Whats the value of Spotify for artists?

spotify for artists

I’m a big fan of physical products and long ago abandoned ITunes when Apple started telling me which devices I could listen to purchased tunes on and it became clear that their position was that you are essentially ‘borrowing the music” like a lending library and you don’t own it. The Bruce Willis case highlighted this difference. I’ve been aware of Spotify for some time and recently see a lot of social media buzz about Spotify for artists, with artists complaining about the lack of financial return from the platform. Tunecore describes Spotify in this way

“Spotify has over 40 million users worldwide with 10 million of those users paying a monthly subscription fee. Over 3 million of those paying subscribers are in the U.S. alone. Spotify launched in Sweden and Norway in October of 2008, but didn’t launch in the U.S. in July 2011. The population in Sweden is about 10 million people, Norway is 5.1 million, and in the U.S. about 319 million people! Just imagine the amount of money Spotify and other streaming services will generate for artists and labels once streaming becomes the norm in the U.S. and other highly populated countries around the world. We are talking billions of dollars folks! And Spotify is still a relatively small service when compared to YouTube who have 1B users and iTunes who now have about 800 million accounts. As Spotify and other streaming services continue to grow so will its artist payouts.”

Call me naive, but Spotify can only function and prosper with artist support, without content, nobody is going to visit the platform. Artists who sign up for the platform and then complain about the poor financial return, remind me of those people complaining that Facebook ‘should support their music” not appreciating that FB is a business and most artists are “users” and not customers as they are not paying for the service in the first place. Both platforms give the artist “reach” in terms of a potentially bigger audience, but from what I see no real direct financial benefit.

Artists who left or refuse to be on spotify

There are a number of very sucessful artists who refuse to be on Spotify. In 2014, Taylor Swift pulled all of her music off Spotify. “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for,”  In 2015 Prince removed all his music from Spotify and Neil Young pulled his music off Spotify and other streaming services because he found the sound quality to be sub-standard.

“I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution,” 

I don’t feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It’s bad for my music.”

Neil has championed high resolution audio and is steadily releasing his back catalogue in this way. Personally I’m a fan of high resolution audio that is superior to the quality found on CDs and vastly better than mp3 quality.

Pete Townshend didn’t hold back on his thoughts regarding Spotify for artists

In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Pete Townshend said, “I’m a user of Spotify, so I feel like a complete hypocrite when I say: I think the guy that runs it is probably a f*cking crook.

In a Guardian article David Byrne commented

In future, if artists have to rely almost exclusively on the income from these services, they’ll be out of work within a year. Some of us have other sources of income, such as live concerts, and some of us have reached the point where we can play to decent numbers of people because a record label believed in us at some point in the past. I can’t deny that label-support gave me a leg up – though not every successful artist needs it. So, yes, I could conceivably survive, as I don’t rely on the pittance that comes my way from music streaming, as could Yorke and some of the others. But up-and-coming artists don’t have that advantage – some haven’t got to the point where they can make a living on live performances and licensing, so what do they think of these services?

In researching this article I’m increasingly discovering that many of my favourate artists are not fans of Spotify including Jason Isbell

who in 2014 commented that “streaming services don’t add to my income in any way.”


Since writing this, it seems that Taylor Swift , Pete Townesend and Prince are now on Spotify! I’m note sure why they changed their minds but its 1 for big tech 0 for creative artists, in my humble opinion of course

Backlash against Spotify for artists?

I recently read an interesting article in Wired magazine about this very subject, citing Tom Gray

During lockdown Tom Gray started tweeting with the hashtag #BrokenRecord. A lot. As a working musician (and 1998 Mercury Prize winner with his band, Gomez) and a director at music royalties collection society PRS, he found himself uniquely placed to advocate for change.

The subject of Gray’s ire was the apparent discrepancy between major labels banking upwards of $1 million every hour from streaming, and middle-tier or smaller artists who receive tiny amounts in comparison for their millions of streams. Concert violinist Tasmin Little was paid £12.34 for millions of streams over six months, for example, and anonymous tipsters report similarly meagre payouts. Now, Gray is part of a growing number in the industry advocating for a change to the way payouts from streaming platforms are handled.

The Wired article points out

T”he biggest beneficiaries of the pro rata model are the major labels, who own the vast majority of recorded music in existence via deals favourable to them. Currently, if you sign with a major label, taking home 30 per cent of the streaming royalties earned by your music is considered about as good as it gets. And streaming, by narrowing how music is consumed, essentially exaggerates and exacerbates the age-old imbalance between the majors and the rest of the industry. For these reasons, Gray’s campaign is ultimately aimed at root-and-branch reform of how the music industry serves musicians – streaming is simply the most visible way into the issue.

Full article HERE

Other non financial benefits for artists on Spotify or head to pastures new?

