Must Read by @lizpelly and @zachariahkaylar: Oh Spotify Up Yours! A conversation with @lianaisferal

[Editor Charlie sez: The popular rage against Spotify is setting in.]

ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, The Baffler’s ongoing event series for the generally disaffected and pissed off, The Bad Society, continues with a concert at Murmrr Ballroom in Brooklyn featuring music from Xenia Rubinos, Public Practice, and Blood Club—along with a panel on the shitscape of the music streaming economy led by Liz Pelly and featuring David Turner and Xenia Rubinos. (You can still snag a ticket here.)

In advance of the concert, Liz Pelly and Liana Hell Lean of Blood Club and the hardcore outfit Decisions dropped by our gleefully dyspeptic radio program The Bad Society to talk with host Zach Webb about the unrepentant joy of scorning Spotify, punk rock’s obsession with Instagram, and working toward a better DIY scene on the archipelago of overpriced trash islands known as New York. While this interview has been drastically edited for length and clarity, you can listen to the whole broadcast—featuring an eclectic caboodle of tunes selected by Hell Lean from the likes of the queen of Cambodian rock, Ross Sereysothea, to the thundering punk rock of Eteraz—here.

Read the post on the Baffler

@digitalmusicnws: Sony/ATV Ex-Chairman Marty Bandier: ‘I’ve Never Gotten a Call from [Spotify CEO] Daniel Ek’

[More insightful commentary by a senior publisher.  I can tell you that Marty did not move from a little office on Sunset Boulevard to where he is now by spending money on overhead.  It’s simple: if you earn, you spend, but if you can’t manage to earn, then don’t spend.  And if you don’t earn, don’t blame the songwriters–they just provide you with your main product, they don’t run your operation.  But the real reason Ek should have taken the avuncular Bandier to lunch is that he might have actually learned something about life from the seasoned publisher.  Just sayin’.]

Why didn’t Spotify CEO Daniel Ek reach out to music publishing’s biggest exec — even once?

Earlier this week, Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s former Chairman & CEO, Marty Bandier, revealed the strange fact, part of a broader slam against the streaming giant.  “Some people within Spotify have called me and sort of off-the-record apologized,” Bandier recently told students at his namesake Bandier Program at Syracuse University, referring the Spotify’s controversial challenge of publisher royalty rate increases by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board….

…Spotify is now a public company. They have to figure out how to make money, but maybe they should start in their own house and figure out how to save money in general overhead instead of the royalties they pay out.

“If I ran a business and had that type of overhead I would have been fired a long time ago. You just can’t do that and expect to be successful.”

Read the post on Digital Music News

Must read by @mr_trick: Music Streaming Services Are Gaslighting Us

…[W]e have a chronic abundance problem — one that dovetails into a much broader societal issue. Silicon Valley recognised that in a digital realm, you can have everything of everything. This is why we are all glued to our phones, because with infinite content — however facile — to hoover up, we gorge away; a fairly literal representation of Huxley’s “amusing ourselves to death”. This end result is not a positive step; we are burning ourselves out and mental health issues are constantly on the rise. Quite simply, we as humans were not made for an “always on” lifestyle.

With music, the same thing has happened. By giving us everything of everything, we overload and take nothing of anything, overwhelmed in the face of it all.

Read the post on Medium.

@adamlashinsky: Time for the Internet to Grow Up

[Apple gets it–it’s about the reporting…it’s time for Spotify to raise prices and dump the free service.  Netflix has done it a bunch.]

The news business hasn’t shown so much promise in years—and not because of the specifics of Apple’s offering or anyone else’s. Leading publications like The Journal, The Times, and The Post all already have robust subscription offerings. Whether or not they enhance their business models by participating with Apple is neither here nor there from an existential perspective. The point is the industry is surviving, maybe even thriving, by charging its customers for their high-quality product. Finally.

Read the post on The Data Sheet from Fortune and subscribe here

@musicindustree: Everything That’s Wrong With Streaming Music Networks

The majority of people who champion streaming are not your average artist, they are not even the top 10 per cent of artists. The advocators of the commentary we hear day to day are music industry press, mainstream press, the streaming networks themselves, aggregators and Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and of course users, who get an amazing experience of all the music in the world for 9.99.

Read the post on MusicIndustTweet

@BBCtrending: The mystery tracks being ‘forced’ on Spotify users–another explanation

Jonathan Griffin has another “fake artist” story about Spotify on BBC Trending (see also Laura Kobylecky prescient post from 2017, Making Fake Art: “1984”, The New Rembrandt, and The “Fake Artist”).

Mr. Griffin frames the story:

Mysterious musicians have cropped up on Spotify, racking up thousands of listens and (perhaps) hundreds of pounds. It’s a phenomenon that experts say could indicate a security flaw.

But while Spotify denies that accounts have been hacked, the music streaming site has not explained in detail how the playlists of some users indicate they’ve “listened to” musicians that nobody’s ever heard of.

