When asked whether Spotify pays artists fairly, my answer has always been and remains that it's too early to tell. Startup music services, particularly those built on new revenue models, need a great deal of time to develop. Spotify is relatively new in the U.S. and most other markets, but many artists and labels in Scandinavia, who have known the service the longest, seem pleased with payments. But watching Spotify CEO Daniel EK and investor Sean "Napster" Parker dancing around what artists get paid left me uncomforable.
Yes, Spotify payments are made via labels and distributors; and they vary depend on revenue. But what prevents Spotify from releasing quarterly numbers that, for example, show total revenue paid vs. total streams?
After watching the company since its inception, it appears that Spotify's silence is part of the very complex and uncomfortable dance that they're forced to dance with major labels and publishers. The unsatisfying answers that these two smart entrepreneurs gave at AllThingsD sadly seem to confirm that. They left me wary: Are artists ever going to be paid fairly? Has Spotify been co-opted by the labels?
We're all waiting for answers. How long should we wait?