A critical mass of artists who demand changes at Spotify could get something done, however, since Spotify relies on them to make their product worthwhile. Spotify promises its customers that, by paying one subscription fee, you get access to essentially all recorded music. If the Young firestorm continues, suddenly Spotify would be a balkanized platform, losing fans of the various artists who object to Rogan. It wouldn’t be able to rely on the network effects that make people think they cannot live without Spotify, because it’s one-stop shopping for everything audio.
The situation could inspire artists to realize their power in another context: demanding fair compensation for their work. An artist boycott based on being treated like sharecroppers by the streaming giant could gain a lot of traction. Unfortunately, the (understandable) business decisions of some legacy artists, extreme inequality among musical artists, and the way in which musicians are beset on all sides by monopolies may make it difficult to make headway.
It’s always worth reading the transcripts from Spotify’s analyst calls if you want to get a picture of the true insanity they have in store for all of us. It’s clear that Daniel Ek has focused on being in the “audio opportunity” (whatever the hell that is). Kind of like being in the “water” space, I guess.
But think about what that actually means. Ek has commoditized music already in his monopoly music streaming platform–but music is just part of the “audio” space, don’t you know. And since he’s telling a growth story to Wall Street (the geniuses who brought you the subprime mortgage disaster, quantitative easing and the dot bomb bubble, just to name a few highlights), how’s he going to grow the “audio” space?
That’s right. Audiobooks.
Ek intends to apply the lessons he’s learned about how to screw over artists and songwriters to book authors. How do we know? Because he told us this week (Feb. 2, 2022) on his earnings call.
Audiobooks in our view is a subset of the overall audio opportunity, but obviously, it touches a very important creator group which is authors. So we’re very excited about that opportunity. And long-term, I think you can look at markets like China, for instance, to look at just the innovation that’s happening in audiobooks there. For me it’s strange to imagine why not more of that type of innovation have come to many of the Western markets as well.https://news.alphastreet.com/spotify-technology-sa-spot-q4-2021-earnings-call-transcript/
What lessons does Ek want us to learn from China and that “innovation”? He’s not talking about innovative ways for authors to sustain themselves, he’s talking about innovative ways for Spotify to make bank by “innovating” how books are sold. Books are, you see, just another part of the audio opportunity. Let’s see what his partner Tencent, the government surveillance “company” is doing in China with audiobooks.
Tencent recently acquired Lazy Audio, a Mandarin audiobook company which sells audiobooks on a pay-per-title basis, but also subscriptions and–wait for it–advertising. Because books, like lyrics, have a lot of words or as they are known in Silicon Valley, keywords.
And once you know the keywords that attract people you can serve them more targeted ads with your algorithms. Because that’s why authors use those keywords to create those audio opportunities.
And don’t forget Ek’s Law, derived from Moore’s Law. Every 18 months royalties are cut in half.
Electronic music producer and artist Skee Mask (full name Bryan Müller) has officially removed “all” his tracks from Spotify over the platform’s perceived lack of respect for creators, in addition to CEO Daniel Ek’s multimillion-dollar investment in AI-powered defense company Helsing. he Germany-based “Rev8617” artist announced his voluntary Spotify exit on social media, and the much-publicized move follows Skee Mask’s May of 2021 decision to release Pool physically and digitally sans a streaming option.
“it’s done, all of my sh-t is gone from Spotify,” Skee Mask said of his music’s just-finalized removal from the Stockholm-headquartered service. “i have nothing against streaming in general, it’s one of many good ways to make music even more accessible!….
“my music will be available there again as soon as this company starts (somehow) becoming honest & respectful towards music makers. if you really don’t have the money to listen to my music in any other way, feel free to digitally steal it anywhere, BUT don’t give you’re [sic] last penny to such a wealthy business that obviously prefers the development of warfare instead of actual progression in the music business. PEACE!” concluded Skee Mask.
Regarding the “100 MILLION €,” “development of warfare,” and “PEACE” components of the statement from Skee Mask, Daniel Ek’s Prima Materia in November provided €100 million (about $113 million at the present exchange rate) in funding to Helsing, “a new type of security and artificial intelligence company.”
It’s just a casual poll on Twitter, but an interesting result!
While we are not surprised to see Facebook the massive infringer and destroyer of worlds at 0% as least trustworthy, Google got a much higher score than we anticipated.
But the real headline was just how badly Spotify got beat by Apple, its main lawfare target. Mind you, the Trichordist audience is heavily weighted toward artists and songwriters, so it’s not surprising.
I ran across an interesting 2019 study by researchers at the University of Glasgow (sorry Celtics fans) and the University of Oslo that takes a deep dive into streaming (summarized in this handy infographic).
The research…shows that when plotted against the changing average salary of a US citizen over history, consumers were willing to pay roughly 4.83% of an average weekly salary in vinyl’s peak year of production in 1977, a price which slips down to roughly 1.22% of an average weekly salary in 2013, the peak of digital album sales.
The advent of streaming over the last decade, now means for just $9.99, or just over 1% of the current average weekly salary in the USA, consumers now have unlimited access to almost all of the recorded music ever released via platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Pandora, and Amazon.
And then there’s the environmental impact of streaming. MTP readers will recall that I’ve been on the “dirty data” tip for years and tried to discourage readers from accepting–and in my mind being deceived by–Big Tech’s misdirection play about being green. They dearly want you to believe that the what powers everything from Google searches, to YouTube videos, to Spotify streaming is magic elves running on golden flywheels transmitted over gossamer wings.
This study confirms what we’ve seen in other reporting on the pollution of data centers sucking down hydro power in states like Oregon (represented by anti-artist mainliner Senator Ron Wyden–coincidence?). The study tells us:
“These figures seem to confirm the widespread notion that music digitalised is music dematerialised. The figures may even suggest that the rises of downloading and streaming are making music more environmentally friendly. But a very different picture emerges when we think about the energy used to power online music listening. Storing and processing music online uses a tremendous amount of resources and energy – which a high impact on the environment.”
It is possible to demonstrate this by translating the production of plastics and the generation of electricity (for storing and transmitting digital audio files) into greenhouse gas equivalents (GHGs).
The research shows GHGs of 140 million kilograms in 1977, 136 million kilograms in 1988, and 157 million in 2000. But by 2016 the generation of GHGs by storing and transmitting digital files for those listening to music online is estimated to be between 200 million kilograms and over 350 million kilograms in the US alone.
So it already fails on the S (due to horrendous treatment of creators) and it’s refusal to exercise pricing power even though consumers pay so little; and the G (given Spotify’s extreme control by Daniel Ek’s supervoting stock to the exclusion of shareholders). It also looks like Spotify also falls down on the E, too, with its polluting business model. No ESG ETF for Spotify?
Not likely. The greedy Stockholm syndrome exploits everyone.