It is well documented spotify rips off artists, there are other reasons too not to use spotify. Why therefore use spotify when there are far better alternatives?

Keith Parkins
Nov 15, 2013 · 13 min read

It is well documented, spotify rips off artists, who are paid a pittance when their music is streamed.

Arcade Fire has according to Kat Burns around 400,000 plays on Rdio. This translates to about $2000— presumably split between six band members, management, and publishing. If even 10% of streamed songs were purchased at $0.99, they would have earned closer to $40,000. For lesser known artists, the numbers are much, much lower.

Artists like At First Light are earning on spotify a ridiculous $0.00046725 per stream. Which explains why they have pulled their music off spotify, and are urging others to do the same.

At First Light wrote this on their facebook page:

We have decided to remove our music from Spotify.

Each time one of our tracks is streamed we receive an income of $0.00046725.

Since we released ‘Idir’ in September 2011, 1055 people have played tracks from our cd on their Spotify accounts.

For this we have earned the sum total of $20.99.

We believe this to be absolutely inequitable and wrong.

If you believe that artists should be paid for their work, please desist from using Spotify, purchase artists music direct from their website and share this.

Sam Duckworth in an article in The Guardian is even more damning in his criticism of spotify:

For a big proportion of my career (I’m currently finishing my sixth album), physical sales have been in decline while streaming plays have grown exponentially. I have met many fans over the years who are proud to find and listen to music on Spotify. They are under the impression that their subscription fees are helping to support us and that the ever-growing catalogue they enjoy is due to their subscriptions. But music fans have been sold a lie.

To give you an example, 4,685 Spotify plays of my last solo album equated to £19.22 (that’s 0.004p per album stream). The equivalent to me selling two albums at a show. I think it’s fair to say that at least two of those almost 5,000 listeners would have bought the album from me if they knew the financial disparity from streaming. At the same time, many record labels are reaping the rewards of online streaming, whether it be through potential share dividends when a company gets sold or the “money for old rope” practice of repackaging music.

I don’t blame the consumer for this problem: it is unfair to criticise those who opted out of torrenting to replace it with legal subscription streaming. Rather, I believe the problem lies in the rhetoric of the industry and its reluctance to debate the facts. Unless those higher up in the industry are prepared to acknowledge the disparity between the commercial success of Spotify and the royalty rates paid to artists, the outlook for smaller musicians will remain bleak.

Steve Lawson too has pulled his music off spotify, but he has raised another issue, apart from artists being screwed and paid a pittance, lack of data.

Both Steve Lawson and Zoe Keating have raised the lack of data being fed to artists.

You may not be on a major record label, you may not even be on a record label, so why, when your music is streamed, should the major record labels get a cut?

Other problems Steve Lawson mentions is lack of control by artists of biographical detail and of external links.

Another problem, spotify operates on the facebook model. It may not supply artists with useful data, or indeed any data, but it is only too happy to collect personal data on users. What is being done with that data, how is it being used, to who is it sold?

There certainly is a sharing of data between facebook and spotify. This data traffic is a two way flow.

I used to get messages on facebook telling me who is listening to what. First of all, I do not care, but secondly, why should what someone is listening to be broadcast to all and sundry? If I want anyone to know what I am listening to, I will tell them.

If people subscribe to spotify and are paying a tenner a month, that is three to four times what the average person spends on music in a year. Is it not better to spend that money putting it straight into the pockets of artists, so they can continue doing what they enjoy doing, and in turn, you can continue enjoying what they are creating?

Spotify uses your system, your bandwidth.

In Andorra, due to a monopoly on internet access via Andorra Telecom, there is a limit of 120 gigabytes per month, go over and you are billed €1 per gigabyte. Patrick Johnson was so far over the limit, that the guy he rents the flat from got a call from Andorra Telecom to tell him, €154 over the limit.

I do a lot of HD video chat, and download a lot of films from, *ahem* iTunes. But I don’t torrent so there’s no way I’ve downloaded 120GB + the additional €154 in the last two and a bit weeks. Just no way.

He decided to install Activity Monitor (for Mac) to see what was going on.

7 hours later I checked and was surprised to see 11GB of usage. I hadn’t downloaded anything. Watched a few very short videos on Youtube. So I looked further. Sorted by ‘received bytes’ — nothing. 500MB from Google Chrome. 200MB from Spotify. So I sorted by ‘Sent bytes’. There it was. 9.8GB sent using Spotify.

In other words, what he found was, not that he was using hefty amounts for either watching videos or streaming music, but that spotify was using his system, his bandwidth, to support their peer-to-peer streaming service.

