ON MARCH 2, SPOTIFY ANNOUNCED the most Spotify thing imaginable: The Smirnoff Equalizer, a brand partnership in the form of a woke algorithmic discovery tool. Together, Spotify and Smirnoff claimed that the app would analyze users’ listening habits and “equalize” the gender ratio of their listening experience. Applying a binary understanding of gender, the Equalizer would quantify the user’s past six months of streaming, display the percentage of male-versus-female artists in their history, and provide them with a personalized, more “balanced” playlist. The Smirnoff Equalizer will be live through this summer, available for Spotify users of a legal drinking age in the United States and five additional countries, which should serve as reminder enough: this tool is meant to sell vodka.
[This is a must read post on the growing revolt against Spotify as the first known example of Orwell’s versificator. As Chris Rizik notes, Spotify and its ilk are hardly saviors of music, more like destroyers of music and any popular culture that is more than a foot wide and an inch deep and a few years old. There’s a reason why 10% of the music accounts for 90% of the revenue–and I think it’s more like 5% acccounts for 95%.]
Two events happened recently that caught my attention:
- Lil Pump, a 17 year old Miami rapper, signed an $8 million recording deal with Warner Bros.
- Around the same time, one of the leading modern soul singers in the US celebrated on social media the one millionth stream of her latest song on Spotify. Her financial haul on it? Likely around $3,000.
Though these two stories appeared unrelated, they are instructive of the strange new world of music streaming payments, and the inherent bias against soul, jazz, classical and other genres of music aimed at adult listeners….
And while there has been a lot of press about how streaming initially reduced the overall payments to record companies and artists (which has since turned around), what hasn’t been addressed as much is how streaming has changed which artists get paid. And, without a doubt, streaming has stacked the deck toward hip-hop, pop, and other genres whose listeners are teenagers and twenty-somethings.
The music world continues to be exceedingly vulnerable, and there are looming questions that desperately need to be addressed. Most important: How can artists distribute and sell their work in a digital economy beholden to ruthlessly commercial and centralized interests?
Enter Spotify, a platform that is definitely not the answer.
Read the post on The Baffler
If you have been to any media conference or read any trade magazine over the past several years, you would know that ‘big data’ was going to be the answer to all of the woes of the music industry.
The idea was simple: utilizing the collection of large amounts of data and profiling those generating that data (citizens) could inform you how to extract more value from your customers.
Essentially, big data was a solution pitched and sold to the music industry as a panacea to fan engagement problems….While big data seems very attractive, using personal data and profiling fans may in fact turn out to be, like oil and plastics, already outdated and toxic.
[And what about the songwriters?]
As the trading floor eyes up Spotify’s float, the attention of the music industry is on its licensors. None more so than music makers, who created the assets which make Spotify and its rivals, the billion-dollar businesses they are today. In theory, those assets are due for a windfall as option agreements become exercisable and paper value crystallises into cash. This is potentially a moment which proves the extraordinary opportunities of our digital age, the borderless, boundless bounty of music, the leadership of music innovation and, the enormous value in this business we love, music.
Whose value and how much however, is the conversation of the day. Spotify floating as the New York Stock Exchange takes a hit, is hopefully not prescient of the rewards to the music value chain, through rights-owners and rights licensors who included equity in their licensing deals. Premium-priced initial sales would suggest otherwise. Those licensing deals intrinsically exist for the protection and monetisation of copyright – the music rights and songs artists entrusted to those licensors, for the best advantage to achieve fans and revenues. Rights-holders, distributors, aggregators and services like Spotify, all make money from that transaction and, that trust. Surely it is only sound business that the trust will be repaid and the creators receive due reward from those valuable assets, when money is made. Whether marketing them, streaming them, building a business upon and around them or licensing them, this industry is sustained and sustainable only, with those songs and recordings.
How much value, will be a matter of the deal at hand and the hour at which the licensor cashes in (something which it seems, will be a tightrope dance of timing over the initial roller-coaster period of trading). From that point, the licensor must decide how to distribute the win across all of the assets it has licensed. Notice I say all. There is apparently some discussion of who should be included, of what repertoire may or may not feel the windfall and who is more valuable.
At this stage we point, as we have before, to the demonstrative WIN FairDigitalDeals Declaration. This landmark calling-card for fair play by rights-holders has come of age. Principle statements are now to become practice. This simple document, signed up to by a growing, global swathe of independent labels, is indicative of how good practice is the fair, transparent and creator-led business we strive for as the FAC. Good players are many but they also provide precedent that business can be done with equal revenue shares, clear reporting and by fit for purpose, full and fair distribution of wealth to those who create it. Now is the time for all labels and licensors to really demonstrate good intent for artists, ensuring that our ecosystem is sustainable in practice and principled throughout.
Spotify is stalking you (advertising campaign image by Spotify) The public has woken up to the fact that Facebook is a spying and privacy violating machine. Governments in half a dozen countries have announced some sort of investigation into the company. What most people don’t realize is that Facebook is not unique. Virtually every […]
[Editor Charlie sez: The Music Modernization Act really is the Spotify IPO Preservation Act, as we suspected!]
David Israelite of the NMPA and Mitch Glazier of the RIAA have penned an op-ed for Variety Magazine, in which they extoll the virtues of various copyright reform proposals before congress. While I agree with them about the Classics Act (fixes pre-1972 loophole) AMP act (helps producers/engineers receive royalties from digital royalty streams) every day […]