Music Business

HuffPo Pulls Post Critical Of Spotify – Read It Here

image from"Artists Rights advocate Blake Morgan (#IRespectMusic) published a story in the Huffington Post this morning critical of Spotify", writes David Lowery on his Trichordist blog. "The story was rapidly gaining traction when it was suddenly deleted and Morgan received this email from the Huffington Post:"

From: Bryan Maygers <>
Subject: Spotify’s Fatal Flaw Exposed
Date: January 8, 2018 at 11:43:41 AM EST
To: Blake Morgan <>
Hi Blake,

I’m writing to let you know that we’ve unpublished your recent post. We’re not making any judgment about the accuracy of the claims made in the piece, but the contributors platform is intended as a place for commentary based on the established factual record, not original reporting. If anyone were to dispute your account of the meeting in question, we wouldn’t be able to verify or stand behind the quotes.
If you want to reframe the piece with the same basic argument — that Spotify sees their service and not the music as the product — without relying on retelling the conversation after the meeting, we’d be happy to reconsider.

"I’m not a journalism expert but the author is the source," writes Lowery.  "What’s the problem?  You have to wonder if HuffPo got a phone call from Spotify on this one."

Here’s Blake’s piece in its entirety.

Spotify new

Spotify’s Fatal Flaw Exposed: How My Closed-Door Meeting with Execs Ended in a Shouting Match

I love streaming.

I love making playlists, I love being able to download streamed music so I can listen when I’m offline, and I love being able to bring that music with me. In short, I think it’s a great distribution method.

What I don’t love is how little musicians get paid for all that streaming. It’s not fair––not even close. What’s more, middle-class music makers are the ones who are hit hardest, whose businesses are threatened, and whose families are put at risk. So how can I be against the way streaming companies treat musicians but not be against streaming itself?

The same way I’m against the electric chair, but not against electricity.

Spotify, the current Goliath of streaming services, had a rocky year and it’s come at a bad time for them. The public’s perception of the once can-do-no-wrong streaming giant is evolving, and for the first time it’s not improving. This was the year people watched as multiple, massive class-action lawsuits were filed against the company for widespread copyright infringement. This was the year people learned that even while Spotify added millions of new subscribers, their per-stream rate to musicians actually fell. This was the year people started to understand how it all works: that while it takes a music maker 380,000 streams on Spotify just to make minimum wage, the average Spotify employee earns $14,000 a month.

Then there was the biggest revelation. This was the year people started to connect the dots about how Spotify’s founder, Daniel Ek, made his initial fortune. At 23, he was the CEO of uTorrent, a pirate platform that became BitTorrent (arguably the largest rights-infringing platform in the world). He and their developers then used identical rights-infringing software in order to build his new golden goose: Spotify. His personal worth is now estimated at around $800 million.

If all this wasn’t enough to corrode the company’s shiny image, people also noticed that Spotify doesn’t make anything. They’ve noticed that the television and film industries aren’t up in arms over Netflix the way music makers are up in arms about Spotify, for good reason. It’s because Netflix makes stuff. Great stuff in fact, like Stranger ThingsThe CrownOrange is the New Black––great shows that employ great artists and craftspeople at every level, not just superstars. Gaffers, grips, carpenters, writers, make-up artists, and so on. Meanwhile, Spotify pockets 30% of all the revenue they collect––and they don’t make anything.

Instead, they’ve become single-minded in their pursuit of Wall Street, aiming for a public offering that now looks likely in the weeks or months ahead. Spotify’s ambition to become a stock market titan––a strategy music insiders continue to scratch their heads at––will put the company in the untenable position of pleading poverty to Congress and pushing for even lower rates to music makers (“We can’t make any money, you have to save us!”), while simultaneously having to brag about how successful they are to their shareholders and the rest of Wall Street (“We’re making so much money! You have to buy our stock!”). All you have to do is ask Pandora, internet-radio’s once but now fallen Goliath, how that untenable position worked out for them. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

"Spotify doesn’t know what their product is…"

Spotify has a public relations problem because they have an actual problem, and for all the problems listed above, the greatest one they face is this: Spotify’s in trouble because Spotify doesn’t know what their product is.

It’s astonishing. But it’s absolutely true. I know, because they told me so.

