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Op-Ed: The Spotify Payments Fracas – By Bob Lefsetz

The artists are ignorant and Spotify is clueless.

I feel like I have to be the lone voice in the wilderness, the correction factor, to all the b.s. strewn by the artist community, because Spotify has no cojones and sent in the B team as opposed to Daniel Ek.

That's right, kids who are thrilled to have a job, who've got no idea of Spotify's generation and its road map to success. Drones thrilled to have a job in the music business who don't understand they're caretakers for a revolution as opposed to worker bees at the label.

The truth is you have to know how to think. That's the goal of an education. That's where America has let us down. Because you don't want to pay taxes, you want everything to be quantifiable, so you're tearing down the old edifice not realizing there's no new.

Which cracks me up completely. Has everybody lost their memories? Only a decade ago this same artist community was decrying the iTunes Music Store which is now suddenly their savior. And I'll note that iTunes decimated the CD model just like streaming is killing downloads, but what bugs me is how art, which is supposed to be cutting edge and challenging, is now populated by wusses who abhor change and want everything to remain the same even though the world is moving faster than ever before as a result of new communication techniques fostered by technological breakthroughs.

Daniel Ek is a rock star. You remember them, don't you? People who broke all the rules and did it their way? This nobody from nowhere had a vision and camped out and convinced labels to give him the rights when piracy was devastating the business. Have you noticed that artists have stopped bitching about P2P and have now made Spotify the bogeyman? It's like someone has to be the enemy, and it can't be them.

And then Daniel Ek hires a team, positively awful in most cases, refugees from the music biz who can't get a job anywhere else who believe their gig is to schmooze as opposed to lay it on straight, and on top of this he layers a patina of niceness akin to the execrable seventies campaign "Have A Nice Day." Makes me squeamish, the way Spotify wants to be my friend. Steve Jobs never wanted to be my friend, he was providing tools, so good people clamored for them, and Spotify is doing the same thing.

Spotify has eviscerated piracy. But the artists don't like this. They'd rather keep the old declining model and bitch about the unknown and the uncontrollable as opposed to vie for a solution.

So what's their solution?


Ain't that a laugh, ignorant of the fact that Apple is lobbying labels to bring a music subscription down to $5 a month, they think if they can just convince the public which used to steal to overpay, like they did for one good track on a CD in the nineties, everything would be hunky-dory. While you're at it, why don't you make the public use rotary telephones, give up texting, bring back ringtones!

Can we all look forward people?

The truth is successful artists make more money than ever before. It's just that not that many artists are successful and none of them make what techies and bankers do.

Welcome to the world economy, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, where the excellent stand out and the good get no traction.

Used to be you overpaid for records because you were captive to your local store. Just like rarities used to be such and commanded top dollar before eBay. The world has shrunk, and it's not Spotify's fault but it is reality. Everybody's competing against everybody else. You cannot carve out a small territory for yourself.

So middle class artists are anathema. People would rather overpay to see stars, and since you can only listen to one song at one time they want to hear the music of the stars too. Artists tell consumers to play their godforsaken album ten times to get it. Why don't these same artists sit in a club listening to a bad band play originals for ten hours straight! No one's got the time for anything but excellence, and that's nobody's fault but it is reality.

So what we've got here is Luddite artists who've declared the enemy to be Spotify the same way writers have declared Amazon to be taboo. You don't want what you wish for. What you wish for had an ignorant government fining publishers and Apple for colluding on price under antitrust law, only increasing Amazon's power. Get the government involved and you know you're screwed.

I'm not saying publishing royalties shouldn't be higher on Pandora, a horrible service if there ever was one, but I am saying don't screw with the flow of progress, it just might come back to haunt you.

Those agitating loudest about Spotify payments are the never gonna make it and those who have who say they're doing it for the little guy who comes thereafter, what a load of crap. Are we gonna let fans run baseball? Do we really believe today's players care about tomorrow's?

And if they did, wouldn’t they be holding out against their labels for better terms? At least the labels have room to pay. To try to squeeze more cash out of Spotify is to kill the golden goose, to drive the service bankrupt. Credit card and hosting/streaming costs and you want them to work on less than 30%? Or to put it in a language you can understand, do you want Apple to work on less than 30%?

But who cares about the details. It'll all work out.

But what I have to do here is take the unpopular stand, the one against the crowd, which has worked itself up into such a frenzy that truth can never out.

Streaming won. Hell, it won in movies/TV first. We're never going back to ownership. We're never going back to windows. Can't we all at least start on the same page?

As for labels getting an ownership interest in streaming services, that does not mean Spotify, et al, pay out any less in royalties. And I could explain economics to you but the truth is you signed that deal and whoever told you nothing changes is an idiot you should never pay attention to again.

Your enemy is obscurity. Any way to reach people is to be applauded. Nowhere is it written that recorded music should generate as much revenue as it did in the past, nowhere is it written that you should be able to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making an album, nowhere is it written that you're entitled to make music at all!

So throw your sticks and stones. I don't care, I'm on the winning side. I'm aware of progress. I can see where I'm going. I'm not an ostrich with my head in the ground. Agitate against label payouts if you're complaining at all. Otherwise, just do me a favor and write a hit song. And if you can't, please get out of the way. Because we only have time for hits. And yes, once upon a time we had time for marginal, but now we've got almost no time at all! And that we do possess we want to spend listening to what everybody else does. And yes, there are exceptions, but marginal artists are not entitled to put food on the plate. Maybe they have to get a day job. Maybe they have to give up.

And that's just fine with me.

"Spotify's Artist Outreach Mission Leaves Some Wanting More": – Staff Writers