By: Gabriela Rodriguez
Making music is a tedious form of art that plays an essential part in everyone’s daily lives. Those who create it dedicate their time and talents to give something to the world that may or may not be praised. With that being said, smaller and larger artists deserve to be treated with respect and be paid accordingly for their work. Nadine Shah is a singer-songwriter from the United Kingdom who had recently come forward to say she is struggling to pay her rent due to unfair income from streaming services, specifically Spotify. Despite being an established musician with four albums, a Mercury Prize nomination and over one hundred thousand Spotify followers she is still struggling to made ends meet. She addressed her financial struggles to the Digital, Culture, media and Sport committee. This was in part of the DCMS’s ongoing investigation of streaming service royalties. Given that concerts have been discontinued due to coronavirus limitations, the reality of artists making their money solely on streaming services is an insane reality. Many would rely on touring before this change and even then, many wouldn’t make enough to sustain themselves.
Spotify introduced a new algorithm treatment to give priority to artists which could result in some pros and cons for musicians. It is undeniable that streaming services have taken over how people listen to music in their daily lives. Spotify has become one of the leading giants for the industry with minimal competition such as Apple music, both operating at the same frequency. Spotify has been able to secure their spot in many listener’s wallets by making curated playlists based on their listening trends and giving access to litany of artists in the discovery section of the
app. With various premium subscription plans such as their individual, student, duo (two people on one subscription) and family (up to six people on one subscription), there is something to fit everyone’s budget.
It is becoming common knowledge among musicians and listeners that Spotify is giving the short end of the stick to artists. Compensation has been an issue between the platform and musicians since the begging of the app. They make the artists adapt to their complex algorithms and a song’s appearance on high-profile playlists can be a defining factor for a new artist. According to the regularly updated data on Digital Music News, Spotify pays a mere $.003 to $.005 per stream. However, this varies based on the region the listener is in and even the type of subscription they have. Premium account holders have the ability to help their favorite musicians a bigger payout. Even further, the platform uses the industry standard pay out system called “pro-rata”. Meaning they total up the subscription payments ad revenue and divides that amount by how many steams the artist accumulated. Despite Spotify becoming more popular and earning more revenue from subscriptions rather than advertisements, they have neglected to adjust their pay out rates. Ideally, they would benefit musicians by switching to a user-centric payout system where all parties involved, such as labels, rights holder and artists would be payed soles based on a per-stream basis.
Over 18,000 musicians have decided to fight back and create a position to clearly state their demands and draw more attention to the constant unfairness. The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers organized this campaign which is called Justice at Spotify. The concerns and demands are straightforward and reasonable. At the top of the list they demand for artists to be payed at least one cent per stream. The demand for closed-door contracts to be discontinued, adopt and enforce a user-centric model and end all existing payola are a few that are included. Spotify has
yet to address the unions concerns. Instead of acknowledging the initiative, the company announced a new feature. One that enables artists to be included on the algorithmically generated playlists for users. This would get them more streams, however, the artist would have to agree to being payed a lower royalty rate.
While it might take a minute for the streaming giant to acknowledge the artist’s outcry to get what they deserve fans should and can focus on helping their favorite musicians get throughout the winter. The first and perhaps most obvious would be to go to the musician’s direct website and buying any albums and merchandise they may have available. That way they will get a bigger cut of the money you’re contributing. Since any ticket sales are being put on hold there have been an abundance of relief funds that have been created to ease the financial stress. Sweet Relief, Blues Foundation, and the Musician’s Foundation are just a few non profits that are helping.