A “Small Meaningless Rebellion” Ctd

Readers sound off on musicians protesting the small royalty rates that Spotify pays out:

I have no tolerance for big time artists like Thom Yorke complaining about Spotify. Granted it was largely (though not entirely) record companies that screwed up the business by fighting the digital revolution every step of the way, and artists like Yorke are now “paying” for it.

Fortunately, it’s the record companies that will ultimately get screwed, as technology has made recording vastly less expensive, and the digital revolution – combined with services like Spotify – has made distribution basically free. At most, record companies will serve as a launching platform for new artists, who will then go “independent” after their initial contracts run out. The fact that big-time artists are still tying themselves to record companies is just emblematic of their own shortcomings.

Ultimately, however, the bulk of musicians’ salaries will come from touring, and to a lesser extent, merchandise. This doesn’t strike me as the least bit unreasonable. I went to college (and now go to graduate school) in order to secure a job where I can work to make an income. Similarly, musicians will go to the recording studio in order to make enough income by touring (i.e. working).

And yet Spotify still isn’t, you know, profitable, which helps dramatize the disruption that online streaming has created in the music world. A working independent musician nonetheless gripes:

I’m in an indie pop band from Kansas City, MO, and we’ve had our songs played about 82,000 times on Spotify.  We’ve been paid $422 for those plays.  That adds up to about a half a cent per play.

If Spotify would just bump that up to a measly 2 cents per play, we could easily have paid for the gas we spent over the last two weeks touring the East Coast.  As most know, it’s increasingly difficult to get people to pay for music these days so revenue streams consist mainly of selling merchandise or licensing your songs to commercials/TV shows/movies (that is, until you build up enough of a following to where door/ticket sales becomes your main source of income).

If Spotify could just adopt more of a nurturing role to small-time artists, we wouldn’t have to spend time devising crowd source campaign strategies or marketing our music.  We could, you know, concentrate on making music.

And yes, I realize that this is the new reality and that every band must become its own small business to some extent.  My point is that Spotify can make that a lot easier on artists, whether they’re great at the business aspect or not.  The fact that it appears most of the money is just going to wealthy shareholders is quite discouraging.

Another reader is conflicted:

I get that Spotify pays artists almost nothing for your music, and that sucks. But revenue is not measured in commissions alone. I’ve gone to see several bands live (and dragged several friends) that I would have never heard of if not for Spotify. And I’ve gone out and paid for a digital download of an album because I heard it on Spotify.

But here’s the thing: most of the time I never actually downloaded the album. It was an act of support, a reverse Kickstarter if you will. How many people out there on Spotify are like me? How many small artists get screwed out of royalties but play well-attended shows in Houston as a result of Spotify’s exposure? How many Spotify listens lead to an actual album purchase? Or a blog post? Or some viral Facebook/Twitter love? How much is that worth? How do you measure it?