I can’t help but get upset when, on a regular basis, I seem to find an up and coming artist that renounces Spotify as if it’s some leprosy-ridden stepchild. It was one thing to listen to Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame go on promoting the collapse of the record industry, and then turn around and berate Spotify with the language of a five year old - that was easy to brush off as a childish temper tantrum. From that mentality though, arose a bandwagon that many artists are all too willing to jump on.
With Spotify, I can hear almost any artist I find out about, listen to my heart’s content, and then buy the album if I choose. It’s a listener’s paradise. The ratio of artists I listen to on Spotify and then go out and purchase their music isn’t anything remarkable, but I would like to think that it counts toward something. In fact, Spotify was the catalyst in many of my recent music endeavors: nine album purchases, two live shows, and two shirts, all ranging from Zedd and Nero to Hands Like Houses and the 1975. I’ve become fans of these artists, and because I liked what I heard on Spotify, I chose to support them through purchasing their goods.
That being said, I realize that not everyone treats Spotify in this same way. While my closest friend consumes the same amount of music as I do (if not more), his Spotify premium account trumps his need for purchasing albums. However, he is very likely to check out an artist upon first hearing an interesting song, and then becoming an advocate for their music. To me, this type of behavior is Spotify’s most valuable asset, and many artists seem to be either unwilling or incapable of understanding this value.
It’s this kind of listener behavior that must stop being treated as a valueless commodity in order for the music industry to move forward. While creators may only get fractions of a penny per stream, they get exposure and the chance to win over a new fan. Even though the long term payoff is still being heavily debated, it can’t be denied that Spotify can allow for the creation of a greater number of fans- if treated correctly.
The alternative that artists who decry Spotify are pushing for, is that far less people hear an artist’s music. This leads to fewer people hearing their music, and spending in related areas of the industry decreases. Artists cannot survive off of Spotify alone, and most of the artists that pitch a fit about Spotify are ones who seem to treat it this way.
In fact, it seems that many artists are missing the key point here. Spotify is a promotional tool. It is not to be treated as an end to the recording industry’s problems, but instead as a valuable tool for shaping the future. It offers artists the chance to show listeners that the music they put out is good enough to capture a listener’s attention. This is a direct link between an artist’s music and the fans, and by severing this link, artists are implying that their music is not good enough to capture and hold an audience. By even further making a fuss about it, artists can even go so far as to suggest the very fans that keep them active are no better than the common thief. If I’m feeling out your music, that’s not something I want to hear.
Making a fuss about Spotify is incredibly off putting to listeners everywhere. While the pay received from Spotify may not be great, it’s still better than somebody illegally downloading an album. Arguing that Spotify is severely impacting an artist’s popularity and ability to survive is like arguing that street vendors selling unlicensed T-shirts are making a dent in your merch sales. Then again, if you’re as big as Radiohead, Metallica, or Pink Floyd, you shouldn’t be complaining in the first place.
So artists, the next time you think about promoting the theft of an inferior medium over Spotify, take a good hard look at your intentions, and realize that you’re not only holding back the potential of streaming music, but are making yourselves look like an ass.