OP-ED: Hailing Spotify as a legitimate alternative to piracy is like handing the responsibility of policing New York to the Mob. Spotify’s shtick is that they provide an important step forward in eliminating piracy, claiming they are legitimately monetizing music consumption. The reality is that the rewards for most are slight, and though there are many artists who provide content, very few benefit.
"The cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all." – Casino
It seems utilizing this ethic is about as close to a racket as one can legally get. Urging you to come join them because they are eliminating piracy, when on the other hand they are doing different deals with different companies all under NDA’s. And the little guys – the independent artists – are not part of this negotiation. On the surface you are taking part in a legitimate service that hosts all the big acts, but in the back rooms where the real money is handled, it a different story.
“If you want me to keep my mouth shut, it's gonna cost you some dough. I figure a thousand bucks is reasonable, so I want two.” – Millers Crossing
The Mob gains power because they have ownership in certain parts of town; they gain this ownership by offering protection. They bully their way in and force you to comply. With the Major labels forming this syndicate with Spotify, they are looking to gain control of the system; they are looking to run the town.
They offer you the service of protection against illegal downloads, saying you get paid for your work. But the reality is you are giving up your rights, not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of the syndicate at the top. They are the ones sharing in the subscription fees and advertising revenue.
“Take it easy! The difference is, they're always gonna win. And you're gonna keep gettin' it up the ass.” – Once Upon A Time In America
All artists want exposure, and any talk of Spotify and the streaming model being the devil is often met with a cantankerous response. However, I have been keeping an eye on my monthly Tunecore earnings since Spotify launched, and thanks to their new analytics system it is very easy to track significant shifts. I have a number of releases that have generated steady sales for the last couple of years. The month of Spotify's launch saw a very definite 50% drop in income from these releases. That cut in earnings has continued for the following months.
Coincidence? Maybe. But the streams have shown a definite increase in plays for that period as well. Have a look yourself and share your findings. Is this isolated or is it a trend?
“My father taught me many things…keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”– The Godfather
For the time being the only reasonable solution I can see to the Spotify problem (as I suggested in last weeks post) is to release a maximum of two or three tracks per album to the service. The aim being that if someone likes your music they will seek you out and want to hear more elsewhere. This way you have the benefit of being part of the service, with an increased possibility of people straying away to actually invest in your album.
"I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me." – The Departed
Just because the Major Labels signed deals, doesn’t make it a legitimate service for all. Why would you join the mob if your only prospect were to clean up after them?
"Don't be callin' me no dishwasher. I kick you fuckin' monkey ass all over…" – Scarface