The argument for non financial benefits for appearing on Spotify remind me of the “pay to play” argument and “playing for exposure” arguments presented to artists. It reminds me of some niche music festivals that promote the idea of ” Remuneration for playing” rather than a fee for playing. This in my view can be the slippery slope where the artist is always disadvantaged in favour of the business owner. Yes, there is a case for artists starting out to seek new opportunities and seek out new opportunities, but the danger is that there is an increasing perception that music/entertainment has not value and/or should be free.

My own thoughts are that the platform works well for the company, but devalues the artist’s creative content. One artist did have one solution which rather amused me (see below)

Another view on spotify for artists

Here is another view from a professional artist. He also makes some very valid observations about how tough it is for musicians to make music professionally. Two take aways from this excellent clip are that the artist needed to stream 7 miliion streams to make $25,000 and that Spotify is a tech business.

Facebook’s new terms for music and common myths about FB

Since covid 19 and the absence of being able to play live gigs, many musicians have understandably moved to using social media as a way to communicate their music. Aside from many of the technical challenges, its useful to not FaceBook’s terms relating to music which are as follows

Music Guidelines
These supplemental terms apply if you post or share any videos or other content containing music on any Facebook Products.You are responsible for the content you post

People use our Products to share content with their family and friends. Keep in mind you remain solely responsible for the content that you post, including any music that features in that content. Nothing in these terms constitutes any authorization by us with respect to any use of music on any of our Products.

Use of music for commercial or non-personal purposes in particular is prohibited unless you have obtained appropriate licenses.You may not use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience We want you to be able to enjoy videos posted by family and friends. However, if you use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience for yourself or for others, your videos will be blocked and your page, profile or group may be deleted. This includes Live.Unauthorized content may be removed

If you post content that contains music owned by someone else, your content may be blocked, or may be reviewed by the applicable rights owner and removed if your use of that music is not properly authorized.You may not be able to post or access videos containing music in every country of the world

We want you to be able to share videos with your family and friends wherever they are, but any music in your video, if it is allowed at all, may not be available in all countries of the world.

The key phrase here for many is

Use of music for commercial or non-personal purposes in particular is prohibited unless you have obtained appropriate licenses.

FB Customers v FB users

Many musicians fail to appreciate that “FB customers” are thos who pay for adverts and FB is of course a substantial public limited corporation with its own business plan in play. Many of us are “users” and there are conditions set out by FB as to how we use their business model. I’m always amused when artists insist “FB should do X and Y” as FB is not a charitable resource for musicians, its a business and much as I would love for them to be the former role, its not going to happen anytime soon.

This is one of the many reasons why I always advise artists to create their own web presence that they control rather than rely on 3rd party businesses and often placing “their egg in one basket”

I’m astonished that many artists don’t pay attention to this aspect of marketing and fail to appreciate that social media and platforms like Spotify are all businesses whose primary function is to maximise profits. I’d love this to be not the case, but that’s plain wishful thinking…

Social media groups, the good, bad and plain crazy

Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and is a major medium for how many of us communicate with each other.

I have been running the OUS FB group for 2 years now and it continues to be a fascinating experience. Fortunately I also have two excellent moderators to help with this and we are now well over 3000 members with 108 artists now with their own pages at www.originalukulelesongs.com. 

The OUS FB page was not my only experience of running such a group of course, and the behaviors of people online can be quite fascinating in all manner of ways. I also am a member of a few select FB groups which can allow connections to some really terrific folks

First, the good news

Lets start with some good news…

There is a certain joy to setting up and running a successful social media group and seeing it develop. On the OUS platform I have been amazed at the diversity and quality of what has been posted. We have a wide range of different artists from all over the globe with a common interest in creating original music. One of the reasons the group works so well is that it has very specific parameters for posting. this means there’s good focus with what appears online and its a very respectful supportive space for artists.

Running such a group can be a fair amount of work and of course I run the main site as well which requires some investment of time and money. Advances in technology mean that social media platforms like FB allow people to connect in ways that were never previously possible. Similarly with WordPress its very easy to create websites that look great and be updated easily. 

With the OUS platform, there’s no commercial benefit for me personally, I do it for the love of music. When people talk about it being “my group” I remind them that its “our group” and a collaborative project. Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and its a brilliant way to connect instantly with people all over the world with similar interests. Of course we are all individuals so there will be differences as well and its always worth remembering that. As an old Japanese proverb states “No one of us is smarter than ALL of us”

Ok, stop reading now if you only want good news…

The “bad news”

The bad news is that whenever you set up or often visit a forum, you will inevitably discover a wide range of differing views, which in itself is no bad thing. Inevitably you will get some people who want to shout loudest and insist that “they are right” and everyone else should agree with them. This insistence creates a tendency towards attention seeking and this can create all kinds of problems. I don’t doubt that the shouter feels that they have a valid view, but it would be IMO useful if they considered that its just one point of view among many. As well as individual shouters there are what I call “shouter followers” (usually 6 – 10) who then automatically “like” everything the shouter posts. Let me be clear, everyone is welcome to say what they think, but often this group activity is in my 100% biased view done without a great deal of real consideration and is often an emotional reaction. Often “shouter posts” get withdrawn quickly when the shouter themselves realizes that the emotionally fueled post is not the best communication and may in extreme cases result in some legal action if it falls into the defamation category.  

