Spotify has disrupted the music business in many, and amassed influence to the point where 'Spotify' is shorthand for streaming itself. If that's not enough change, the way in which Spotify and other streaming platforms pay artists has fundamentally altered how some musicians are structuring their songs.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Spotify has changed the music business in many ways, including a few that you may have never considered.
There are many streaming services in the world, but none of them can compare to the size and influence of Spotify. With more than one-hundred million subscribers, the Swedish based company has nearly double the audience of its closest competitor (Apple Music). The company has grown so popular, in fact, that it has become a kind of shorthand for streaming music. People say, “Do you use Spotify,” instead of, “do you subscribe to a streaming music platform?”
Spotify has revolutionized how artists make money from their music. The company pays, on average, between $0.006 and $0.0084 per song stream. A single stream is counted when the listener has played thirty-seconds of the track. If the listener finishes the song, that’s great, but it doesn’t change the amount of money the stream earns for the artist.
With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why many industry experts claim Spotify has changed the sound of music. The ‘Spotify Sound,’ as it has been dubbed, refers to artists who waste no time getting to the heart of their song. The days of lengthy introductions or slow-burning tracks has been replaced by immediate choruses or other attention-grabbing tactics.
Another element of the ‘Spotify Sound’ is the length of a song, which again is a result of the company’s approach to compensating talent. If a play is counted after thirty-seconds of listening time, then artists are not incentivized to make longer songs. The more financially informed approach would be to record more material that is shorter, thus earning more money. A five-minute song earns as much as a two-minute song, but listeners can play multiple two-minute songs in the same amount of time, which means they can earn more money.
A glance at the Spotify and Billboard charts shows the impact of the company’s influence. “Old Town Road,” which has spent three months topping charts, is less than two minutes in length. The remix, which helped catapult the song into the pop stratosphere, runs just over two and a half minutes long.
Artists who have adapted to the influence of the ‘Spotify Sound’ are seeing success on the platform. In a recent digital feature from PBS, two members of the group Frenship credited their efforts to match the changing trends for the success they found with their hit “Capsize.” Check it out:
Other platforms have different rules for what counts as a play. Some services require a certain percentage of the song to be enjoyed before a play is counted, while others have a higher minimum for time spent listening. Both methods of counting plays encourage the same thing. Artists should make shorter, catchier songs if they want to earn big from streaming services.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.