They have names like Bergenulo Five, Bratte Night, DJ Bruej and Doublin Night. Apart from being musically unremarkable, they generally have a few things in common: short songs with few or no lyrics, illustrated with generic cover art, and short, non-descriptive song titles.

Interestingly, the bands also have little to no presence on the rest of the internet. At a time when social media plays a crucial role in connecting musicians and audiences, these artists have no fan pages, no concert listings, social media accounts or even photos of the actual musicians.

But somehow these mystery artists and a host of similar acts have snuck into people’s Spotify listening playlists, in some cases racking up thousands of listens and prompting a number of users to speculate that their accounts had been hacked.

“Hacked” like “glitch” is a word that hides a multitude of liabilities–particularly when the basic phenomenon of mystery tracks is one that has been around for years.  Mr. Griffin offers what I’m sure is an honest technical assessment involving a security breach of the particular incidents of mystery tracks appearing on Spotify playlists.  The complex explanation accepts a basic premise–hacked accounts–and overlooks a simpler explanation.

“Hacked” is one of those flexible Gumby words that can be molded to fit a particular situation, but it definitely implies that an intruder engaged in what is sometimes called an intentional possessory taking and carrying away of property not their own, or as it’s known in the trade–larceny.  In this case, the common law would struggle to cover a playlist as property, but I don’t think it’s all that difficult.  I’m just a country lawyer from Texas and I’m not as smart as these city fellers, and even I can see the analogy.

The more obvious and much simpler explanation is that Spotify did it themselves.  They had access and moreover had a financial incentive as Laura pointed out in her 2017 post.  Here’s how it works…

Spotify makes it easy for the “artists” on these tracks to upload their recordings.  Spotify may buy a batch of these recordings from the “artists” for a flat fee.  Laura covered this issue and quoted a Music Business Worldwide op-ed by Vick Bain about Epidemic Sound.  As Laura said:

There is another problem with the, hypothetical, “fake artist.” In a second article, (4) Music Business Worldwide addresses the issue of how these “fake artists” could be driving down the “per-stream income for everyone, while lowering the negotiating power of the labels/publishers/collecting societies.” The following chart illustrates that issue:

Royalty Allocation Ratio

The problem depends on the “allocation ratio,” or how people are getting paid. The bigger the “total plays” the smaller the “per play rate”. If the total pool of monthly revenue available for royalty payments is divided equally over the total number of plays, that determines the “per play” rate for that month. Each artist or songwriter would get paid for each of their plays based on that rate. (There may be complexities like minimum payments and country variations depending on negotiation power, but the basic math is pretty consistent.)

In other words, artists who are paid a flat fee are included in the allocation ratio, but  even though their tracks are not royalty-bearing, they pull down the overall payout.  This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and may account–so to speak–for the stickiness of fake artists.  It’s also probably prohibited by at least the major label contracts by the insertion of the qualifier “royalty bearing” or similar words on what can be included in the “total plays” denominator in the equation above.

As long as the nominal per play rate for flat fee artists costs less than the per play rate, Spotify has an incentive to play this game.

Particularly if they can chalk it up to a “glitch” on the audit that may never come.

While Mr. Griffin’s explanation is appreciated, there may just be a simpler explanation, and you know what William of Ockham had to say about that.

Spotify Can’t Find Songwriters Performing at Spotify High Roller Party in Cancun

Ah, Cancun, where the elite meet and the US Consulate is located next to the jail.

According to Digital Music News:

Spotify is currently hosting a pricey offsite meeting in Cancun, Mexico, with dozens or more executives and employees participating.

Of course, Cancun isn’t usually associated with getting work done — unless that work involves repeatedly lifting rum cocktails.  But this offsite is reportedly focused on assembling content groups from various global offices.  Beyond that, we’re not sure of the exact business purpose.

One Spotify executive referred to this as a ‘Spotify Music Conference’.  Another source noted that the ‘entire content org’ at Spotify is attending the getaway.  Sounds like a lot of people.

There seems to be a strong Latin emphasis among the performers (more on that below), which makes sense given the location.  But at this stage, this looks like a broader global content and curator meet-up.

According to one source, the action is happening at the Ritz Carlton Cancun, which is surrounded on all sides by white-sand beaches and light blue waters.  According to the resort’s website, room prices start at $439 a night for an ‘Ocean View Guest Room,’ and quickly climb to $1,329 a night for the spacious ‘Club Master Suite’.

Two of the artists performing at the Spotify soiree…sorry, I mean working conference… are Nicky Jam and ChocQuibTown.  What’s strange about that is that Spotify can’t seem to find the songwriters for these two artists:

nicky jam noi

nick rivera caminero nois

chocquibtown

carlos valencia

Now Spotify can explain to these artists why their songwriters aren’t getting paid.  Good thing we have that Music Modernization Act safe harbor that will put everything right as rain.