There have been lots of studies on people who have imagined superiority and in the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is.

(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect)

Fortunately with OUS this doesn’t happen much as such folks are usually not creative types and seem to be more preoccupied with telling other folks “how they should behave” even though of course it’s not their group! 

Humor is always welcome and I’m perfectly serious about that

One of the challenges in running a FB group is that people will inevitably have different views and sometimes individuals can forget to be respectful of others. In extreme situations people can start to insist how others “should behave” failing to appreciate the value of discussion and debate. I have always found a good sense of humor is helpful in encouraging dynamic and interesting discussions.

A lack of humor is often a sign that somebody has a very polarized opinion. Its not that they are “right” or “wrong” rather that they have a very narrow perspective and “feel they are right” despite any evidence to the contrary! When we take ourselves too seriously people become very polarized and this creates unhelpful unproductive arguments where people are more concerned with “being right” than actual genuine discussion and debate.

The Plain Crazy

You really couldn’t make up some things that are posted online. Some individuals blast out the same post to countless groups with zero consideration. They usually never contribute to the group discussion. Other crazy examples are where people post content that has no connection to what the group is actually about. 

Some people spend literally hours and hours online living in “a virtual world” I have met others who insist that everybody is constantly talking about them on a daily basis! Unless you are the president of the USA in 2017, I suspect that’s a bit of a reach…

Think before you post

In running any site its smart  to be very mindful of the difference between “fair comment” and libel.

Sometimes posters can get really fired up and not appreciate what they are posting. If someone makes blanket defamatory statements this can cause all kinds of problems for the poster and potentially the owner of the FB group.  The law has changed in recent years and the penalties can be quite severe. Essentially “Think, BEFORE you post online” In my other life I took out a harassment order against one individual who posted defamatory comments online.

If you are on the receiving end its wise to take screenshots. You can also back up your entire FB page quite easily which can be a useful exercise. Most groups that have niche interests will attract enthusiasts and sometimes theses will form groups and attempt to direct everything that happens on the group. This is why its smart to have moderators and set out the basic guidelines for posting on the page.

Voltaire and Napoleon’s had something to say

Voltaire was quoted as saying

“I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It”

I think discussion and debate are how we all learn and FB along with other social media platforms offer a terrific opportunity for this. Of course the downsize as already mentioned is that people can start shouting about how in their view everyone else “should behave”

Napoleon said

“Imagination rules the world”

“Imagination can be a brilliant creative tool, BUT the downside is that sometimes because somebody imagines something, they believe it to be 100% factually true.


I have lost count of the numbers of examples for this and usually when imagination is in full flow, the person makes massive generalizations and exaggerations.

Here are some examples of exchanges from 2017

Person A 

“A lot of people are very unhappy about what you posted on your social media page”


“Wow, that’s interesting, who exactly is concerned? When you say “a lot” do you mean like 50 or more?”

Person A

“No not that many?”


“Ok, so 10 or more?”

Person A

“No, not that many”


“Ok, so less that ten, possibly way less than 10. Who exactly is unhappy? They are welcome to contact me directly with any concerns and I’m happy to discuss as in my view discussion is useful”

Person A

“They don’t want to discuss, I just thought “you should know”


“Thanks for the feedback”

My point is that online and especially on FB, people often post in haste and can be prone to massive exaggeration. Of course speaking without thinking and exaggeration have not come into being with the advent of social media, these traits have always existed. When one person insists how EVERYONE else SHOULD BE, then we are in my 100% subjective biased opinion on a slippery slope and in what I term “the plain crazy” category. Others may disagree and if so once again I am happy to side with Voltaire in your perfect right to do so! 

Lets end on some more good news

Lets end on a positive. FB groups can be fascinating places to connect up to people you would never otherwise meet in daily life. When I was in an Austin guitar store a guy shouted out “Hey Nick Cody, I know you from FB!”

My band’s first overseas festival invite came from being spotted on social media and I’m playing in NYC in 2018 again from an invite on social media. I have also made some great friends who I now meet up with in real life. Despite some of the tantrum outbursts online, overall running a FB group is a rewarding experience and offers terrific opportunities to discuss and debate, which of course is how we all learn, isn’t it?