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Fair Play for Independent Artists

Updated: May 2

This week, Charles Connolly veers from his usual 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆'𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, and writes a review of a different kind...


Fancy a break? Review after review, every single week. While this might be tiring to the writer, one might not think of the reader. Perhaps the reader needs a break. Of course, the reader can choose not to read the latest review. But then there is FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. And so you dear people feel the urge to dive once more into the world of reviews. A break can be a nice thing. Not just for me, but for you. Review review review. Another one, another one, another one. Just give us a break, already! Okay. You've got your wish. No review this week. It's break time. But there will instead be a review of sorts. A review of the current musical climate. The business. The nasty business... You're gonna wish this was just a normal weekly review... Taking a break can be a good thing. A much needed thing. A necessary and vital thing. But most importantly, it's up to you. Take music for example. We musical artists are constantly making music. That's what we do. Taking the occasional break might be a wise decision, in order to breathe, relax and take stock. But if you're right in the flow of, say, an album, then a break is the last thing you might want. Most likely a quick shot of something strong, then right back to it. What then if at that very moment, a break is forced upon you? And what if said break is seemingly indefinite...? More on that later.


Because of the nature of this article, I will be dotting about quite a bit. Make a pot of tea, and stay focussed. This will hopefully explain EVERYthing.


I am here to talk about Spotify. The main listening platform for music these days. Around 615 million accounts are currently active. That’s a lot of people. But not all of these are paying customers. They offer a free tier - something that never should have existed in the music industry. This tier floods you with adverts every few songs, plays in low quality, and plays albums in random order. This in itself I would have said to be enough to put off the average listener. But the average listener cares more about their own money than they do about quality; sadly. The artist on the other hand, is sure to be up in arms over this. Well, they used to be. Until they got used to the idea. Deadened and numbed by imperative force. The artist doesn’t have a choice. There are frankly (and unfortunately) far worse things for an artist on Spotify, than their music being obliterated by adverts, in low quality and random order. The adverts aren’t in low quality, by the way; Lord no! They’ve paid good money for this! Which is more than I can say for the punters. The average listener is no longer the paying customer. The advertiser is. The few who choose to actually pay for the service (a mere 239 million people) do get a decent service. But what about the artist side of things? Do they earn a decent wage from their music being listened to on Spotify? Well, some do. A few do. A few does? The mega mainstream artists earn a great deal from streaming services, but this is the very few who earn so much from so many avenues within the industry (mainly touring), that the streaming revenue might seem insignificant to them. More on the artist side in a bit.


Most sectors in business have a bad egg. One particular company that is seen as the vile one. Is it any coincidence that vile is an anagram of evil…? In the world of social media, Facebook is seen as the bad egg. The one that steals your information, then sells it on. Spotify is the bad egg of the music streaming industry. The thing is, most of these companies are only interested in making money. None of them is a great egg. But some bad eggs are better than others. Apple Music, for example, charges £10.99 per month for a single user, while Spotify charges £11.99. Yet you get more with Apple Music. Apple gives you uncompressed 24bit sound, while Spotify is still going with no higher quality than mp3. Apple gives you music videos. Spotify does not. Apple gives you radio, including their own station. Spotify does not. Apple feels more like a personal music library. Spotify feels like a glitch-ridden social media platform. You see, Apple has understood and implemented the best business strategy from the very beginning: give the people what they want, and they will happily pay good money for it. It’s win-win for both company and customer. Spotify decides to go the mafia route. Bully and force. But if it is this simple, why aren’t people switching service? Because Apple does not offer a free tier - quite rightly. Music should never have been free. Unfortunately (as said before), people these days expect things for free. There is now an entire generation that has never paid for music. Which is horrific.


So that’s the customer side of things, in terms of Spotify. What about the artists? Well, it’s far worse for the artists, let’s put it that way. Oh don’t worry, I’ll be telling you how. The complaining artist is not a new thing. But it used to be born from the jealousy of successful artists, and that people wouldn’t listen to their music. That’s been going for decades. But these days there’s a lot for the artist to complain about - fairly so, this time. It mainly started a few years ago, when independent artists started to complain about the tiny royalties they received from streaming, despite reasonable streaming figures. They all proceeded to go online and tell the world that Spotify was paying 0.4 of a cent per stream, while Apple and others were paying more than double that. The campaign was about Fair Pay. For Spotify to pay a fair price per stream, just like most of the other streaming services. These independent artists were never asking for anything huge at all. Just for Spotify to be in line with its competitors. The campaign went on, and of course, nothing changed. So, as with everything else, the independent artist just continued to release music in between sighs. It was a lost battle. Independent artists have always had a tough time in getting the word out. Opening Spotify or even Apple Music (or Amazon Music or Deezer) will never deliver a wealth of new music from unheard-of legends in the making (something in which the New Artist Spotlight specialises). It will instead show the same old megastars. The very people who do not need advertising. But that is the way. Hence still seeing Coca Cola adverts everywhere. Sadly, it is always the way. It’s not like the mainstream is the best stream. Most of the best music these days comes from independent artists, which might come as a surprise to the average listener.