There is a myth plays on spotify equates to success, or looked at another way, fear if you are not there you are unknown.

The reality is the other way around, if you are well known, you probably get lots of plays on spotify, if not known, then no one is likely to look for you.

But by being there, you are bait, to bring others in, once again the facebook model.

If a product is ethically bad like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, then you boycott, encourage all your friends to boycott it. For reasons outlined, spotify is ethically bad.

How then do we ensure the minstrels do not starve and have a bed for the night?

Well they are certainly not going to get fed on the crumbs that fall off the spotify table.

Kat Burns suggests if people play more than three times, then charge 99 cents.

Unworkable, may as well pay 99 cents for a download.

Elliot Jay Stocks suggests two possibilities, release as an EP, maybe show work in progress, a subscription service, pay a fee and get so many tracks per month.

His latter idea is already used in the art world. Basically he is suggesting crowdsourcing, community supported art.

OK, I can buy into that, use crowdsourcing to fund an album, use soundcloud or maybe a blog or mini-blog, to show work in progress.

This is how Imogen Heap approached Heapsongs, each heapsong had its own mini-blog showing how the song was progressing.

Heapsongs, now renamed Sparks, is to be released early next year as a limited edition deluxe album box set, using crowdsourcing to pay for it. The first one hundred have already been paid for, and the lucky one hundred are invited to a launch party at her house to personally pick up their deluxe box set. A blog shows the deluxe box set being put together.

Elliot Jay Stocks has released an EP, it is available on his website, but why can you not listen to it, why try to reinvent an inferior wheel?

I suggested to Kat Burns, why not release on bandcamp, no mention of bandcamp within her article. I check out her latest release and I find, to my surprise, it is on bandcamp, and with a special limited edition white vinyl, why therefore, which is perverse, refer people elsewhere for a limited period streamed version and why direct people to buy off iTunes, when everyone gets a better deal on bandcamp and you can listen to the album as often as you like?

Bandcamp is predicated on the artist doing well, if the artist does not do well, bandcamp makes no money, because if the artists sells nothing, bandcamp makes nothing.

Bandcamp makes listening, sharing, downloading easy.

For the artist, they can list their albums, biographical details, gigs, links to youtube, twitter, their own website or blog, and they can embed bandcamp on their own website to play their music. And all this is under the control of the artist. And they get data.

And it is free. Bandcamp only gets a cut if the artist sells anything.
If I write about music, I can see no point unless others can hear what I am writing about. I can embed videos. I can also embed bandcamp.
Why re-invent an inferior wheel? I see artists with all sorts of kludgy downloads, kludgy media players, or, and I am not sure which is worse, you cannot listen to their music.

Why would anyone buy music they have not heard?

Thatch gives an example of music he stumbled across and thought he’d check out. One led him to bandcamp, the other to a kludgy website.

Where do you think he stayed to listen, and eventually decided to pay a fiver, bandcamp where he could listen to the entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128 as often as he wished, and should he choose to buy, download as mp3 320 or better still FLAC, or the site that offered a 30 second lofi sample? No brainer.

Bandcamp lets you listen to an entire album as often as you wish. There are sadly a few artists who abuse bandcamp and only let you listen to a couple of tracks off their albums.

Bandcamp permits download of non-lossy compression FLAC. This makes possible, studio quality downloads.

Recently I met Richard Smerin sat outside a bar in Puerto de la Cruz. He was just amusing himself, playing a guitar. We got chatting and I bought a couple of his CDs, which I am sorry to say, I have still not yet listened to. I asked was he on bandcamp, he half listened, but was not really interested, was already on dozens of sites, and if anyone wished to listen to his music, go to his site.

I did, and as I expected, the media player was awful, one of the worst I have encountered. Why bother, why reinvent an inferior wheel? If on bandcamp, can embed on ones own website.

Maybe a little unfair on Richard Smerin, as I have picked him out, but sadly he is not atypical.

When are people going to learn, a few seconds of lofi mp3 is not doing yourself or your music any favours? Nor for that matter is a youtube video that looks as though it was shot in a bar on a smart phone. It probably was shot in a bar on a smart phone.

ThePianoGuys shot to fame with their brilliant videos.

Last year, at Staycation Live, few of the artists were on bandcamp. One told me, not interested as already on dozens of websites.

What is the point of being on dozens of websites, if you cannot then update them? And no, the guys who I was talking to, on dozens of websites, no mention of their gig at Staycation Live.

This summer, a little better at Staycation Live, most had CDs for sale,and yes, I bought them all, and no, not found the time to listen, a few on bandcamp, or were aware of the existence of bandcamp.

