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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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  • Shag_Wevera

    I have no idea what spotify is, but musicians are experiencing what the rest of us are.  Your work isn’t worth what it used to be.  Factory workers, government employees, teachers, etc etc.

  • Jasoturner

    Not to defend services like Pandora and Spotify, but it is definitely true that I will explore and listen to new music that I would never encounter on terrestrial radio and that I would never buy unheard (or even know about) on a site like iTunes.  So while Messrs. Yorke and Godrich have a point, it is also true that these services can introduce obscure bands to listeners who would otherwise never hear them.  And I have indeed purchased music from bands I had never heard of previously – I am a big believer in paying for art that I find interesting – which presumably offsets the low fee they received when I first streamed the songs.

    • 1Brett1

      Yes. If you download a song (for which an artist is NOT going to make any real money), and that prompts you to buy the whole CD, go to a concert, etc., the artist will benefit greatly and will make money over time as a result of that initial download.

    • adks12020

      I agree with you 100%.  if it weren’t for free sources of music like archive.org; sugarmegs.org; and various other websites I wouldn’t have found a lot of the music in my collection. When I find something good I almost always purchase music from the artist or go see them live so I don’t feel bad about listening to free. A lot of musicians see it as free advertising….although most of the bands I listen to depend more on gigging than on album sales to earn their living.

      • HonestDebate1

        You are absolutely correct but the consumer is not entitled to free music. The artist is however entitled to give it away.

        • adks12020

          Absolutely. Luckily most of the bands I listen to encourage taping of live shows and trading of recordings.

    • HonestDebate1

      A song is like any other product and the artist is like any other manufacturer. One may decide to sell something at a discount, maybe buy 1 get the second free, just to get their brand out there. In the end it can be advantageous to forestall profit to build a name. Or not. As long as the artist is free to decide what works best for them, I’m cool with it. That was my problem with Napster.

    • tagubajones

       It sounds like you just defended Spotify — nothing wrong with that!

  • HonestDebate1

    The line between publishing revenue and royalties have been blurred with the digital age. What is the roll of BMI and ASCAP in all this?

    I’m okay as long as the songwriters own their music and can decide it’s fate. 

    • 1Brett1

      I agree.

      …I have given the rights to have some of my songs used in the past, but they were strict, one-time-use agreements where the parties involved could use my music for a specific one-time event. It would have been illegal for them to later take a specific song and use it for some other purpose without my permission. 

      Some of my songs are published, but most are just copyrighted. I think the problem with a lot of these online/digital ways of listening is that they don’t quite work like the old ways, yet artists have the same expectation. The companies selling/allowing downloading  the music seem to make money; many artists don’t. 

      In some circumstances, the artists win; in some, the artists lose. If you are a lower-rung regional act (which I am), any exposure only serves to help you, and I welcome any play I get and don’t care a whole lot about pennies I may or may not get. Most of the time, I only really make money by selling my CDs at performances/”out of the trunk of my car.” Even that isn’t very profitable for me.

      If one has a national act, has a lot of overhead/travel expenses and recording costs, having your music controlled by one of these sites usually means you won’t make much off of sales/downloading your music. Top acts have a lot of legal stuff behind them and costs are covered by their labels, so they aren’t going to get screwed if they have a good contract, etc., and they’ll usually make a good percentage off of, say, a hit record. 

      I have friends who have scored hits like “#1 Bluegrass hit of the year on Sirius radio”…stuff like that, and those kinds of things serve to help with selling a CD, and help to get more money for gigs/playing larger venues, but even with things like that, one won’t make a lot of money off of the song being played itself.

  • Phil McCoy

     Is this just a situation of bands that came of age in a non digital era (and sign their contracts then) being stuck in a changing landscape. it seems the best situation for artists now is to control their own rights and then hire companies as contractors for some distribution/promotion needs (I think this is what Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did with their new album).

    it sucks for the older bands like radiohead, but new artists just have to be inventive and they can still profit.
    I really dislike spotify and use RDIO but I assume that their business practices are essentially the same with regards to music. 

