Photo credit: Akio Kon, Bloomberg/Getty Images.
The issue of music streaming royalties has been a spotlight issue for many artists who have experienced unfair, low payouts for years. Now Spotify‘s CEO, Daniel Ek, has chimed into the debate around measly payouts, although perhaps unintentionally. Ek added fuel to the fire by suggesting that artists are not making enough money because they’re not working hard enough.
In an interview with Music Ally, Ek said the following:
“Even today on our marketplace, there’s literally millions and millions of artists. What tends to be reported are the people that are unhappy, but we very rarely see anyone who’s talking about… In the entire existence [of Spotify] I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single artist saying, ‘I’m happy with all the money I’m getting from streaming.’ In private they have done that many times, but in public they have no incentive to do it. But unequivocally, from the data, there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself.”
Ek went on to add:
“There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, 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. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans…. I feel, really, that the ones that aren’t doing well in streaming are predominantly people who want to release music the way it used to be released.”
As one might expect, Ek’s statements have ruffled some feathers with musicians around the globe. Why? Because Spotify pays whoever holds the rights to a song anywhere from $0.006 to $0.0084 per play. The rights holder then splits these earnings between the record label, producers, artists, and songwriters, which translates to splitting pennies between many parties.
Ek’s comments spotlights the disconnection in the music industry between the artistic side and the business side. Many artists have chimed in to say how the culture industry continuously demands too much from them, often putting a price on their heads for the constant consumption of their deepest, most emotionally raw vulnerabilities. One’s emotional hardships as shown through their art, they infer, ought not be used for another’s finanical gain. When those like Ek start demanding even more from artists, artists are often encouraged to put their own mental health as risk.
Read some of the responses from artists over Ek’s controversial comments below.
You are an obnoxious greedy little shit Daniel Ek https://t.co/8tZx55LeDe
— David Crosby (@thedavidcrosby) July 31, 2020
The mask is off: if there was ever a question about whether they care about quantity or quality, it’s over, and anyone who’s defended this guy and Spo business practices to me (many of you) should feel very silly right about now. Like you should probably shut the fuck up forever https://t.co/IY2uTLLPmU
— Telefon Tel Aviv (@telefontelaviv) July 31, 2020
This man has never created anything as lasting or as beautiful as the worst song by your least favorite band https://t.co/jlWC7yXhiq
— 𝖈𝖑𝖎𝖕𝖕𝖎𝖓𝖌. (@clppng) July 31, 2020
Daniel Ek’s comments are terrible, but they’re also broadly applicable to any content-based industry. Music, film, online video, podcasts, writing, whatever.
Creators need fair compensation and breaks. Its work, like anything else.
Algorithms can’t see that. People should.
— RadioDweebHamline (@RadioDweebR) August 2, 2020
This guy has a company worth $50 Billion and pays artists nothing to exploit their work! pic.twitter.com/De2PeOSonH
— Dan Richards (@GuitarmanDan) July 31, 2020