8 Things Spotify Could Do Right Now To Show They Care About Musicians

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This guest post is by Gavin Castleton, a songwriter and producer from Portland, OR.

1. Promote “Buy Now” links on album pages and next to individual tracks.

2. Allow artists to edit their own profiles.

3. Display links to artists’ websites, FB pages, twitter profiles, etc.

4 . Allowing users to “Like” and “Follow” an artist right from the Artist page.

5. Allow users to sign up for artists’ email list from the Artist page.

6. Serve ads in a way that did not encourage users to interrupt their listening mid-album/playlist in order to listen to or do something else.

7. Pay independent artists the same rates as major label artists (One could argue that major labels should be paid lower rates than independents, since their overall revenue from Spotify is offset by an 18% share of the company).

8. Pay artists a flat fee for their streams, instead of tying their royalty rate to advertising revenue over which the artist has no control. Artists should not be taking on risk along with Spotify unless they’re also given stock options in the company. The current Spotify model treats artists like investors but without any long-term benefits.

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  1. All nice ideas, except for #8. If consumers are not paying per stream, it is nearly impossible for these services to anticipate what they should be paying a label or distributor, thus the model, is appropriately, the percentage of revenue, pro-rated.
    I think in time, you will see rates go up and flexibility in these models once they start reaching critical mass.
    Or else artists can cry and go home with their music and hope that the Megauploads of the world start sharing money with artists and Apple starts sharing a piece of the ipod/iphone with labels and artists.

  2. The original article I posted now reads, “flat rate,” instead of “flat fee.” You’re right, “flat fee” would not make any sense for a streaming model. Spotify has said many times that the royalty rate will increase as their ad revenue pool gains traction (here is a great analysis that suggests it will never be sufficient: http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/spotiwhy-are-subscription-music-services-a-sustainable-busin.html), but that’s my point: artists are already taking on the task of providing the content that is solely responsible for the traffic; they should not also be responsible for the “loss” in the Spotify’s loss-leader model, especially without stake in the company.

  3. Great ideas from GavCas.
    I just need to add this somewhat related request: go check out this dude’s music. He’s a creative genius and light years ahead of his time.

  4. Great ideas! #1 is already implemented in Europe. We can buy the MP# version of the tracks. (Not very popular though). As for #8 I agree with “1-7”.
    As for the rest: Come on Spotify do it!!

  5. one thing i find particularly frustrating (and puzzling) from an artist advocate perspective is that spotify has made no effort to monitize the free version of their player. nearly all of their so-called “ads” are promotional spots for spotify. they should be selling that ad space, as they said they would, and giving more back to the artists. instead, spotify has ignored the opportunity to make money from their free version.

  6. Great suggestions !
    But i’m afraid it won’t happen. Not in a million years. Because they don’t have to . Because wathever profits they put in their pockets at the end of the year largely offsets any bad press or bad “karma” from musicians.

  7. 1) Last.fm does all of these things other than #8.
    2) Why do you want to turn Spotify into yet another ugly ovrhyped over-SocialMedia-ed aggregator of home pages and facebook links? There’s like a zillion sites that do this.

  8. Gavin,
    I wish it were that simple, but it’s a bit more involved. It’s really not artists per se who are solely responsible for the traffic. It’s the rights holders who allow that music to be there in the first place.
    Yes, artists create the content. But then in most cases they sell that off, full or partially when they sign label and pub deals.
    If the majors who put the bulk of popular music catalogs through the years pulled out, these services would be tumbleweed factories. Since these labels and rights holders have the majority of the literal stock in regards to their share of owned content, they get a better deal. That’s just the reality.
    The indie or DIY artist will never have the same deal, the major’s content is what draws the bulk of the traffic to the site, so they get more.
    In the end, the value of a stream comes from a few different sources, paid and ad based, and then things like volume are taking into consideration. This makes the entire system dynamic. A flat rate has would actually work against you as the system came to scale.
    The best thing Spotify could do is make the way they work easier to understand to both the consumer and artist, literally in 4 year old layman’s terms. Also things like letting people know what their cut is when it comes to their 90 cycles used to calculate base royalty rates for artists.

  9. Eric Hebert of http://www.evolvor.com sent in this comment:
    Hmm maybe they could build an amazing platform that allows music to be easily streamed and shared? Oh right they did that.
    Promoting “buy” links is not going to help musicians, because “buying”
    digital files is a retarded business model. A better idea would be for Spotify to create an app that slaps musicians in the face and then teaches them how to build a creative business model that they can actually make money at.
    I feel bad for the guys who are working over at Spotify, they create this amazing platform for music and every musician and their mom just shits all over it. Yet at the same time forcing their tunes down my throat using a program and distribution model (iTunes) that makes sharing difficult and takes a hefty percentage.
    If you’re ideas for Spotify are so good, why don’t you go create your own technology that “cares about musicians”? Or create music that gets people to care about YOU and not worry about the players in the industry catering to your specific needs or wants?
    I find it hilarious that musicians “care” so much about the money side of things, when all they should worry about is getting more people to hear their music.