  • Shag_Wevera

    Metallica vs Napster, Pearl Jam vs Ticketmaster, etc etc.  Fight the good fight musicians, but I’m not betting on you.  Better and better tools and technologies are being made almost daily to aid in your exploitation.  Let’s not forget John Lennon’s music being used to sell sneakers and Bob Marley’s being used to sell cars.  Everything is for sale, my friends.

  • Regular_Listener

    As a regular listener of Rdio and Rhapsody (as well as On Point), I am concerned about this situation.  I love the fact that I can stream almost any song or album that interests me, and do it very inexpensively – oh technological wonderworld!  But if musicians are not getting paid as a result, then that bothers me.  I adore music and want artists to get paid for their efforts.  I hope that this situation gets worked out to everyone’s satisfaction (more or less) and I am confident that it eventually will.  This new technology is too powerful to be defeated.  What needs to happen is for compromises and agreements re compensation to get worked out.

  • donniethebrasco

    Musicians now, doctors next.

  • Trudie

    Amanda Palmer has the best idea in this digital age..by far…

    • jefe68

      Well, not exactly. She has had some bad press due asking musicians to play for free when she made over a million dollars from her kickstarter fund raising.

  • Kathy

    I am a Spotify subscriber. I don’t know what the royalty rates are or whether they are fair, but one aspect of Spotify and similar services is artists are paid by the play. 30 years ago I might buy an album and play it twice and they got full price from me. Now I listen to it twice on Spotify and the payments stop since my listening has stopped.

    I suspect artists are discovering exactly how little people actually listen to their music and how mediocre a value an album really was.

    • MrWakiki

      Yes, but 30 years ago if you listened to a band on MTV, you didn’t pay anything….listens and purchases are apples/oranges….

      AND, what you did 30 years ago can’t be compared to modern day streaming and digital  use…

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.gerwien Bob Gerwien
  • MrWakiki

    The system is definitely stacked against the artists… but

    You are mixing numbers that aren’t fair. In the 60′s they could play a song on the radio thousands of times and it still wouldn’t equal the sale of one record sail… listening has never been where the money is — it’s in the purchase.

    That said, the stream services are asking the songwriters and musicians to take the gamble. Why not give all the creative people stock in your company if you use them. That way if you sell your company to Facebook in a year for a billion dollars, then the band will profit from their ‘investment.’

    • Kathy

      The problem with that is that long term purchase is dead. Artists are going to need to make money elsewhere whether that’s streaming, merchandise, touring, or whatever.

      • MrWakiki

        I agree, and I think that is what is the point today — how do they get paid… but giving your creations away so you can sell shoes with your name on it isn’t the business model for new music to be created…. I don’t think

  • brian copeland

    How does/will the new iTunes Radio service compare to Spotify’s structure?

  • Casey Reyner

    You are focusing on Spotify, and Thom Yorke boycotting them.  Are the other online radio companies different?  Slacker, Pandora, etc…?  Are their pricing and payment structures different?

  • J__o__h__n

    I don’t think all artists should get the same rate.  Also, I don’t want to be tracked.

    • MrWakiki

      Interesting… the artist that just was on, doesn’t seem to mind the tracking, as long as she could get that information..

  • Dave Peterson

    The artists need to realize that the labels have never been and are not their friend.  In the past artists needed them to get their product to market, this is no longer the case.  They can produce and release it themselves, partner with companies such as Apple, Google, or Best Buy for example for promotion.  

    Spotify is a wonderful service but has been compromised to a degree by the inclusion of the labels as partners, which was the requirement set by the label in return for access to the music catalogs.  

  • JB

    Kanye West, among others, doesn’t seem to be impoverished. The artists seem to be able to carry on at an outrageous level of excessive bling.

    • tagubajones

       Kanye is selling white T-shirts through APC for $150 a pop. He has a sneaker line and all kinds of other crap. He’s certainly made money on music but he’s REALLY made money by being a business man, not a musician.

  • red72373

    I got to tell you all artists can not be paid equally. It all depends on who owns the publishing rights and the deal that you hold with your record label. If someone likes your music they will seek you out. Get out and tour and be accessible to your fans. Pink Floyd said no till they got 1 million Plays. This works and you can not just sit back and watch the money come. In you have to be a part of it, learn fro. Trent renzor and David dramin

  • http://falesch.wordpress.com/ Bob Falesch

    The points Erin made about the services a streaming site should offer (such as making the ID of fans available) is already being done by Bandcamp. Is Bandcamp alone in this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mpratt62 Michael John Pratt

    Spotify didnt create this new digital era. They are just in the right place at the right time, following the paths forged by Napster, then other sharing sites and programs. If not them, then someone else. 