Let us assume all at Staycation Live had albums for sale at a fiver. Why a fiver? If a fiver, more likely to take a chance, than if a tenner. And you get it signed and have a chat. The albums give a link to their websites.

If on bandcamp, then tell people. If they liked your music, if on bandcamp, they can share what they liked.

A feature of bandcamp, music is often there for free, or low price, a pay-what-you-think-it-is worth model. And the strange thing is, people do not abuse the system. As I write, I see an album sold for $8, it was free. I see many albums, more paid than the asking price.

I do not know what the figures are now, as I cannot find, but when I last came across them, on average, people were paying half as much again as the asking price.

Fans have given artists $52 million using Bandcamp, and $2.5 million in the last 30 days alone.

And that is what is important, the money is flowing from those who wish to listen, to those who wish to create.

Maybe people are willing to pay more because they know the money is going to the creative artists who make the music they love, not to a greedy, faceless, global corporation, which at best treats music as a commodity.

Hope and Social are available free for digital downloads and cost of production for CDs. And guess what? They are making more money, and having more fun, than when they followed the conventional model of being on a corporate record label.

Steve Lawson though makes the point, he does not like calling it download for free, he prefers to call it a zero cost transaction, as an interaction has taken place and you do not know where it may lead.

You may not like his music, it may take you a while to like. But if you do like, you may buy, you may tell your friends, turn up at a gig, read his blog.

A couple of years ago he did a tour in the States, mainly house concerts, all found through his music on-line.

Many possibilities open up.

Artemis is releasing the Triptych trilogy in January 2014. Triptych I (Eight for a Wish) was released a couple of days ago. The Triptych trilogy is being released as series of limited editions. Limited to five only, includes three art prints.

Collaboration becomes possible.

The cover art for Triptych I (Eight for a Wish) is taken from one of the cards in the Cheimonette Tarot deck, a project which includes an art book featuring the cards and a signed limited edition CD, The Sonic Arcana, featuring several artists, including Artemis, whose music were inspired by the cards.

I used the work of a local artist for The Way of the Bow, as it was just what I was looking for.

detail from a painting exhibited by Chris Skillicorn-Aston @ The Barn

Spotify can lead to discovery. There are better ways.

Something I used to do, although I have not done so for over a year, is randomly pick on bandcamp what was selling that moment. Each sale pops up as it is sold, what it sold for, and how much above the asking price.

FrostClick is an excellent place to find new music. It has expanded significantly since I last looked, now many categories of music.

Serendipity leads us down many interesting avenues of discovery.

It was through The Way of The Bow as an e-book on FrostWire, that led me to FrostWire, that led me to ShadowBoxer, that led me to bandcamp.

Steve Lawson mentioned Artemis had released Triptych I (Eight for a Wish).
cover art for Triptych I (Eight for a Wish) is taken from one of the cards in the Cheimonette Tarot deck

The artwork for the cover of Triptych I (Eight for a Wish) is taken from one of the cards in the Cheimonette Tarot deck, a project which includes an art book featuring the cards and a signed limited edition CD, The Sonic Arcana, featuring several artists, including Mark Growden, Myrrh Larsen, Artemis Robison, Star St. Germain, Jill Tracy, Unwoman, and Meredith Yayanos whose music were inspired by the cards.

The artists on The Sonic Arcana led to All Over the Map, Into the Land of Phantoms (The Nosferatu Score), The Parlour Trick: Half Sick of Shadows and Lemniscate: Uncovered Volume 2.

West End Centre, a cultural oasis in the wasteland of Aldershot, has an excellent idea, re-tweet a gig and you are put in a draw for an album.

More publicity, more tickets sold, the artists gets better known. Those lucky enough to win an album are going to be tempted to go, or even if they find the do not like, maybe tell a mate who may like.

I was the fortunate recipient of one of these albums. I must admit, I have still not had the chance to listen to Pioneer, I did though check out Duke Special, liked what I found, and much to my regret, too late to go to his concert.

One of the songs off his album, Condition, I did get to write up, West End Centre got a mention, so although I never made the concert, everyone did in one way or another benefit.

Having seen what is possible, that money can flow to the artists rather than global corporation who grudgingly hand over a pittance to the artists and make it look as though they are doing them a favour, check out this visual representation of the extent to which artists are being ripped off. Then ask yourself the question, do I really want to be part of this system?

Selling Out, the shocking facts in visual form on the extent to which artists are screwed

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

Keith Parkins

Written by

Writer, thinker, deep ecologist, social commentator, activist, enjoys music, literature and good food.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

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