It’s quite clear that if you can’t earn a living from Spotify, artists won’t bother making records. They’ll all just make podcasts, instead. But then, not everyone would want to do that. In the second part of our three-part feature, we talk to Steve Albini and MIRI on why artists are removing their music from Spotify.
Last month, following Skee Mask and Illian Tape’s decision to take their music off Spotify, we spoke to several artists who have also removed their music from the streaming platform too. In the intervening few weeks, musicians Neil Young, Jon Mitchell and Graham Nash have announced that they were removing their music too, in protest at Spotify’s platforming of covid misinformation by Joe Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.
Meanwhile US singer-songwriter India.Arie is also removing her music from Spotify because of her concerns with Rogan’s recent comments on race and house producer Mr V has also chosen to take his music off the platform.
Tough decision today. I’m removing my labels Sole Channel Music & M4T from Spotify. And yes it has everything to do with Joe Rogan & his antics that go beyond his anti-vax views and opinions. There’s now TOO MANY things I’m seeing about his show that Spotify is promoting.
The debate around Spotify has generally been around their royalty system which many artists consider way too low. Likewise, their pro-rata royalty system comes in for plenty of criticism, particularly when a user-centric model – where all of your Spotify fees go only to artists that you’ve actually streamed, seems at least at face value to be a much fairer model. Artists leaving Spotify because of concerns over covid misinformation or far-right content is a new development.
We spoke to two more artists and producers about why artists might choose to remove their music from the platform.
Steve Albini is a US musician, record producer and audio engineer who over the course of a long career has worked with artists like Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey and Mogwai. Albini remains “agnostic” about streaming, doesn’t have a streaming subscription and is sympathetic to acts who might want to move away from Spotify.
What are your criticisms of Spotify and/or streaming generally?
In principle, streaming is just a kind of radio and I have no problem with it. I have a bit of a problem with the entire concept of intellectual property because as any poker player knows, a rule creates an angle to shoot exploiting that rule, as we see playing out here.
Specifically, Spotify granted major labels equity (part ownership) in exchange for bulk licenses to their catalogues. These licenses and the associated equity have never been subject to review or auditing, and the arrangements were made without consultation or consideration of the bands whose material was being streamed.
Given the paltry payments credited to the bands and the profitable years posted by the labels, it stands to reason that this arrangement is fundamentally unfair to the bands, but proving that in the intentional absence of any information would be a difficult forensic task.