    Most importantly, the artists have always made too much money. This is better for the consumer because people willget a lot more variety. Left up to the record industries we have a new Brittney Spears every couple of years. Record labels need to be rendered useless. It will open up jobs for new types of marketers, managing teams, and social media gurus. 

    Complaining because now we wont have about 10 new multimillionaires a year dictated by the recording industry, and most likely created by them, doesnt seem like a huge loss to me. 

    There will still be American Idle and shows like it. Maybe that is the new direction the recording industry needs to go in to make money. 

    My vote if for the labels to die, or to change drastically. In all honesty, I dont really care as long as innovation isnt stifled, consumer experience isnt disregarded, in order to keep an industry, that is long overdue for a painful death, still raking in billions of dollars for essentially doing nothing. 

    Also, if I heard this correct, artists get $0.004 for each time it is played? So I would have to listen to 2,747.5 songs per month to make it worth it…. which is 183 hours of listening to music each month….

    • jefe68

      Wow, this from a guy who seems to be into expensive cars. 

      I would also think that there is a huge difference between Radiohead and Brittney Spears. 

  • TyroneJ

    Given the success of people with generic singing and no musical abilities such as Justin Bieber, clearly a newcomer can succeed in the music business these days. Folks like that do so by good producing (to hire song writers, arrangers, musicians & choreographers) of shows and a willingness to tour relentlessly.

    • tagubajones

       “and they have a willingness to tour relentlessly.”


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=771989399 Seth Jones

    Check this out everyone!

  • dmacias37206

    Spotify pays 70% of all revenues to rights
    holders on a pro rata basis. Just what iTunes pays. Spotify doesn’t pay much in the US in
    the aggregate because less than 1% of people in US subscribe. In Sweden,
    where 15% of people subscribe, the music
    a business grew by 14% from 2011 to 2012. If Spotify were harmful to the
    overall business, this would not be the case. If artists aren’t getting
    paid, it’s because of their deal with their label.

    ALSO….that one penny cut in half, as Erin McKeown says, keeps coming on every listen, as opposed to a download. It’s like a landlord saying that they only get $1000 a month for their rental when their house is worth $150,000. And they just made the case….Jay Z, 14m streams in one week. That equates to the revenue from 100,000 albums sold. And those people are going to continue to listen and put money in Jay Z’s (or whoever his label is) pockets. Then add all the sales from iTunes, WalMart, Best Buy, etc., this is huge.

    NO ONE is making the case that Spotify is actually a fair and just business model, and it is making me CRAZY.

  • MrWakiki

    the Feudal Age???

    Musicians CREATE, they don’t repair your radio, they create music that is streamed. Just like the guy who invented the intel chip in your computer gets paid for each computer, but the repair man does not..

    • TyroneJ

      I don’t agree with that caller’s analogy, but I think that callers point was that like the electrician or plumber installing a new service, the act of creation occurs only once, not with each playback of the recording (or using the utility).

      • MrWakiki

        when you buy most anything — you are paying the creator — anything but music. 

        Now if you want to limit copyright — for EVERYTHING — I understand that. For example. I write a song and I own it and profit from it for 10 years. and after that, if I want to continue making money, I write another song

        but that should also pharmaceuticals…

        I think it is kind of ironic that a artist doesn’t make any money off what they create, but Apple can take the shape of their iPhone and sue samsung because they used a rectangle…… 

      • jefe68

        A plumber is not a musician nor a writer.

        They are not creating anything. The designer and architect are the creators of the plumbing and electrical design. The plumber and the electrician have the skill set to implement/build what is called for.  A plumber does not know enough about building codes, and some of them know nothing.  

      • HonestDebate1

        You are confusing the musician with the songwriter. I mean no disrespect to musicians, I’ve made a living for a long time as a musician. But the songwriter creates something that never existed. It’s not easy to inspire folks to buy in. The musician is the plumber, the songwriter invented the monkey wrench and owns the patent.

