Okay, a few things need to be said about Spotify.

1) Spotify does not make its money by providing music to listeners. It makes its money by providing eyeballs to advertisers. And one set of eyeballs is as good as any other, particularly with a company the business model of which is about user aggregation. A pair of eyeballs that has been delivered by a desire to listen to Huge Mega-Pop-Star XYZ is worth absolutely no more than a pair of eyeballs delivered by a desire to listen to Niche Indie Artist PDQ.

2) Spotify makes a ton of money and does not share it with the people that it is using as bait. This is bad and shitty.

People make some bone-splinteringly foolish assumptions that Spotify is about music. Spotify is not about music. Spotify is about using ANYTHING to attract eyeballs that can then be fed with ads. The reason they are providing the owners of said eyeballs with music to lure them there is because music is something often provided by people who society is used to see getting financially screwed over: musicians.

People wonder why they can get so very much music on Spotify for so very little. It’s because the music isn’t what the site is selling. Their eyeballs are.

Spotify is no different at all from that Dragon Cave website that used to lure people to compulsively reload ad-laden pages by telling them they were nurturing wee dragon eggs. They used cute pictures of baby dragons, and Spotify uses music.

The difference is that the people who made the baby dragon images were employees of the company and got paid from the ad revenue.

The musicians on Spotify, laboring over the lures that bring people to compulsively reload that site, do not. Not unless they are on a label that can twist someone’s arm to get that. However, see #1 above: the greater drawing power of a Mega-Pop-Star means nothing in the age of aggregation. A pair of eyeballs is exactly equivalent to any other pair of eyeballs, which means that there is zero reason why Spotify does not pay out ad revenue to independent musicians.

Do you think anyone would have bought the line of bull had the folks behind Dragon Cave told those people making those little pictures, “Hey, make your pictures for nearly nothing, we’ll use them, make a ton of ad money from it without giving you any, and meanwhile you’ll reap the mystic reward of having lots of people look at them, which is surely more important to you than being paid for doing it! And um … exposure! Or something! Hey come on, you people would do it for free anyway, right?”

Like the saying goes, if something is free or preposterously dirt-cheap against all reason, look in the mirror because you’re the product.

The musicians are being used as lures to drag your eyeballs to that site, and they are not being paid a dime out of the real revenue stream: the ad money.

Well, they are if they have a massive global megacorp behind them, and even then, the megacorp is being paid. The musicians still aren’t.

Amusing to me how a supposedly “progressive” generation that made “No Logo” a massive best-seller can fail to see this or care. Any argument about Spotify that so much as mentions the old music industry or how many streams a given musician has, or whether it’s this or that genre in any way at all reveals that the person making the argument is totally missing the point.

If the vast majority of your opinion about Spotify is driven in any way by the fact that they are providing music specifically, you are missing the point.

If you have gone on about Spotify or streaming music for longer than fifteen seconds without this informing your opinion from the ground up, you are missing the point.

If you think Spotify’s revenue stream actually comes from your paltry little $30/yr subscription — and that arguing about how to divvy that up is how the problem will get solved, you are missing the point.

It’s part of why I enjoy the idea of selling to older audiences, up to and including retirees. You know, those people that a classically trained pianist is supposed to disdain performing for and blame for the death of classical music. Why? Because those people buy music.

Next up: how Spotify is not “just like radio!” Not only is that comparison apples and oranges, it’s probably more like goldfish and cinderblocks.

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One comment on “Okay, a few things need to be said about Spotify.

  1. […] Spotify is a Walkman that you can carry around on yourself with an infinite number of tapes. Except this time, you didn’t buy them. In fact, you need never buy anything again. Which is the problem. (And for why your $30 subscription fee actually means nothing, see my previous post on Spotify.) […]

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