Is Spotify Fair To Musicians?

Stars from Radiohead are boycotting Spotify, saying the site pays next to nothing and doesn’t support new artists. We look at the Spotify model.

Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Friday, June 8, 2012. (AP)

Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Friday, June 8, 2012. (AP)

Are we willing to pay for creativity anymore?  Musical hero Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame isn’t so sure.  Yorke is boycotting the super music streaming service Spotify with his latest album “Amok.”  Says Spotify doesn’t pay new young musicians enough to survive on.  Fractions of a penny per digital listen.  Pauper wages.

Somehow we thought the digital age would encourage creativity.  Could it discourage it?  Thom Yorke says so.  It’s a big ruckus.

This hour. On Point:  How will we pay “creatives” in the digital age?  Music, Thom Yorke, and the great Spotify debate.

- Tom Ashbrook


Greg Sandoval, senior reporter for The Verge. (@sandonet)

Erin Mckeown, folk-rock singer/songwriter. 2011-2012 fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Her new album is “Manifestra.” (@erinmmckeown)

Don Gorder, chairman of the music business/management department at the Berklee College of Music.

Casey Rae, deputy director at the Future of Music Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to education, research, and advocacy for musicians. Adjunct professor at Georgetown University. (@caseycontrarian)

From the Show

Greg Sandoval:

“For ten years people have got music for free off these piracy networks. And the labels have shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, and they’re not investing in promoting any old small artists, up-and-coming artists, they’re being very particular. And that means there’s a lot of young, talented artists that are having trouble getting seen and getting paid.”

From Tom’s Reading List

CBS News: Thom Yorke vs. Spotify: Yorke pulls music, Spotify responds — “Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich have started a ‘small meaningless rebellion’ against Spotify, announcing Sunday on Twitter they’re pulling their Atoms For Peace collaboration off the streaming service over royalty payments they say are paltry. The Radiohead frontman and his friend the influential producer-musician initially put ‘Amok’ up on the service but decided after six months to take the unusual step of pulling it down.”

Forbes: Spotify Doesn’t Enrich New Artists–But Who Does? — “It’s admirable that Godrich and Yorke are sticking up for up-and-comers. And new artists don’t get paid well by Spotify, with each stream earning a fraction of a penny. But new artists don’t get paid well by anyone–that’s sort of the definition of being a new artist, isn’t it?”

The Guardian: Spotify row: how do musicians make money? — “A key issue for those attacking Spotify is not just the low per-stream rates they accuse it of paying (a fraction of a penny, varying depending on the deal), but also a lack of transparency in accounting. What should be noted, however, is that although Spotify is live in 28 countries, it only has an active user base of 24 million, of which six million are paying subscribers. Compared with iTunes, HMV, Amazon and YouTube, it is a tiny player.”

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