    • Labropotes

      Lots of workers create.  Nothing special about Artists in that respect. 

      • MrWakiki


        The people putting together a computer are not creating it.

        Even an electrician is likely following blue prints..

        That said, I think an artist creating a play, photo or music, is very Different than a plumber installing a faucet 

        • jefe68

          Your dealing with a philistine. 

      • jefe68


    • tagubajones

       Who holds the patent for that chip? The guy or Intel?

  • Labropotes

    I love Mark’s comment.  If a caveman took another caveman’s bow and arrows he’d be a thief.  But if he saw it and copied the idea, that’d be okay.  Intellectual Property is a social convention like driving on the right.  If it’s not expedient for society, it’s not a right.  Remember that you Artists!

    • jefe68

      How about you have a world without culture. No writers, no composers, or musicians or painters, digital effects artist, film makers, or designers.

      Your comment is not only nasty and perverse it speaks to the kind of ugly mindset that thinks music and creative endeavors should be free. You have no idea what most creative people go through to get you your entertainment. 

      What is it people like you who think that artist somehow owe you anything.

    • HonestDebate1

      A song is the unique result of a craftsman. They own it.

      • tagubajones

         Or they stole it. Or unconsciously lifted a hook. Or the singer yanked a hook from a guitarist — ever hear the one about Mick Jagger and Ry Cooder and the origin of Honky Tonk Woman?

        Or they might have sold the publishing — there are many ways in which they don’t “own” it.

        • HonestDebate1

          The artist owns it, I wasn’t talking about thieves. That’s what copyrights are for. Also if one sell something then they no longer own it.

    • John Cedar

      You make a brilliant point. If “artists” don’t want me listening to their music then let them keep it hidden.
      Besides, with most music, they ought to have to pay me to listen to the crap.
      As I type this through my free Firefox browser.
      And I just got back from a bike ride.
      Which adds to my bootylicouse toned hard bod. And some will be sure to ogle my tight gams today…without paying me for my work and my ancestors discriminating taste in mates.
      So many here have refereed to musicians or electricians as people. They are not people, they are hobbies and occupations. In reality, most electricians are musicians and most musicians are waiters and dishwashers.
      I think Plato and Socrates mention that idea that poetry is discovered not written. And he who is most creative is best at concealing his sources. Reminds me of a Shania hit that sounds like a bunch of Manilow hooks strung together…even borrowing the lyrics at some points.

      • HonestDebate1

        I wish I had you around in the band truck a decade ago for 4 one-nighters is an row 200 miles apart… week in and week out. That’s not a hobby it’s hard work. Over the last two days I picked up 600 bales of hay out of the field in the blistering heat and stacked them in the barn. It was a pinic compared to being on the road.

        • John Cedar

          I’ve spent a few months over several years, stacking hay in my day. And I spent a few years hauling my own equipment into bars to play other peoples songs. I didn’t do either of those things for the money. Today you can learn to play all thoes songs with much less effort and much more accuracy, thanks to youtube.

          Creative people have to create…they cannot help themselves. But no one steals more from musicians than musicians steal from each other.

          • HonestDebate1

            When I was a kid I worked summers in the hay field for 3 cents a bale but now I don’t do hay for money, I actually pay to do it. I need the hay. But I made a living for 30 years as a full time musician. My land and home were paid for with rock and roll money. 

            You really nailed it when you wrote that creative people need to create, they can’t help themselves. That’s very true. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.sheen Kevin Sheen

    This conversation would be well-served by looking at Noisetrade and talking to one of its founders, Derek Webb.


  • http://www.facebook.com/lars.grantwest Lars Grant-West

    To Mark in Wisconsin -

    Very few musicians are making $30 an hour with a Union pension with benefits. Many survive for ages at the poverty line.

    Rates for most artistic fields have stagnated for many many years, and only some are Union.

    Plumbers and Electricians also don’t generally have to compete with artists the world over, who will work for a fraction of what U.S. artists made $20 years ago.

    The pay for most artists also comes after the work is done…if at all. 

    Your comparison of Artists to Union Tradesmen is about the worst one you can make.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stuffduff Sean Duffy

    I hope that the byzantine labyrinth of conflicting licensing systems give way to a system that is levels the playing field in a unified and fair manner.

