They could definitely improve their royalty model. But then so could YouTube and all the others…Steve Cobby
Scott Diaz is a UK DJ / Producer / Remixer who releases on labels like Defected, Simma Black, Armada Deep, Large Music etc. He has moved his label catalogue to Bandcamp and removed it from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora (with a couple of exceptions for collaborations).
What are your criticisms of Spotify?
I should state that I’m not against streaming as a concept or an idea. The convenience is fantastic. But the royalty rates paid to artists are abysmal.
The only way you could even try and circumvent that as a label is to release volume – that is to say if each release makes X amount, and you build the visibility with consistent releases ‘on the shelf’, then the more catalogue you build, the greater that monthly payout should be, of which you as a label can then take 50%. But I’m strongly against the ‘volume game’. There’s already way too much average music and that whole approach smacks of a lack or quality control, a lack of artistic intent and so much else that is just immediate red flags to me.
It’s way too stacked in favour of the majors. Platforms like this one were meant to democratise the music industry and make it fairer. They should remove the free account, for starters. If they cared about artists and compensation, they’d do it, but they don’t. They care about taking the artist/fan relationship and placing an advertisement for Mercedes bang in the middle of it.
What’s the alternative?
The alternative is building a more engaged fan base of loyal listeners and true fans who want to support what you do in a tangible way, whether that’s via Traxsource, Bandcamp, Patreon or another platform. I think we have to accept that this listener base is far smaller, but I’ve made the argument several times that “what good is a stream or a listen in isolation if the relationship doesn’t continue from there?” I think we need to keep having the conversation about streaming royalty rates and the disparity between Daniel Ek’s net worth and the reality of 98% of artists whose music is on his platform.
We all need to ask ourselves “what is the difference between a passive playlist listener (lean-back experience) and somebody actively engaging with your music?” I might sound ungrateful here, but I do not class listeners (in this sense) as fans. I think there’s an important distinction. I’d like to see a shift where we aren’t all so willing to give our music away for free in the name of unquantifiable ‘exposure’.
Perhaps then the listeners might have to work a bit harder to find the music they love, and then they’d actually be engaged with the art a little more. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my behalf but you then have a greater chance of those people becoming real fans that, y’know, spend real money with you.
Producer and DJ Steve Cobby was one half of uber-downtempo-ists Fila Brazillia as well as recording as Solid Doctor, The Cutler and (as one-third of) Heights of Abraham. He took the decision to remove his Déclassé label from Spotify.
Why did you remove your labels’ music from Spotify?
I wanted to see if more traffic/customers made their way to my Bandcamp portal and invested in my work directly. I had read of a grassroots artist in the US that had done so and seen that happen and so wanted to see if it applied to my situation. I’d also started to consider if the ubiquity of streaming took away some aspect of the ‘magic’ I didn’t mind being a bit hard to find again. Or discover for that matter. Like buried treasure.
They could definitely improve their royalty model. But then so could YouTube and all the others. They all take the piss. Soundcloud’s made the right noises and moved to a theoretically fairer model but I’ve yet to see any sign of others following suit.
I’m in a better position as an owner/operator than many artists as I don’t have a label to split anything with to further dilute to remuneration.
What’s the alternative?
‘You Can Find Me On Bandcamp.‘ That’s the name of the only track I’ve put on streaming services this year. A fans suggestion that I thought would be a mildly amusing way to make a point. But jesting aside Bandcamp is my platform of choice as I deal directly with fans and has been since 2014.
I offer all the work to stream or download in all formats and also vend all the physical merch through that portal. Vinyl crowdfunding has been added to their services and I’ve done four successful campaigns in the last 12 months with them as well.
How do you see this situation between artists/labels and Spotify developing?
Predicting anything in these mercurial times appears to be a foolhardy mission. I know streaming is slowing down according to industry reports and larger labels are looking at starting up their own services. Push-back on Spotify seems to be increasing. The fact you’re doing an article is evidence of that. It will be interesting to see where they are in a year or so.
In part two, coming next month, we speak to more artists who are rejecting the Spotify model. In part three, in March we will look into artists, labels and publishers who are actually making Spotify work for them.
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