If they were smart, Spotify could get creative with these fundamental options. Back in 2012, I suggested that they let artists cap listening on their albums after a certain number of plays. Then, they could allow listeners to “unlock” unlimited listening of an album by “tipping” the artist, say $5.
Not only would this be an immediate source of revenue and a way for fans to directly support their favorite artists, but it would also significantly lower the number of streams in the pool, raising pay rates across the entire service!
If Spotify doesn’t adopt creative ideas like these, some other company will, and not too long from now, and they’ll be the ones to attract all of the best artists.
Does It Pay To Protest?
As a music fan, I love the Spotify service. It’s convenient, it sounds great, it’s an insanely good value for the listener, and if you subscribe to the premium service, its payout rates are fairly ethical (although certainly still too low) at around $.015 per play.
Still, I’m glad to see some of my favorite musicians boycotting the company. In a market economy, valuing your own work enough to say “No, you can’t have it for anything less than a fair rate” is one of the most surefire ways to keep others from devaluing it.
But if you’re going to make demands, it’s a good idea to know what you’re demanding.
If you want my opinion, I’d say hold out for $0.03 per play. Once you account for all the people who’d never buy your album but end up kicking you some coin anyway, that’s arguably as good of a return as music sales ever were – and possibly better.
But if it was me? Honestly, I’d probably settle for an increase to $0.02 on the premium service to start. (So long as I could limit or block listening on the ad-supported service.)
A 30% raise would be a huge step in the right direction, and a potentially easy battle to win: Simply raise basic subscription fees from $9.99 to $13.99. Or, just create a new, slightly more expensive product tier for the highest-frequency users. Do either of those things, and the service is already there. Done. And that’s without implementing a single creative idea.
Artists have subsidized Spotify’s growth for quite a few years now. Perhaps today, with countless legal alternatives to piracy priced cheaper and made more convenient than ever before, it’s about time we took off the training wheels.
Now that legal, convenient and affordable alternatives to piracy exist, why should new artists continue to subsidize Spotify? The only “public assistance” that a huge company like Spotify should get is a concerted effort to crack down on illegal and exploitative pirate sites.
Collectively, pirate sites rake in millions in advertising and pay out $0. Realistically, if we really want legal streaming services to pay well, we’ll all have to work together to clamp down on those kinds of services. This would increase the viability of legal competition to Spotify, giving artists more streaming providers to choose from, and increasing payouts.
We live in a market economy, and it’s about time to let Spotify sink or swim as a real business. If Spotify can be convinced to start putting greater limitations on the free service and begin paying out a fair and sustainable rate to artists, they’d certainly win me as a customer. As it stands now, that’s the only thing holding me back.
Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based producer/engineer, journalist and educator. He records and mixes all over NYC, masters at JLM, teaches at CUNY, is a regular contributor to SonicScoop, and edits the music blog Trust Me, I’m a Scientist.