    The only degree of separation should exist between the musicians art and the listener’s ear.  When I look on something like Spotify, I find it, well, spotty.  Take Spock’s Beard for example, there are several wonderful albums there, but not the full catalog.  It’s the same for almost every artist.

    By providing this service, Spotify should provide the music and pay the artists, but it should not decide what, from the supported artists is and is not available.  The choice of what I listen to should me mine and mine alone.

    • tagubajones

       The musicians themselves might not own all their own music. Licensing is indeed a nightmare but I’m amazed at how much Spotify has been able to get organized.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mpratt62 Michael John Pratt

    Stewie Griffin: I dont like change!

  • Duh

    The internet commoditizes everything.  The problem is not that musicians dont make enough, its that there are too many musicians for the amount of money spent.  

    • tagubajones

       Weren’t LPs also commodities?

  • PbassPete

    I read in David Byrne’s “How Music Works” that independent artists hoping to achieve a commercial success with their art are likely to increasingly depend on live performances to build that loyal fan base. Seems to me that David’s words are very similar to Erin McKeon’s comments on Tom’s show.  

    On live performance side of things, check out Tikly.co. An online ticket sales utility ran by a young woman with a commitment to the artists who make the music and the performance venues who make it possible. Low cost, no contracts and more fun. Tikly processes the ticket sale including artist merchandise and the proceeds, less a modest service fee, are delivered to the artist or venue owner. However, as with the independent artists, commercial success for a music service business like Tikly requires achievement of scale that will support the service at a low cost to the customer. Reduce the greed, support the artists and the rest of us who care about the music have more fun.

    • HonestDebate1

      I love the sound of a precision.

      • PbassPete

        Thanks. Its a 1964 pre-CBS model. All original hardware & electronics. Nothing quite like it today. I played it in a cover band and my son played it jazz and pop bands.

        Did you check out Tikly.co? 

        • HonestDebate1

          Man, that’s a nice axe. I played with a guy decades ago that had one. He finally sold it when he quit playing as much and times were hard. Eventually he bought it back for more than he sold it. He just couldn’t live without it and could not find anything he liked as well. The Precision’s cousin the Jazz is also a nice bass. I’m not even a bass player. It’s cool you could pass it on (or loan it) to your son.

          I clicked on the link and it looks interesting but these days I don’t play out much, just when the phone rings and it does ring enough to keep my itch scratched. I’m more of a hired gun and don’t do much promoting of my shows anymore. But I will pass it on to some folks I know who do.

          • tagubajones

             I find that Lakland is making the best P and J basses these days.

  • Matthew McGrath

    When I want to find new music, I rely on the local independent radio station. When I want to listen to the new music I discover, I use my paid subscription to Spotify. When I want to really support a band I feel is worthwhile, I go see them live in concert. This is a feasible model for me–after all, Spotify got me paying for music again after ten years of piracy. 

  • tbphkm33

    The Internet has opened up the music publishing industry, seemingly offering local bands innovative new avenues.  

    Still, I am struck by how U.S. society values music.  Take weddings as one example.  People seemingly have no problem paying $2,000+ to some pseudo-photographer with a mediocre camera, yet they complain bitterly about spending $300 on live music.  

    • Johan Corby

      FWIW, most wedding bands suck.

    • http://49chevy.com driver49

       Who are you calling a pseudo photographer?   Most of the wedding photographers I know are dedicated professionals, practiced in their craft and creative in their art.  And the carry/use top of the line gear to assure the quality of their work.  What a cheap shot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-MC/69207889 Matt MC

    I love Spotify. When I find new music, I go buy a t-shirt, or try to catch them in concert. Also, once a larger contingent of listeners comes online, the artist’s slice of the pie will be larger. Plus, I pay for my subscription, but some only listen with ads. I don’t think that brings in as much revenue. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-MC/69207889 Matt MC

      Also, many musicians, such as Mindless Self Indulgence, fund the creation of their albums through Kickstarter, so anything on top of that is cake. MSI made almost a million. Worth it, but they’re still withholding that latest album from Spotify. I think the crowdsourcing of production, open access after would be the best model. 

