by Don Groves, Content Café July 8 2021
The creators of Swedish-based, global music streaming platform Spotify insisted their goal was to solve piracy. Perversely, it turned out to be another means of depriving artists from receiving revenue for their work.
Now Australian screen composers have slammed a former Spotify executive who said the platform was always designed to distribute music, not to pay artists. “Spotify was created to solve a problem,” said Jim Anderson, who served as Spotify’s self-described invention and solutions architect from 2011-2014. “The problem was this: piracy and music distribution. The problem was to get artists’ music out there. The problem was not to pay people money.”
In a just-released recording of comments he made at a 2019 music industry conference in New York, Anderson criticised artists such as Taylor Swift, who have long advocated music streaming platforms should pay more than the prevailing miniscule sums. In 2014, Swift pulled her “1989” album from Spotify, arguing that “music should not be free.”
Apple Music recently upped its per-stream royalty payout to one US cent per stream while Spotify’s rates are less than half that. “I think Taylor Swift doesn’t need .00001 more a stream,” Anderson told singer Ashley Jana. “I have an issue with Taylor Swift’s comments. I have this issue with it, and we’ll call it entitlement. I consider myself an artist because I’m an inventor, okay? Now, I freely give away my patents for nothing. I never collect royalties on anything.”
Jana told Anderson: “Artists are really broke. We’re not making any money off the streams. I’m not trying to attack whatever you’re doing, but I’m not going to agree with you and say that musicians are entitled because they don’t want to be flat broke.”
Antony Partos, president of the Australian Guild of Screen Composers (AGSC) says Anderson’s comments show how far Spotify is out of touch with the majority of musicians and artists in an industry where only the top echelon gets hundreds of millions of streams. “The cynical act of asking artists to actually lower their royalty in order to gain greater promotion on play lists is an appalling move and only seeks to further diminish the rights of the artists they need to support their business model,” he said.
Partos continues, saying that:
“The successes of Spotify and other streaming services should mean they have a duty to foster the industry to ensure the health and sustainability of artists and their livelihoods at all levels. It should be a fundamental right for any artist to be adequately compensated for their work. The music industry is made up of a diverse ecosystem of artists across many genres and many tiers in their careers. The fact that the medium for enjoying music has largely changed should not adversely affect the artist and creator at whatever stage of their career. Of course, measures should be in place to stop piracy, but stripping artists of their income should not be the net result of this outcome. It is not too much to ask for platforms to be paying artists in the vicinity of one cent per play of an artist’s work. It seems a fairly small price to pay and would go a long way to adequately reflect the worth of the intellectual property being consumed and enjoyed. It is time for a fairer deal. As without artists/musicians, Spotify would have nothing to sell. ”
Another prominent composer and founder of Church Street Studios, Guy Gross slammed Anderson’s comments as a distraction from the industry-wide problem, observing:
“Taylor Swift isn’t representative of 99.99% of the industry. To use her as an example is simply disingenuous. Creators only have their copyright as a sellable commodity and to force its devaluation is going to see less people chose creativity as a vocation. To me, the elephant in the room is the fact that music consumers used to save up for their one or two albums a month, spending anywhere from a few hours to a few days’ worth of their salaries on that purchase. That model doesn’t exist anymore and the truth is organisations like Spotify (and Napster before it ) aggressively and arrogantly said: ‘Stuff it, let’s give away the music for a pittance of what consumers were used to paying…. because we can’.”
The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) organised international protests against Spotify in March, arguing: “The company consistently deflects blame onto others for systems it has itself built, and from which it has created its nearly $70 billion valuation.”
In an interview with The Verge, Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek said the future of Spotify depends on multiple streams of revenue, which will then allow creators to best decide how to monetize their fan base. “What we realized is that we’re no longer this kind of small start-up from Sweden,” he said. “We’re in fact a very, very important platform for a lot of these audio creators.”
You can read more about Ashley Jana’s interview with Jim Anderson, in this piece “Spotify Executive Calls Artist ‘Entitled’ for Requesting Payment of One Penny Per Stream” by Paul Resnikoff, June 29, 2021