By Eugine Chung
Spotify is quickly becoming America’s go-to mobile and online application to streamline music for free. According to the company, as of 2013, Spotify has more than 24 million users. That’s not surprising with its appeal of offering a bevy of rising, underground singers to suggesting music based on the user’s previously liked songs.
Still, even with its great utility in bumping up moods during road trips or setting up a quiet atmosphere for a relaxing Saturday evening, it appears that the app isn’t so beneficial to the artists themselves.
According to the Business Insider, one song play gives your favorite singer or band around 0.6 cents. That means, it will take more than 166 plays for the artist to gain $1 in royalties, which is a usage-based payment made by one party, the “licensee,” to another, the “licensor,” or in this case, the artist. For more popular artists, perhaps the lack of royalties won’t be too harmful to their financial needs. However, as Spotify sports some of our most cherished underground, rising artists, the artists do not gain as much as they should to thrive.
Moreover, premium users pay $9.99 for more streamlined features like advertisement-free steaming, but only 6 million of the 24 million users pay the amount to contribute to Spotify’s gross revenues.
Nonetheless, some argue that Spotify highlights the chance for rising artists to gain exposure through Spotify’s randomized and diverse radio playlists. Exposure could lead to interest, which could then further lead to financial support from new fans.
However, rock musician Damon Krukowski uncovered further troubles with companies like Pandora and Spotify.
“As businesses, Pandora and Spotify are divorced from music. To me, it’s a short logical step to observe that they are doing nothing for the business of music– except undermining the simple cottage industry of pressing ideas onto vinyl, and selling them for more than they cost to manufacture,” said Krukowski in his op-ed article in Pitchfork.
The issue with companies like Spotify can be distilled into two basic sides: be satisfied with the exposure of artists or press for more financial benefits for the artists.
Though both sides make compelling arguments of the issue with free music streaming companies, it is important to take into consideration the current trend of music purchasing.
With free torrent websites and third party downloading systems, it is hard to defend the power of exposure, especially when downloading music illegally is so prevalent in our society
Additionally, all the hard work poured into a single song will only get its due if one, the song can meet a mass of the public’s tastes, two, the artist still has enough funds to create more music in the future, and three, if the artist’s song is played frequently enough. Of course, it often takes years for niche artists to gain the needed popularity, earning enough time for the band to give up, pack their instruments and head onto other ventures.
Nevertheless, there is no reason for Spotify to be marked as some evil, money depriving entity. It is a truly unique experience in itself, and artists, including Krukowski, appreciate it for its multifunctions of uncovering new favorites. The public should however take it upon itself to support artists and keep new, maybe life-changing songs in tow for both us and the artists to benefit from.