  • f1rstman

    I regularly listen to the free Spotify service while I work.  I love it, but I have to wonder what their revenue stream is like, because they play the SAME one or two ads every few songs.  All day.  I simply mute them now.  I would be more than happy to hear lots of different ads, especially those that are relevant to my interests; isn’t that what the Facebook tie-in is supposed to leverage?  I would guess that this is one reason why their payout is so low and I figure that Spotify won’t last long if they can’t deliver relevant ads.

    • LorreS

      I’m HAPPY to pay Spotify $10.00/month to get virtually all the mustic I’d like to hear, discover new artists and generally to support them and the artists.  Also, I never hear ads.

      • f1rstman

        I agree- I think I may switch over too, but mainly because they’ve worn me down with the same 1 or 2 ads over and over.

        • liss

          I was wondering if there’s a possibility of them doing this intentionally so we’ll get so sick of those 2 ads that we would want to switch over hahah.

  • Johan Corby

    If you’re a musician in the 21st century trying to make money SOLEY from albums, you’re gonna have a bad time. At this point, they’re the loss leader to getting you to see them live, by shirts, or exclusive pressings, you know, things that CAN’T be pirated.

  • Ben Allen

    The big problem is the comparison of internet radio to terrestrial radio. Terrestrial radio pays more per play, but is heard by thousands to hundreds of thousands of people at a time; a song on internet radio will be heard by one to five people at the most.

    • jblogg

      All, radio still drives more revenue than streaming services

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.eaton.127 David Eaton

      In the United States, artists do not get paid anything for Terrestrial radio.  Zero.

      • HonestDebate1

        Yes they do, that’s where the big money is. I’m assuming by artist you mean songwriter.

      • http://www.vidaperez.com/ Mrs. Late Bloomer

        Somewhat correct. The songwriter/publisher gets paid and the owner of the sound recording gets paid. This may or may not be the performing artists. Many performances earn no money for the artist because the sound recording is owned by a label.

    • MrFresh


      One to five people at the most…on internet radio? Internet? Those numbers are grossly underestimated, IMHO.

  • Cara Bevan

    Spotify’s meager payments aren’t the only reason creativity has become so cheap. With the digital age, anyone and everyone can make something of their skills. There are programs to make music, programs for videos, digital art, and on and on. It makes creativity a dime a dozen and not as special as it used to be. As a professional traditional painter, I see a majority of artists turning from real paint to computer programs. The abundance of creativity has flooded the market, and it’s losing its importance. Artists should certainly get the money they deserve, but in a flooded market you have to stand out to get your fair share. I don’t like it, but that’s what the digital era has created.

    • HonestDebate1

      I hear you but you are just talking about the medium. One can be creative with a brush, camera or computer. The ability to move people emotionally by creating something out of nothing cannot be programmed. There is no formula.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Did you hear about the study to create the World’s Most Popular Song?

        It had lots of melisma in it, was slightly upbeat, mentioned love, and someone chiming in “baby” a few times after the second chorus.

        To me it seemed almost like a hidden Mariah Carey track.

        (I can’t find a link, but I swear I am not making this up.)

        • Tyler Bolles

          Here’s the scientifically-determined “Most Unwanted Song”.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF


            I remember this because I really dig it when someone creates something and I can’t tell if they’re serious or pranking.

        • HonestDebate1

          That’s interesting, I am always amazed when something I find horrible is a huge hit. I used to resent it early on in my career. I felt like anyone could do what these untalented POS wannabes were making millions off of. I used to think 3 chord songs or stupid lyrics were illegitimate. Then I realized I was a musical snob so I changed my tune (pun intended). I now realize how unique it is to capture the masses and move them. If someone does that, even with the help of a record label and financial backing, it’s a laudable achievement. And if they do it again and again then they have my respect as I turn off the radio. I still don’t have to like the music.

      • Cara Bevan

        I actually spoke of all mediums but you’re right, there is no formula and everyone is creative. Anything can be used for creative outlets and the digital world has just brought it more to light. Though it has made it more competitive as time goes on. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, you need to fight for your passions.

        • HonestDebate1

          I agree and I love the way you put it: “you need to fight for your passions.” Passion is everything.

