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November 13, 2014

The trouble with Spotify ....

There's been a stack of discussion about Spotify and its effect on the music industry lately, mainly driven by Taylor Swift's label's decision to withdraw her entire catalog from Spotify, which adds her to the list of acts who want nothing to do with streaming. (Incidentally, I don't buy the crap about "we're dong this for her fans" - business people make business decisions to maximise profits. No matter how she may feel about her fans, that's not the reason for the business decision, it's PR.) Daniel Ek responded, people responded to Ek, and the argument goes on.

As a very small-time self-publishing musician, I have no problem with Spotify. I appreciate the fact that they are getting my music played and I value the very-small-but-better-than-zero amount that comes back my way when people play the tracks. I also understand that very large acts stand to lose a great deal from the substitution effect of streaming services - that is, when people can listen to song streams on demand, some will do that rather than buying the track, which means a smaller payout per interaction with that person. I'm also happy to accept Daniel Ek's argument that people who want Swift's tracks badly enough will just pirate them and she gets nothing for that, so Spotify is better than piracy. All of that makes perfect sense to me and each artist can, and will, make their own decisions.

It also seems very clear to me that the complaints by Aloe Blacc and others that they, as songwriters, get very little from Spotify are easily explained by their relationships with their labels and/or publishers. Musicians have always got the rough end of the pineapple from music companies and if Spotify is paying millions to the companies and the artists get very little, that's the nature of that deal - you signed with the devil, take what you get. I get to keep every pathetic cent that Spotify pays me, less CDBaby's fee. :-)

But here's what I don't understand about Spotify, from an artist's point of view. I'm looking at my digital distribution report from CD Baby. It says that on 1 November I received a stack of small amounts from Spotify, accounted for on July 15. Fine - no problem with the delay in accounting as long as I eventually get the cash.

BUT the report shows, in part, that I received a number of payments for Wild Thyme's tracks (for example). Within that, there's a payment for ~$0.18 for 22 streams. Nice - Ek's right when he says that the payouts have increased over time and I hope they will keep increasing. But within that, there's one stream that paid $0.026 (I'll take that every time!), while a different stream paid $0.005 (one fifth) and four other streams of the same track paid $0.0019 (less than one tenth) each ... and there's any number of other amounts spread across other parts of the report for that and a number of other tracks. To further complicate the picture, these guys reckon they average ~$0.0044 per stream (and Daniel himself approved of this article via Twitter) while I average $0.0068. Here's my screenshot:

So, the unpredictability of it all does my head in. I have no way of knowing what amounts I am going to get from month to month. Maybe that's what pisses music business people off most ... ??? Business people hate uncertainty - especially in their revenue streams.

What do you think, dear reader?

Oh, and Mr Ek, if you could be so kind a to please explain this, I'm sure a lot of people would be very appreciative ...

Posted by Huge at November 13, 2014 12:34 PM

UPDATE: OK, so I tweeted this blog post to Daniel Ek, and he responded by tweeting:

"Daniel Ek ‏@eldsjal

@HugeAu your music is getting played in different markets with different price points just like you would have on downloads"

That is very cool and I'm spectacularly humbled and grateful. I have asked him for further clarification because Julian Knowles suggested in Facebook that this discrepancies might be between various Spotify account types ... If he does me the honour of answering again I'll post another update to clarify.

Posted by: Huge at November 13, 2014 5:27 PM

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