Musicians have rallied against Spotify’s Daniel Ek after the CEO claimed that artists who weren’t performing well on streaming services were “predominantly people who want to release music the way it used to be released.”
The CEO ― whose net worth is estimated at over $4 billion ― argued in an interview with Music Ally published Thursday that there was a “narrative fallacy” around claims that Spotify’s royalties were too low, saying: “Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.”
“The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans,” Ek said. “It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans.”
Ek cited Taylor Swift as an example of an artist who had developed the appropriate level of engagement with her fanbase, citing her recent album “folklore,” which broke a Guinness World Record for the most day-one streams of a Spotify album by a female artist after it was streamed 80.6 million times. The CEO also added that “unequivocally, from the data, there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself.”
In response to Ek’s remarks, a variety of artists ― including R.E.M. co-founder Mike Mills ― spoke their minds on Twitter, blasting the CEO for how little Spotify pays artists and, in the case of one famous musician, calling him a “greedy little shit.”
In the interview, Ek also addressed the effect of COVID-19 on the live music business, saying he was “keeping [his] fingers crossed that we can go back to live shows again” ― a possibility is unlikely to occur before 2022, according to a prediction made in July by Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger.
Currently, Spotify operates on a payment model where a pool of monthly revenue is distributed to music labels and distributors, which then trickle this cash down to their individual artists. The amount given to labels is based on the number of streams a song gets per month, which has fueled criticisms that bigger artists have an unfair advantage over smaller acts.
According to a June 2019 analysis by Soundcharts, artists on Spotify received $0.0032 per stream on average, putting the service behind other streaming platforms, including Tidal and YouTube Red.
Soundcharts’ analysis also stresses that this average is in constant flux due to a variety of factors, including the contracts in place between the artist and their music label as well as whether the listener was streaming via a free or premium Spotify subscription, which have different impacts on the overall pool of monthly revenue.