  • Regular_Listener

    I can understand what Yorke is doing and I support it.  There should be ways for newer artists to make some money on the listening services.  But the show points out that Spotify (and presumably their competitors) are not making much money, so how could they begin paying better royalties?  And one thing I did not hear on the program – one of the things a listening service (like Rdio or Rhapsody or ITunes or Yahoo Music, it is not just Spotify) has to contend with is YouTube.  I have talked to several people who buy the occasional CD or download, but who also do a lot of their listening on YouTube, where you can find tons of music for free, and which does not pay royalties to musicians and record companes (so far as I know).

  • Omaha Guy

    My wife and i are simple blue collar workers.  Our music budget is about $200 a month.  A local Omaha symphony member charges us $50 a week for tutoring our child in violin.  But for that, i indirectly subsidize her participation in our city’s orchestra symphony, and i build up our children to fully express our own family’s music and religious culture. 
    But as for pop songs, a portion of a penny for a number of plays seems fair price for me to pay an artist, among many i am reviewing just to stay up to date with a corporate culture i do not respect in the first place.

    Having said all that, maybe we can ask a music anthropologist what value culture wide music provides.  Once we understand the profession more, we can ask ourselves how to pay for it.

  • http://49chevy.com driver49

    I was fortunate to be one of the callers who got through during this discussion yesterday (“Paul from Nashville”)  I’ve thought/written about these issues since the Internet was first used to promote music in the mid-90s.  Yesterday offered an unpredictable convergence of events that touched on these issues, beginning with the OnPoint broadcast and ending with an evening of outstanding music in a friend’s living room.  I’ve written about it all in this blog post: http://www.cohesionarts.com/2013/07/18/gather-and-sing/



  • Carolynn Gockel

    I self-publish. I think at least in self-publishing there is a bubble. I posted about it in my blog: http://bit.ly/16MsJZe

    I don’t the ease of artistic production is necessarily a bad thing. Artists like Lindsay Buroker are marvelously creative and I don’t think they’d make it in the traditional publishing world.  

    However, I do worry that some of my fellow authors are  being gouged by the “anyone can do it if you just come to my $99 seminar” or “buy my $99 editing services”.

  • tagubajones

    Spotify has an unbelievably deep catalog–music that was either out of print or very, very difficult to find or else very expensive to buy–in the secondary market. I love Spotify.

    If some new singer-songwriter (yawn) gets a fraction of a penny per stream, I’m not going to worry about it. Play live. Press some LPs or CDs and sell them from your website or at your gig. Or get a job.

    How many young, unknown but published authors make a living selling books? None. How many new painters? None.

    Maybe these new musicians just aren’t that interesting and that’s the real reason they can’t make a living by their music.

  • ranndino

    I’m a huge music fan and ever since I first heard of Spotify I loved the idea. This was about 8 months before it officially became available in the U.S. and I managed to weasel my way into it by using a U.K. proxy and a pizza shop in London as my home address. Then I had my London based friend pay for it with his credit card and I’d paypal him the money for it at the end of every month.

    I understand the complaints from the artists, but as a music lover Spotify is absolutely the best thing that’s ever happened to music. It’s like having iTunes pre-loaded with just about all the music ever made and you can play whatever you want whenever you want. How great is that?! Downloading is dead to me now.

    What Spotify has done for me is expand my music horizons greatly. It makes it so easy to check out new music that I found myself listening to styles I would’ve never considered before. Now any time you hear someone mention an artist, whether it’s your friend, co-worker or an article you can just press play and check it out immediately. The barriers to entry are completely blown away. I would never go and buy a CD of many of the artists I listen to now. I wouldn’t even buy 1 track because I wouldn’t be sure if I like it or not. With Spotify there is no financial penalty to not liking the music. 

    Now, let’s address the artists’ concerns. At least in my case, I do pay $5 a month to get Spotify in better quality and without ads. I used to pay $10, but realized that I almost never listen to it on mobile because I prefer to listen to talk podcasts like OnPoint when I’m driving. My overall spending on music has increased greatly because now I’ve discovered a ton of new music through Spotify and I go to live shows a lot. 

