How Spotify will bury indie artists even further...

March 13, 2023

The blog post you are about to read is a bit unique on IMC. It is rare that I write a blog post to give my personal opinion about something that is not purely indie music. But there is a certain anger in me today that needs to come out.

As you know, I have been supporting independent artists for now... 22 years! I started on a small local FM radio when I was 14 years old. When I created my online project in 2005, I was naive enough to believe that the "borderless" internet was going to be a good thing for artists, because they would now be able to reach people all over the world. Until the streaming model showed up in their big shoes in the 2010s. And things started to stink.

Goodbye to most music bloggers, who were considered the descendants of CD salesmen in music stores. I am part of the "irreducible Gauls". But it is true that in front of so many choices, with more than 100,000K new releases uploaded daily on Spotify, you may be wondering how indie artists manage to be noticed.

Of course, the possibilities are many. There are small bloggers like me, who have a small but loyal and very supportive community. And we are really thankful to our amazing community. Also, artists have never had so many online tools to generate income, whether it's Twitch, Bandcamp, Patreon, or shops to sell their merch. And yet, the more tools there are, the more these artists feel lost in space. Two reasons for this: 1. Maybe they don't have the time and patience to study how these tools work. Because for most of our artists, music is a passion, and many have a full-time job to be able to pay their bills. 2. It takes courage to release music in 2023 because, in addition to being a super singer-songwriter, most of them also have to learn how to become online marketing geniuses. Many business schools have jumped on the wave and are now offering these courses but at a four or even five-figure price!

You might not know this, but in order for you to listen to their music on Spotify, indie artists have to pay a distributor, be it Distrokid, TuneCore, etc. A few years ago (not so far), they had to pay to put a single online, and even more for an album. And they have to pay every year for it to stay up on the platforms. Things have been simplified and some distributors like Distrokid allow them to publish unlimited music with an annual subscription. The distribution budget is therefore reduced, but it's still there. Of course, you need to add the budget of recording a song in a studio or the price of DAW software that allows you to produce your own music. Then the costs of a photographer to have quality press pics. Possibly a director to have a rocking music video. And many more.

The reality is that all the artists you discover on IMC are housed in the same boat as the biggest like The Weeknd or Miley Cyrus. Spotify pays them exactly the same amount. On average, $0.004 per stream. So here are some interesting calculations: if you are a musician and you reach 1000 streams, you earn 1 dollar. 10K streams, you get $40. 100K streams (which is already big for an indie artist), and you get $400. Your day in the studio and all your expenses are not yet covered! It starts to get interesting from the million since you will get $4000. Some of the IMC artists have made it there, but they're pretty rare.

And where I start to get angry is when Spotify announces on their "Stream On 2023" (watch here if you have 88 minutes to lose) that they will focus on even more algorithm song playlists/feeds. Which could result in even fewer listeners of "normal" / third-party playlists. And they play with "hope" that anyone that can create "music" will get heard. Okay. As long you pay for it with your own royalties: around 30%.

Anyone who has therefore managed to reach 100K streams with difficulty will no longer receive $400 but $280. And I don't agree. Artists already pay a distributor to see their music on the platform, and they still have to pay again to be placed on algorithmic playlists. For me, it's called picking the pockets of artists for more than a random result, since it's based on algorithms that we know absolutely nothing about. But Spotify knows that some artists would do anything for a little exposure on an editorial playlist, and would be willing to pay. Would these artists in need of exposure, therefore, become cash cows?

"Sponsored content" is nothing new. We also tried that. But we preferred to return to a fairer submission model for everyone. Whether you pay or not, artists can send their music to IMC for consideration. I hesitated several times to build a paid model because I found myself drowned under more than 2000 requests per month asking me to "work on a voluntary basis". And I never took the leap. On the other hand, Spotify is doing it, without even asking the artists for their opinion. Since Spotify now has the monopoly anyway. So if artists absolutely want to break through, they will have to pay. A bit like Twitter with its subscription formula. And a bit like Facebook and Instagram, where, if you don't pay, you are invisible and drowned in the interstellar mass.

I just wanted to let you know that we, very small independent media, will always stand up alongside artists to support them. And we wanted to let you know about these evil plans. Some petitions are starting to appear. One of them is here if you want to support artists:

Spotify tends to forget that without artists, there is no catalog. As a big music consumer, it wouldn't seem inappropriate to me to pay $30 for a Spotify Premium subscription. Because I am the customer at the end of the chain who "consumes" the product. Let listeners pay more, if you give them the choice. But not artists, damn it!

Written with love, passion (and maybe a little exasperation) by Niko. These are his own thoughts and the rest of the team is unrelated to this post.


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