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Spotify versus The Artist

With Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich recently removing their music (Atoms for Peace) from Spotify, over the fact that new artists received very small amounts of money from the streaming services, is the control that streaming services have over the industry in danger of suffocating it? Or are artists going to just have to think of new ways to make money?

The issue here should not be a moral one, but a practical one. It would be lovely for all the bands to have lots of money and go laughing and drinking champagne with the Prime Minister each weekend, but those times have changed. People enjoy having endless back catalogues at the tips of their fingers. Banning streaming services will only lead to an increase in piracy, or an increased use in YouTube, who, although recently announcing a deal with PRS for Music will see them begin to pay royalties, have so far remained silent on the intricacies of the deal.

But does Spotify have an unfair grip on the industry? Bands can remove their music, as Atoms for Peace have done. Other established artists such as Coldplay and Rihanna have already blocked their music appearing on the streaming service. But while it may not matter for the Calvin Harris’s of the world (recently named the highest paid DJ in the world earning around £30 million this year), it is the non established artists that lose out.

But why should Spotify care?

Music fans are a rigorously loyal bunch and in order to achieve long term success, Spotify will need them on their side. There are easy ways to do this. If Spotify added a page for each artist with a link to their merchandise, tour dates etc then it would make it easier for fans who wish to give a little more, a chance to do so.

We are in a changing musical world. CDs sales have been decreasing for years, and unless artists are fortunate enough to have bucket loads of radio-friendly-unit-shifters up their sleeves, bands will have to look for ulterior methods of money making.

What is really desired is not a ban of Spotify and streaming services, but just a sustainable method of giving artists a fairer share of the profits. At the moment around 0.4p per stream goes to the artist, so a million streams would give them around £4,000. This is significantly lower than radio plays. Spotify states they have paid over £600 million to artists, but bands at the moment are clearly not earning enough to live from.

It is clear streaming is the way we, as consumers, seek to view our media. From Netflix streaming television and films, to Spotify with music, it seems we don’t care about owning our material anymore. Possession, it seems, may be reserved for special limited edition vinyl copies, or increasingly seen as unnecessary amounts of plastic clogging up shelving units.

I welcome an age where we don’t feel we have to own everything we enjoy. For instance, we don’t feel like we should have a copy of every art work we enjoy on our wall, similarly with libraries, we don’t have to own every book we have ever enjoyed, so it seems natural that this may extend to music.

While it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing Tom Jones queuing up for food parcels or Kesha supplementing her income doing night shifts at her local supermarket any time soon, it’ll take a lot of touring for some bands to achieve the gargantuan amounts of wealth thrown around in the 90s. But perhaps that’ll do the industry some good, and force it to think of new, innovative ways to achieve success.

Written by Sam Dix

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