According to a Billboard story released on Oct. 24, Spotify plans to change its monetization system for artists. While the multi-billion dollar streaming service claims that these changes are meant to prevent fraud, ultimately it will hurt artists more than it will help the company.
The most jarring policy Spotify is planning on implementing is to create an annual threshold that songs must reach before they begin generating royalties. The music giant also is planning harsher penalties for labels when fraudulent activity is detected on a song they’ve distributed and a minimum play-time length for non-music tracks — white noise, whale sounds, etc. — to be eligible for royalties. Currently, the specific values of the threshold, penalties and track length are unknown.
These changes are being framed as “artist-centric” by the executives who proposed them. They point to the huge number of tracks uploaded to the streaming service every day as a justification for these limits on royalties.
However, Spotify has failed to address the issue of mass amounts of music being uploaded to its servers in a meaningful way before this. Boomy, a music production company that makes music using AI, has uploaded nearly 18 million songs to Spotify, but its CEO Daniel Ek said there are no plans to ban these ethically questionable tracks.
Instead of taking meaningful action to create an “artist-centric” streaming space, Spotify is working with major record labels to neglect new artists who fail to generate revenue. By catering to established artists that are signed by these major labels, Spotify is just providing more money and attention to singers and bands that simply do not need additional exposure.
Spotify has also been paying artists ridiculously low amounts per stream for years now. Every time a song is streamed, it generates roughly $0.005. To highlight how ridiculously low that is, let’s look at the math using one of my favorite bands, Behemoth. Behemoth’s most streamed song, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,” has been played over 18 million times. If you multiply the exact number of streams the song has by 0.005, you get $90,382.79.
While this may seem like a lot at first, you have to remember that this is an estimate of the money that this song has made since its release, not monthly or even annually. While Behemoth has several other songs that have been streamed millions of times, not all artists and groups have that privilege. Smaller bands with similar sounding music — Crescent, Venom, Prison, etc. — do not have songs that break into the millions territory, yet produce music of great quality just like Behemoth.
Vinyl records also saw a significant price increase fueled by major labels like Universal and Warner earlier this year. The vinyl format has seen a jump in popularity but supply has remained relatively low, leading to labels jacking up prices by over 50% in some cases. These increases make it harder to directly support artists and their music outside of streaming because no one wants to buy a $40 record that was previously $20.
So, how can you enjoy music in a way that both supports small artists and sends a message to major labels and streaming platforms without breaking the bank? The easy answer is CDs.
This might seem silly considering CDs have seemingly been on the decline for years. However, they are making a comeback and have yet to be targeted by labels with unnecessary price increases. Additionally, artists ranging from Black Belt Eagle Scout to Sanguisugabogg have CDs that are all below $15. While finding a nice CD player may be a more expensive venture, you can still buy a decent one for under $50.
CDs also provide a bigger cut to artists than streaming does. In 2015, artists earned $7.50 per disc sold, whereas they were only paid $0.0011 per stream on Spotify – a figure that is still representative of today’s music business.
While they are unassuming at first, CDs serve a newfound purpose in an era of increasing corporate consolidation. While record label and streaming service executives are trying to strangle music markets and increase the wealth of well-established singers, CDs show our support for smaller groups. By buying CDs at record stores and online shops, you are not only showing your support for local businesses but also artists being attacked by Spotify’s new monetization changes and major labels’ increasing stranglehold on the music world. Together, we can support our favorite artists directly and stick it to the man, one CD at a time.
Jackson McCoy is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Jackson know by emailing or tweeting him at email@example.com or @_jackson_mccoy_.