  10. I find it hilarious that you work for a living and sell your advice to others. You should do it just for the sake of it, and stop looking at the money side of things too.

  11. I believe they are really trying to sell those spots, but adoption is just slow. It may have to do with their lack of ad targeting; from what I can tell, they don’t have a decent recommend engine in place (like one that plays you snippets of music that is similar to what you’re currently streaming) or any way for the user to curate their ad viewing/listening experience (by Liking an ad or designating it as “irrelevant” like Facebook, Hulu, etc.). I understand that adoption may be slow, but that’s my whole point with #8: it shouldn’t be on the artist to sit around hoping that ad revenue increases so they can make more than .004/play, when they can’t do anything about the progress of ad selling.

  12. 1) So does that make Last.fm an “ugly ovrhyped [sic] over-SocialMedia-ed aggregator of home pages and facebook links”?
    2) Firstly, Spotify already has full Facebook integration and has implemented several “Social” features, most of which users love (shared playlists, for example). Their partnering with FB was the biggest bump they’d ever seen in adoption. So I don’t know where you’re getting the impression that Spotify is currently this sacred garden of non-commercialized music grazing… I presume you’ve heard the audio ads and seen the full page banner ads, right? You are aware that free users are forced to sign up with Facebook account, right? I don’t think adding an artists’ URL and Facebook link on their bio page constitues the social marketing blitz that you’re lamenting. If you’re wondering why I would advocate giving users the functionality that would allow them to stay in touch with the artist (and vice versa), and heaven forbid, financially contribute to their work, then I think it’s safe to say this article is not relevant to you.

  13. How about ‘Things Musicicans Could Do Right Now To Show They Care About Spotify’!
    Finally we have a brilliant LEGAL music streaming service and all the focus is on how much royalties flowing to the record labels. The major labels have successfully crushed most attempts to create legal services with their unrealistic advances/royalty demands and Spotify will struggle to maintain the amounts of royalties it is currently obliged to pay. If musicians are feeling the pinch that should turn some attention onto how much the greedy record label executives milk from the industry.
    FACT – Spotfiy pay more royalties than radio plays, but I don’t see anyone complaining about radio royalties.
    Musicians need to get their heads around the reality that music is available for FREE (with no royalties paid) via the ever present pirate sites. If they want to get paid and not rely on the few people over the age of 50 that buy CDS, then they should do everything in their power to support the like of Spotify.

  14. NittyGritty,
    The only difference between Spotify and “piracy,” from an artist’s standpoint, is that they can opt out of Spotify. If you think a $.004/stream royalty rate has any impact on the life of an average artist, you’ve got a reality problem. And if you think that it feels any better to line the pockets of one Swedish company (Spotify) over another (Pirate bay) you are again wrong. It may or may not be great for exposure, but in terms of income, the two are pretty much identical to us. That is why the majority of my points in this post are geared towards helping the artist maximize the exposure. Because there is plenty of math to suggest that the numbers will never add up to a sustainable model, even when/if ad revenue increases.
    FACT: Spotify and Radio are entirely different beasts. One is on-demand, the other is heavily curated. One gives the listener access to an artist’s entire catalogue (or whatever record’s they allow), the other an artist’s single song. One is proven to increase album sales, the other is not (and there is questionable evidence that it may cannibalize album sales). I think artists are aware of these differences.
    Your statement, “If they want to get paid and not rely on the few people over the age of 50 that buy CDS, then they should do everything in their power to support the like of Spotify” either suggests that you don’t pay attention to market statistics or that you work for Spotify… or possibly, both. Please read more.

  15. I sat in a presentation where Spotify’s UK MD of the time Paul Brown was very keen tell the room full of song-writers that Spotify could tell advertisers exactly how many people had heard their ads, and this was something that radio couldn’t do.
    When the hands went up to ask “so can you tell us how many people are listening to our songs?” he floundered somewhat, saying it was commercially sensitive and then that it would be technically too difficult to break out that information.
    I wouldn’t expect nice treats for song-writers any time soon… it seems only the record companies have the power to get Spotify to add/remove/rearrange the furniture.

