One music fan’s boycott of Spotify


I wonít listen to Spotify. In fact, I am personally boycotting it.

Iím sure the music streaming executives are quaking in their collective boots over my decision. ďYeah, there go a couple thousand streams we wonít get. Boohoo!Ē

It doesnít seem to bother Spotify or Pandora that they are ripping off musicians by underpaying them for their music, but it bothers me.

Iím not a musician, just a music fan that needs music to feed my soul. I gladly pay for that.

Yes, I have illegally download some music in the past. It was almost always from what I perceived as commercially successful artists Ė Springsteen, Tom Petty Ė those who I could at least rationalize wouldnít miss my $0.99 per song. But I have since realized that was short-sighted thinking, and don’t do it anymore. I fully understand that selling music is the only way most musicians continue to afford to make more music.

I have read interviews with musicians like Rosanne Cash who rail against Spotify, Pandora and other streaming sites for their practices. Cash says her music had been streamed by Spotify 600,000 times over an 18-month period, resulting just $104 in royalties.

This makes me angry, angry enough to boycott. But she continues to allow her music to be streamed there? This puzzled me at first. Now, of course, I understand that these services offer a visibility, an outlet to be heard in great numbers.†But is it worth the cost Ė the cost in principle?

Itís easy for me to ask. Iím not the one trying to spread the word of my own work and make a living at it. The recourse would be, what? Trying to spread the word yourself? Good luck with that. Anything short of a Taylor Swift PR campaign will get lost in the Internetís here-today, gone-tomorrow news cycle.

But someone has to fight back!

Could that someone Ė to pull their music and give Spotify a kick in the ass Ė actually be Taylor Swift? She recently pulled her catalog off the site and wrote in the Wall Street Journal that music is valuable and deserves to be treated like ďart.Ē Iím not exactly sure what Swiftís real motives are: Iíve read conflicting stories about why sheís pulled her catalog. She sounds like she gets it, and though I believe she is genuine, Iím not completely blind that this could motivated to sell more albums.

It really doesnít matter.

What matters is that by pulling her music off the site, she has brought the issue of musicians being paid by streaming sites to the forefront again. And what really would make a difference is if other artists immediately followed suit and pulled their music catalogs.

Spotify could probably care less if Rosanne Cash pulled her music. But if it was Swift and Cash and Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Tom Petty, oh, and Dylan (the times they are a-changin’ again, Bob), I bet Spotify would notice. Maybe then something would happen.

Itís easy for me to propose this. Iím not a musician. Iím just a music fan.

But Iím a music fan who cares about the artists who put out music that I love, that I need to feed my soul.

I pay for that music, Spotify should too.

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  1. Reid Simpson says:

    I will always prefer compensating the artist in the most direct and efficient fashion available. Usually, that means buying CDs at live performances (which means I also bought a ticket). Not every artist tours through my area, so I’ll occasionally order online (from their website, or preferred seller, like CD Baby). I also realize that I’m in a fortunate position to be able to shell out that money, and some fans (new and old) of artists are doing there part by buying $0.99 iTune downloads, because… it’s better than paying them nothing, I suppose! Then again, many artists are doing Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and Pledgemusic campaigns to get direct, efficient funding from fans, so there’s that avenue for fan support, too. (Granted, those organizations take a cut of the proceeds of the campaign funding, so it’s still a middleman-situation.)

    There was another FB post I saw today from Raina Rose regarding the discrepancy between the payment model in Europe (she cited a $400+ payment from the BBC) compared to the meager payments from Pandora and Spotify ($7+ and sub-$1, respectively). Details here: http://www.famontheroad.com/2014/11/on-spotify-taylor-swift-and-making-a-living-as-an-independent-musician-in-the-digital-age/

    I also noticed that NYT connected with some other voices on the inside and published their thoughts, here: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/11/06/is-streaming-good-for-musicians

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