of the web I am done paying for music I can hear for free on Pandora, but I want to dictate the playlist and again I do not and will not pay for music when everything else is free and free music exists, it's out there, besides musicians make enough money as is go tour and play shows more and stop sitting on your asses you got a bus and a jet use them and I'll buy a ticket to see a good show but not to hear or possess a song so I can hear it when and where I decide. The money is going to be in touring and merchandising I. The future kids will lot pay either they want it free and that's that. Sorry Metallica I love you guys but your loaded look for other avenues to make a buck rather than selling albums the web killed many businesses with the free content available why should musicians have a lock on sound media photographers figured it out and grew with the web musicians should so the same people just will not pay and if they donors cause they are lazy.

    Charging for music on platforms like iTunes is only making users not want to use iTunes and the Apple ecosystem and that's the bottom-line

    • Michael Jelacic

      Ok edit does not work on my iPhone so I guess my spelling errors will just have to stay as is… (Do not) in the fist line . Surely Do not pay for music.. It's free ! Half the things online do not work anyhow look at the edit feature here why would I pay for that to look stupi as I spell things wrong and are forced to post it as is cause the platform doesn't work correctly and there is no one to call most times besides who would or would want to call anyone text is king free is the thing . -imj2013