Why are all the musicians mad at Spotify?

Look I admit I was a little late to the game, but now I’m a Spotify addict. If you’re even later than I am, let me tell you that it’s a streaming service that’s completely free and gives you a lot better control over what you hear than Pandora does. It’s fast, smart, and has a lot of music. But there are some musicians who say Spotify is a ripoff, and they’re fighting tooth and nail to keep their music off the service. Why is that?

Well, of course it’s about money. It’s about getting paid for every time a track is streamed. Musicians are claiming that they just aren’t being paid enough (or in some cases aren’t being paid at all) when their tracks play on Spotify. If that’s true, it’s a good reason to get cranky.

I did a little research and it turns out there’s something to be said there. It looks like the way Spotify pays artists, they get a certain percentage of all the money Spotify takes in for streaming songs. The problem is, as Spotify adds new songs, that percentage is going to get lower and lower. A song that is streamed 100,000 times this month is going to make the performer more money than he would make if the song is streamed 100,000 times next November, because by then there will be more songs available and more people joining, so that 100,000 will be a smaller percentage of the total.

My research also suggests that most artists will make about 6/10 of a cent from a single stream, possibly less. So really, if you’re on Spotify, you’re not making money unless you’re insanely popular. But that’s true of every part of the music industry, so why would anyone be angry?

Aside from the idea that an artist needs to stream more and more to make the same money, keep in mind that Spotify is taking the place of traditional radio stations that pay more in royalties due to old-fashioned agreements that may date back to the last century. Back then, music was more important because there was no other form of electronic entertainment that you could take with you. Today, music is just a piece in a big electronic puzzle.

So, you have some people in the music industry who really don’t want their stuff on Spotify at all. These are the top people, the people whose music you’ll probably want even if you can’t stream it for free. Your average working musician couldn’t afford to take a stance like that. These top earners are telling you that it’s not fair to them that they can’t make 10 boatloads of money, when they have to settle for only 6 boatloads.

But I get it. I am a content creator, too. Obviously, I’m not at the level of Adele or Taylor Swift. My average article is read about 10,000 times over its life, with a few of them getting about 250,000 views. That sounds like a lot until you realize some dude on Vine can get 15 million views for crashing his bike into a road sign. But I do understand that the stuff I create is worth money. You don’t pay it, but your friends at Solid Signal pay me and they do that because my articles help pay the bills. So I understand the business arrangement, and I probably wouldn’t write thousands of articles and tutorials for free.

It’s just hard to feel too bad for these big-time musicians, even if they try to tell you that they’re really fighting for the little guy who can’t afford to fight for himself. The business has changed. It’s a lot cheaper to make a song now, and it’s cheaper to promote it, too. So rather than getting ever richer and richer, maybe these top earners just need to remind themselves that content creation is different than it was in 1980 and settle for one fewer yacht. Sorry, that’s my take on all of it. What’s yours?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.