I was invited to a closed-door “artists-only” meeting with executives from Spotify. I’d been invited because of I Respect Music, a campaign I started and launched from my laptop which, improbably and surprisingly, has since become the largest grassroots campaign in American music history. The meeting was a loud and pointed one––something Spotify executives hadn’t anticipated––and the 40 or so of us music makers present were openly incensed.

 I was a vocal participant in the meeting, and when it was over I found myself surrounded by several Spotify executives. One said, “Blake, I just don’t think you understand, our users love our product because it’s such an amazing one.” Another added, “You have to look past just numbers, our product is so great it’s actually turning the industry around.” This went on for a while, until I finally said to one of the executives, “You keep using that word, ‘product.’ I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m really asking you: what do you think your product is?”

The executive was surprised. He stared at me blankly and said, “What do you mean? Our product is Spotify.”

There it was. It was a shocking admission to me, in earshot of everyone, and one he obviously didn’t think was an admission at all.

“No no…sorry,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief. “Your product isn’t ‘Spotify.’” He continued to stare at me. I said, “Sir, your product is music.” The emboldened musicians standing around us started laughing. The exec smiled and backed away, “Well okay, if you’re going to be like that.”

“Wait,” I said, “Listen, it’s music. Your product is music. The reason I know that is because if we went out into the street right now and asked a thousand people what Starbucks’ ‘product’ is, they’d all say coffee. Not a single person would say ‘Starbucks’ product is Starbucks.’ Right?”

His smile faded.

“And by the way,” I added, “Stop calling your subscribers ‘users.’ They’re not ‘users,’ they’re listeners––our listeners in fact. You’re the ‘user.’ You’re using our music to monetize our listeners for your profit.”

He looked at me as if I’d just shot Santa Claus in the face.

“No, man! You’re wrong!” He was sweating now, and the dozen or so musicians who’d gathered around us began heckling him. He shouted, “Spotify is our product! You don’t get it at all!” He stormed off.

I called after him, “You shouldn’t be fighting the people who make your only product. That’s an expensive and stupid fight you’re gonna lose.” I left the meeting. I was still in disbelief.

I feel like this is a good time to remind you that I actually love streaming.

Webster’s English Dictionary defines the term “golden goose” as a continuing source of wealth or profit that may be exhausted if it’s misused. Sadly, Spotify’s ongoing crisis of misuse begins and ends with the fact that they don’t know their only product is music. They think it’s themselves, which explains each and all of their stunning mistakes and missteps. They’d be well-served to ask any first-semester business student what the difference is between a “brand” and a “product.” But I don’t think they will, and I don’t think it’d help them at this point. I think their goose is cooked.

Mark Twain wrote, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you think you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Spotify’s in serious trouble because they’re powerfully sure of something that just ain’t so. They think this is all about them. It’s not.

It’s about music. It’s about the people who love to listen to it, and the people who love to make it. That connection between music lover and music maker is primal and unbreakable. Take all the music off Spotify and no one will show brand-loyalty by sitting and staring at their silent logo.

There’s a bleak future waiting for Spotify if they continue to behave their way into situations like the one they’re in now. Wall Street won’t be able to save them. And music makers won’t be interested in even trying. Ask MySpace.

I really do love streaming. It’s not the future as many say, it’s the present. It’s here now, and it’s here to stay. It can provide enormous energy to our musical landscape––lighting the way for music lovers and music makers alike––and it can and should drive great, productive, and healthy growth for all. I hope it does.

Remember…musicians love electricity. It’s the electric chair we hate.

via The Trichordist

Share on:


  1. Blake doesn’t get it. Music can be streamed from lots of platforms, Napster legally for a decade. Rates should be higher sure, but for users to proliferate, the product has to be good (discovery), usable and affordable. No one is going to pay $25 a month for a streaming service. The product has to be so good as to attract more users, and it has to be affordable to get the industry north of the ~200 million free + paid streaming users on the planet. In Blake’s utopia, these users would all buy his CD. That’s not wat a platform does at scale. If the product (platform) is good, it entices new users because the value is so compelling. The product is not Blake’s Music. The product is music discovery and accessibility.

