Before your grandmama joined, Facebook – it’s hard to believe – was once an exclusive sorta place. You needed an academic email to join – indicating attendance at or employment by a university to capture the college-age audience that reflected Mark Zuckerberg and the other founders’ own age.
People wanted in so bad that they were willing to put up with anything from Facebook, a company that from the very beginning showed little regard for its users’ rights or privacy. They even once tried to manipulate their users’s emotions by making them unknowing test subjects in a psychological experiment. When it came to what users initially liked about Facebook, the company often seemed to be perpetuating a psychological test of its own. Timelines would change, post reach would be crushed and the entire service (and by default everyone on it) became slaves to an algorithm designed to buy and sell its users for the highest fraction of a penny. I remember at the Occupy protests, people would hold signs proclaiming the revolutionary appeal of Facebook and social media. They don’t feel that way anymore.
It might have been different for Spotify, but the company’s breakneck pace and abrupt, seemingly nihilistic shifts in attitude toward its content creators bear an uncanny resemblance to the cynical disdain (“They trust me… the dumb fucks“) Facebook has had for the people on their own platform.
Most musicians didn’t join Spotify out of enthusiasm. And now inside the platform, Spotify appears to be relishing the opportunity to beat out whatever enthusiasm they’ve harbored.
Actually, Spotify is probably treating their own content creators – musicians – even worse. Most musicians didn’t have the infatuation for Spotify that users had for Facebook. They joined Spotify because it’s low price and free trial programs has siphoned off listeners from other, more profitable ways of getting music in front of an audience. A few musicians must have been enthusiastic, but most of them (I mean the ones that even had the choice) joined Spotify or other streaming platforms out of FOMO – fear of missing out, in this case fear of being shut out from what’s soon to become the largest source of revenue for recorded music in the world.
Now inside the platform, Spotify appears to be relishing the opportunity to beat out whatever enthusiasm musicians have harbored.
Exhibit A: Spotify spearheaded an appeal to reverse the Copyright Review Board’s decision to increase songwriting royalties by 44%. Spotify’s executives have a net worth that exceeds several of the earth’s countries. They made that off music. But getting a faction of a penny more per song was apparently a fiscal disaster of such a magnitude they’re willing to sue the people that make the product they sell to avoid it.
Exhibit B: Not content with being mere misers, Spotify decided to go full-on Scrooge to claw back potentially millions in other royalties already paid to songwriters.
Spotify is now claiming claiming a different aspect of that exact same Copyright Royalty Board decision they’re trying to overturn means they overpaid songwriters last year.
Spotify claims that the CRB’s decision on how to count family plan members and student members means they “overpaid most publishers in 2018,” according to a Spotify spokesperson. As a result, Spotify is deducting the amount from forthcoming royalty payments to music publishers.
Songwriters may find an unwelcome surprise in a smaller-than-anticipated 2019 royalty check.
And finally we come to the latest turn in Spotify’s aggro attack on the people who create the stuff that gave Spotify a $26 billion market cap in an era when most musicians got a second day job.
Spotify announced this week that they are abruptly shutting down their Direct Upload plan to allow artists to upload music directly to their platform. The plan would have allowed some artists to claw back a few bucks that are now sent to distributors. This had particular appeal for those artists who are broke or starting out, and would have gotten theoretically the same access a star would get, right from the bedroom where they make their tracks.
It isn’t so much the decision here – it’s how abrupt it is. Spotify gave no explanation as to why they’re shutting down a program they heralded as a part of the future less than a year ago, other than that their “energies” are better spent… not allowing artists to upload directly.
By the evidence in front of us right now, Spotify wants to “serve artists and labels” chiefly by making them poor and fucking with their heads.
Spotify is not just ending the program – it won’t pay you on any streams you’ve added yourself using Direct Upload. If you don’t have a new distributor in place by July 30, Spotify will actually delete your material from their server.
It’s like Spotify is following Facebook’s credo of “move quickly and break things,” except the thing they’re breaking is people.
“The best way for us to serve artists and labels is to focus our resources on developing tools in areas where Spotify can uniquely benefit them,” Spotify’s statement reads.
By the evidence in front of us right now, Spotify wants to “serve artists and labels” chiefly by making them poorer and fucking with their heads.
Spotify’s obsession with squeezing every penny of profit from a product that is already nearly free has turned it into one of the most overtly anti-musician companies out there.
Amazon treats music like another bargain bin roll of toilet paper, but you kind of expect that. Amazon can exit the music business tomorrow and it probably won’t be more than a decimal on their next quarterly revenue statement.
Spotify IS music. Musicians create the product. Their $26 billion market cap was built in a froth of investor expectation and the only tangible thing about this company at all is the music that’s at the heart of it.
And the company’s obsession with squeezing every penny of profit from a product that is already nearly-free has turned Spotify into one of the most overtly anti-musician companies out there.