  16. Yes in my haste the opening line read ‘musicicans’. A typo – not a new breed of artist!

  17. I guess it’s wrong to focus on the $.004/stream royalty rate. The number of streams are a more important factor. Spotify still has a limited market share (about 1% in the US). If that grows to the 37% like in Sweden it may well have an impact on the life of an average artist. Time will tell.

  18. Dear Evolvor . Are we the 1st of April yet ? Are you from Mars ? Cause this can’t be real… This much arrogance can’t be for real…
    “Yet at the same time forcing their tunes down my throat using a program and distribution model (iTunes) that makes sharing difficult and takes a hefty percentage.”
    So… iTunes take a hefty percentage ( 30% ) of 1$ in a completely TRANSPARENT way.
    Spotify takes a hefty percentage of , what 90% ? 99.9 % ? 5%? ,1% ? Will the miserable insects that we are EVER be allowed to know ?
    “Or create music that gets people to care about YOU and not worry about the players in the industry catering to your specific needs or wants?”
    mmm , yes . Your are absoluetly right. Artists shouldn’t make money out of their work. Only Spotify and its owners (are you one of them ?) should make money out of their work.
    You talk like straight out of a Charles Dickens tale, i can almost picture out the big fat rich factory owner telling his slaves “hey , why don’t you just get back to work, money is not good for you, the whole reason for your existence is to make money for me, cause that what God wants from you.”
    Hey Evolvor ! Didn’t you get the memo ? SLAVERY IS OVER !
    “A better idea would be for Spotify to create an app that slaps musicians in the face and then teaches them how to build a creative business model that they can actually make money at.”
    Oh ? So you are admitting then that Spotify is not the “creative business model that they can actually make money at.” In fact it’s the “creative business model that Spotify can actually make money at.”
    Maybe you should teach the low life creatures that we are what the model is. Put your money where your mouth is.

  19. I would think that the info on the amount of times your song got played would be the responsibility of your performing rights organization no?
    Spotify pays out two royalties per spin. One is a mechanical, the other performance. You see one on a monthly statement from your distro, the other on your BMI/ASCAP/Etc statement.
    The fact that that the latter info isn’t itemized in on them, not the service.
    Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that those performing rights organizations are very cagey, if not silent as to how much they’re taking from streaming payments….

  20. Rdio has a counter on every artist, album and song page so one knows exactly how many times something was streamed…publicly available. amazed no one talks more about how much more awesome the Rdio interface and discovery tools are.

  21. This is the kind of transparency I think every artist would appreciate, it just makes sense to do.

  22. That sounds very different from how things work in the UK!
    ..apart from the word “cagey”, which seems very familiar

  23. I think this article was very well-written with some fantastic points that Spotify should catch on to, particularly about tying in social media with Spotify pages. Sean Parker was never one to be on the side of the artists should why should he be now?
    Indies should definitely be paid the same amount of money as the majors. I guess they figured they would never be able to get this off the ground without giving them a pay off of some kind first. Now they will deal with everyone else.
    I think it’s completely unfair how artists do not have control over their own Spotify pages. Also- why do I have no control over what advertisements are displayed on my page? Youtube understood that when they started allowing people to monetize their pages and I commend them on being so specific.
    One thing about Spotify that they need to brush up on is their organization. Everything is all over the place. Again, if artists had control over their own pages, this would cut their workload, and artists could fix what is being displayed wrong making both sides a bit happier.

  24. Gavin,
    Some great points mate.
    Check out The Holding Pattern…it’s been setup by a couple of Aussie guys..
    New music marketplace where artists can upload their work for free and have their content exposed to all the global production houses for film and tv usage….pretty cool….and pretty sure they cover all of your points listed above…
    They’re fighting the good fight for ALL artists…

  25. But NittyGritty is nevertheless correct, in that the per listener payout from Spotify is greater than that of terrestrial radio. Independents may eventually see some return from Spotify, but both the revenue and the audience will have to grow, in order for that to happen. (both of which seem likely, unless all the independents pull out) The conventional wisdom (to which I ascribe) is that, for independent musicians, the enemy is obscurity, rather than poverty; it therefore makes a great deal of sense, (at least to me) for nascent artists to be available on Spotify, which is demonstrably a better music discovery vehicle than radio, for all but the most passive listeners. I’m also of the opinion that an independent musician should perhaps prefer to appeal to active listeners, acting on peer recommendation rather than being spoon fed music hyped by the majors.

  26. I’ll check them out, thanks! It’s funny that some site marketers still say “artists can upload their content FOR FREE.” That’s like banks saying, “Now you can open a savings account with NO MONTHLY FEES” as if they’re doing you a favor by playing with your money.

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