  2. I’m disappointed with both Trichordist and Hypebot for publishing this. As a professional musician I certainly have my problems with how rights holders get compoensated for streaming revenue, but I fully agree with “HuffPo” that this article doesn’t hold up to journalistic standards. Furthermore, I have no reason to believe that HuffPo actually sent the email saying they pulled the article. Neither Hypebot nor Trichordist demonstrates any attempt to contact HuffPo to verify, or to scour any web archiving service for proof that the article was ever published in the first place.
    Finally, I agree with Napster User – Blake is a poor writer, and doesn’t grasp much about software product management. Blake is trying to say that Spotify would be nothing without the content it licensees. His writing style is haughty, inflammatory, and reminds me of right-wing media sites, and doesn’t make me trust him much, even if he is fighting for a cause I believe in.

  3. “Spotify’s ambition to become a stock market titan––a strategy music insiders continue to scratch their heads at”
    Blake, it’s called liquidity. And the reason “”music insiders”” are scratching their heads at it is because “”music insiders”” don’t know the first thing about liquidity, exits, etc.
    Also, I have very little faith that this scenario happened as described here. It reminds me of one of those tearjerker Facebook posts about a little boy with cancer who gave his allowance to a homeless guy or something that is almost certainly made up but gets shared by a zillion naive moms.

  4. I love all you haters hating on this piece – but here’s the heart of the matter. Whether this is true or not, it gets the point across that Spotify is simply not helping the music industry make progressive steps forward. If they were, they would not be currently in a $1.6 BILLION lawsuit for willful and knowing copyright infringement (the fourth such lawsuit in 2 years, by the way.) If they were in the business of music, they would have solved these issues that caused these lawsuits to be brought up long ago. In fact, they would be leading the charge to congress and demanding updates of laws that regulate our outdated industry. They are the leader in the streaming space, and, as such, they should be setting the example and helping pave the path towards a newer, modernized, and ultimately more profitable music industry for EVERYONE, not just themselves. Look at the track record of how they handle their lawsuits. They do nothing to take responsibility or help the industry move forward. Streaming is the greatest thing to happen to the music industry since the internet started. But Spotify execs need to really rethink the way they are handling this business, because they are quickly losing the faith of the artists they are supposed to represent. I think what Blake said about the execs in this room sounds right on point. This is the MUSIC business. MUSIC comes first.

  5. You must have missed the part where Blake sings the praises of streaming, or you have a specific agenda to push. Do you agree that the Spotify product is music?

  6. Musicians have to scramble every f’in day to try and create liquidity despite getting ripped off by record labels, club owners, crooked managers and music publishers and now the tech sector. Also, note that Blake has several witnesses who verify that this is an accurate description of the meeting. Nice try, though.

  7. Yes, I disagree that the Spotify product is music.
    Spotify is a service for sponsors who wish to reach an audience.
    Spotify sells audience, not music.
    Consider this: Spotify knows well each and every member of the audience, but knows far less about the music it delivers.

  8. i think it’s ok to hate on the piece and fully agree with the heart of the matter. if we want to turn the tide for streaming more in musicians favor, we deserve people who can write eloquently and report accurately so that their credibility not be diminished. if there were witnesses who back up Blake great, if his reputation is mostly trustworthy, great. we still deserve concise helpful writing that moves the issue forward instead of reads like partisan politics.

  9. No. It isn’t music. Was Napster’s product the files it shared? No, it was a platform to share files. The Starbucks analogy was a fail, a much better analogy would be Uber. What is Uber’s product? It isn’t taxis, because it doesn’t own anything. What about Airbnb? It isn’t rooms, because it doesn’t own any.
    Spotify doesn’t own any music. It owns a streaming platform plus licensing rights. Also it is worth noting that Spotify deals with labels not artists. So if artists are upset at not receiving enough from music on Spotify, they should have a chat to their label about how much the label is pocketing.

  10. Yes this is systemic in the music industry. You’d think artists would be in favour of something that shakes up the status quo. It doesn’t make sense to continue to support labels when they don’t have artist interests at heart. I have no doubt Spotify will begin working directly with artists and going around labels to get music released.
    The days of labels are dying. Spotify, youtube and soundcloud are at the forefront of bringing music directly to people and breaking the monopoly that labels have held for decades.

  11. If it’s the writing style you most oppose, then I’d say your argument is petty.
    If you’d rather rail against Mr. Morgan’s writing style than the issue he’s exposing, then the the one that’s preventing the issue from moving forward is… Well, you.

Comments are closed.