American Aquarium Asked Fans What They Thought Of Spotify – Here’s What They Said

892e454bfd834214f2c08be6116bc4bd7b76b9bfGuest Post by BJ Barham

My name is BJ Barham and I am the singer/songwriter for the Raleigh, NC band, American Aquarium. Recently, Bandsintown named us the hardest working band of 2014 with the most shows out of all other bands on their platform. While most of our energy is focused on touring and live shows, a lot of our time is also spent trying to figure out ways to make our fans happier. 

In the last few months, a lot of things, good and bad, have been said about Spotify; Taylor Swift this, and Dave Grohl that. I wanted to throw my hat into the ring and give my opinion on the matter. 

First off, I am all for Spotify. I personally have a premium subscription to their service. As someone who spends 95% of my life in a van, on the go, I enjoy being able to find new artists, sample their albums and decide how much I, the consumer, want to support their art, all from the comfort of my bench seat in the van. In an ever-changing music industry, one must adapt to survive. If I listen to a record on Spotify and like it, I get in my car, drive to Schoolkids Records in Raleigh,NC and I buy a vinyl copy of the record. I also go to shows and buy merchandise. I think THIS is the new business model. Let your record stand on its own. If enough people like it, they WILL support you. We are a living, breathing example of this model working. 

Feeling that I was the only musician alive that felt this way, I took to social media to see what our fans had to say about the matter and the feedback only cemented what we already knew. Yes, they listen to our music for free, but its so much more than that. They share that free music, which leads to more people PAYING to come see our live show, more people PAYING for physical copies of our records, be it vinyl or CD. We forget about the $9 we lost on iTunes after someone pays a $15-$20 cover to see us live, or $25 for a shirt or limited edition screen-print. We believe in our songs enough to give them away for free. We are confident enough in our music to know people will support us in other ways. We have made a decade long career off of this blind faith in our fanbase.  

Our fanbase made a ton of great points that only echo the mission statement this band has had since day one: If you take care of the fanbase, then the fanbase will take care of you. It’s that easy. Build relationships with your fans, shake hands, sign whatever they want you to sign, hang out after shows, and be available. In return, they will allow you to play music for the rest of your life. It's a no-brainer from where we’re standing. 

There was so much awesome feedback from folks that it was hard to pick the best ones, but we think that this infographic makes our point very clear and it’s straight from the mouths of the folks that really matter – the fans. 


See y’all at the rock show,

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  1. Interesting. The model may work for live bands who tour hard, but for composers/songwriters, or smaller artists who don’t want to do 300 gigs a year, it’s the kiss of death. If you don’t tour, a million streams won’t help your bottom line much.
    I’m not against streaming at all. I think streaming is great. But I am against everyone making money out of streaming except the actual artists creating the content. Spotify (and other streamers)is making money. The record companies (many who have a financial stake in various streaming companies) are making money. Various middle men are making money. That leaves the artists, many who have documented the lack of income from streaming in web articles, sucking up the crumbs left over.

  2. Yeah: Icuts75 sums this up beautifully. All that said, If you are not a Major artist it’s better to be on Spotify than not be on it. But if you are a major artist it only makes sense to window your album. But what I don’t like about this post is that accompanying graphic makes it clear that this is a Spotify endorsed ad and that they are using this bands hard work and success o spin the crumbs they pay. What works for one band or artist doesn’t neccessarily work for another and I hate the whole “just sell T shirts” mentality that this post is also unintentionally endorsing. Lastly there music is not being “given away” on Spotify they are being monetarily compensated in some small way but that doesn’t change the fact that most of the tech industry thinks that exposure is proper compensation for your work and you should be happy with whatever crumbs you get. People go to Spotify for the music and not the application. Without the content Spotify has nothing.

  3. PS: I should also mention that as a consumer I like Spotify too and have a premium membership. I think spotify needs to give more incentive to it’s free users to switch to premium and I don’t mean lowering the price but giving free users less access (espeically to new releases).

  4. I think Spotify is great and I am a consumer and professor in the music business. I listen to new music on Spotify all the time and if I like it I either go to Itunes, Amazon, or the store to buy the CD or download the single. I don’t have the premium service. As for the individuals above who commented on what works for this band but it won’t work in their situation or for other bands you have to figure out what works for you. Don’t bash what has worked for American Aquarium. You have a plethora of tools out there to help you succeed today…record sales, touring, selling merchandise,personal appearances,social media, sponsorships, music licensing to name a few. They have chosen touring and staying in contact with their fan base. I believe you can sustain a good living if you are committed to your craft. Staying in touch with your fan base at every juncture is very important so find out what works for you and execute!!!

  5. “Don’t bash what has worked for American Aquarium.” I wasn’t. But I was bashing what I see as the article trying to take one example and saying it will work for everyone. Yes, there are streaming “success” stories, but there are also many documented stories of artists/bands being paid practically nothing for millions of streams.
    To go out and tour constantly, while selling tons of merch to make up for the lack or pay from streaming services is NOT the answer for everyone.
    “If you take care of the fanbase, then the fanbase will take care of you.” can also be said as: “If you take care of the musicians, then the musicians will take care of you by continuing to have a career and making new music.”
    I dare anyone else, in any other job/industry to work for the same sort of money streaming produces for musicians/songwriters. You would all quit your jobs and find something else that pays more.

  6. My band now have a back catalogue of 8 albums on Spotify and if people want to discover and share that music, that is fine. All future releases will be ‘windowed’ with Spotify only getting it several months after release.
    People have to appreciate that ‘new music’ is a premium product and should be priced appropriately otherwise it has no value.
    The fortunes of one band and one set of fans is not representative of every band and the entire music industry!

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