    Speaking of live shows. Erin mentioned that one of the things she’d love to see from Spotify is a link to buying tickets for local shows. This already exists! It’s not part of the core Spotify app, but there are now apps running within Spotify that do that. I personally use SongKick, but there’s also BandsInTown. Once you’ve got those apps running within Spotify they look at the music you listen to and tell you when those artists are in your locale. It’s an absolutely amazing way to stay in the know and not miss a thing! You can also setup notifications so as soon as an artist you like adds a show in your town you get notified on your mobile device. From there you can add the show to your calendar and buy tickets. 

    Spotify is a great service and I really hope it succeeds. The royalties paid per listen will also increase as the service becomes more popular and gains a larger user base. These things don’t happen overnight and people like Tom Yorke (whom I’m a big fan of) need to not be so close minded and look a little bit further into the future.

    I also think Spotify actually helps, not hurts new artists because, as I’ve mentioned above, it makes it so easy to check them out. Once you do and like what you hear use SongKick or BandInTown Spotify apps to notify you when they’re in your neck of the woods and support them by going to their show.

    P.S. In case you’re wondering… no, I do not work for Spotify.

  • Chris

    Artist should make their money as they always did in the past: by performing. Any extra by selling CDs, should be considered as a tip from fans who want to support them, and therefore, just like any waiter would know, shouldnt be complained about. And by ‘tip’ I mean it in the European sense of “I appreciated the efforts you have done and therefore am grateful and reward you with more”, rather than the “obligatory tip” system of the US. Shouldnt it be free to listen to their songs for the first time so that we can at least decide to buy their albums or not? And if you are a good band (popular or not), there is 100% chance ill (try to) get tickets to nearby concert.. Its that simple. 

    • Chris

      By the way, I have discovered soo many new bands through Spotify, its unbelievable, so saying that it does not help new bands is a lie. Its like massive publicity, plus they get a small fee for every track play.. Otherwise we would do it on Youtube and other similar platforms, but they don’t even come near to what Spotify does so well in my opinion: showing you related artists, creating playlists with new bands, and letting people create their playlists of their favourites, and there’s even apps to tell you when they’re playing in nearby towns! I mean, how much more publicity can you get? Yes some other platforms can do it, but no where near as well (and all in one?) I don’t believe they try to rip artists off, but that they want to find a balance between what the artists want, and what the public wants.

      They can boycott Spotify if they want to, but I reckon that its a bad move as it would probably means less publicity and therefore less chance of their albums and concerts selling.. 

  • http://www.serendipit-e.com/blog Chris Boese

    So the main point I have about the analogies is this:

    Back in the days of analog radio, did musicians complain that ASCAP and the other group service allowed their songs to get “free” airplay on radio stations, without direct proof that that 2-3 minute radio station “play” didn’t lead to a purchase?

    I understand that new musicians can and should be supported. But it seems to me that musicians are expecting Spotify to generate sales in the same method as per play downloads can generate sales.

    But I think the direct analog to Spotify is the local radio station, in podunk, in a major metro area, anywhere. So a song goes on a station. It plays, then disappears into the ethers. And if a person wants to hear it again, on a per view basis, that person must go purchase it through a channel for sales. Radio stations weren’t direct sales vehicles. That’s what ASCAP was for.

    Did musicians piss and moan when a rotation of one of their songs on a radio station in Austin, TX didn’t lead inexorably to a sale in an Austin record store? Did musicians get pissed at the radio stations, begrudge them the ability to play their songs out on the “airwaves” for FREE?

  • Tamer Serin

    I use spotify and I am a paying member $10 a month to listen through my phone while driving and cycling, I can do that but if it wasn’t for monthly membership monthly and I could listen whatever I want I would have never gotten the service and just listen youtube songs which are millions out there. For people to pay for each album days are over. Most of the artist I ended up discovering was because of spotify otherwise I would never know these guys. I do not listen mainstream popular pop music I have particular taste so spotify is not bad for the artists who needs recognition.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

Aug 20, 2014
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This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 19, 2014
Lara Russo, left, Cally Guasti, center, and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15, 2014.  While their roommate story of $40,800 found in a couch made the news, other, weirder stories of unusual roommates are far more common. (AP)

From college dorms and summer camps to RVs and retirement hotels, what it’s like to share a room. True stories of roommates.

Aug 19, 2014
Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

“War zones” in America. Local police departments with military grade equipment – how much is too much, and what it would take to de-militarize America’s police force.

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