The latest bad news for independent artists is by far the worst yet, and is frankly quite incredible. The independent artist has gone from being poorly paid and ignored, to being accused and attacked. And it is THIS that is the crux of the matter at hand. Remember I mentioned breaks? Being forced to take a break? Well, get this: Spotify has recently been taking down independent artists’ music due to “abnormal streaming activity”. Note: “abnormal”. Ach - so much to say about this wording, but I won’t. It’s absurd. Let’s imagine this means “fraudulent”, as that would make more sense. While this might sound fair enough, it would only be fair if it were true. You see, Spotify does this suddenly and without warning, with absolutely no evidence or proof. THEM’S THE BREAKS!!! Not exactly the break you had in mind. You either NEEDED a break or you’re looking for the BIG break. Certainly not a cancellation of your own current music. Nobody wants that. The thing is, Spotify is impregnable. An artist does no wrong, Spotify takes down their music with no solid evidence of any kind, they are uncontactable, and the decision is final. This is guilty until proven innocent. And even then, they are extremely unlikely to change their decision. This is pure mafia. We independent artists are at the mercy of this dreadful company. And we only put our music on Spotify because there are so many listeners using it! We can scream and shout that we “didn’t do anything wrong” until we’re blue in the face, but they won’t listen. We can try to reason with them and be all civil about it (huh! “Reason” would suggest we did something wrong in the first place), but you’ll only be met with robots, human or otherwise. Either way, these “little people” with whom you might manage to speak, will have no authority. It is futile. So here we are - yes, I am changing to “we” because it’s getting personal and I too am an independent artist - here we are, with the latest campaign. Not just a campaign but even a petition! The last battle was Fair Pay. Now, it’s Fair PLAY!!! We poor independent artists have gone from begging for a pittance, to begging to be allowed on their platform!! Just look at us. Fully grown adults with jobs and families and loved ones. People with great talent, hoping to ditch that job they hate, or at least make the job more bearable by having a sideline in music - our true love. It used to be tough, but we persevered and kept on going like truckers on no sleep. Now we’re being treated like criminals. Actually, in their eyes we ARE criminals. It goes beyond treatment. Being treated like a dog is one thing, but being given a dog bowl is another.


One example of this dreadful (I keep using “dreadful” because it is) culling of the innocent, is the founder of the New Artist Spotlight, Ed Eagle. For those not too familiar with the New Artist Spotlight (NAS from now on), it is a wonderful community of independent musicians in its fifth year. Yup, another wonderful thing to come out of the pandemic - I have never known a virus to have so many positive side effects. It seems that Spotify thinks/imagines that the NAS is some sort of stream farm. That members pay to get streams. This is and has always been pure fiction. This great little community of roughly 1,000 artists (give or take) was founded by Ed Eagle as not only an alternative, but a FREE alternative to paying for streams. What it is, is, we all love music, and we listen to each other’s music. I know. Crazy concept. That was how it started, in 2020. But since then, it has gone on to become much more than an Instagram chat and a couple of playlists. We have our own radio station (“we” again - I’m proud to be a part of the NAS), we have weekly song reviews of the latest independent music releases from our playlists (written by someone called CC), we put out regular video podcasts, there’s a regular Top 20 Chart and a New Release show, and even a specially curated live show from an artist called Mr. Oddzo! And there is so much more. This very website will show you all that it has to offer. But aside from all this, we are dedicated to promoting each other on social media. Getting together to spread the word. This is the kind of support you don’t get ANYwhere else. Or at least anywhere that I have come across. And not only is this support, but GENUINE support. The only other community that comes close to this is Octopus Music (similar but smaller), but it’s hard to get in. The NAS welcomes all artists, regardless of genre, or popularity (although the emphasis is on the ones struggling to be heard). We are here to help independent artists. We have never charged a single penny, cent or grosz. That’s the whole point! The NAS community COULD have made a lot of money, but chose not to. Because of ethics. It’s an extremely ethical, honest, friendly organisation.


So when Ed Eagle - writer of the song #StopPayola (!) - was hit by an email stating that his curator profile had been suspended, due to “fraudulent activity”, he was rightly gobsmacked, disheartened and furious. Wouldn’t you be, had you been accused of something you didn’t do, and they had already acted on said accusation, based on an assumption?? Just to be clear, this was not his artist profile. His music is still safe, at least for now. But the point is, this meant Ed had no access to his own playlists - both NASian and personal. It is evident, clear and obvious that this was a direct attack at the New Artist Spotlight. Spotify does not like paying out money. Over the years, Spotify will have paid out quite a bit to the NAS. This is what it is supposed to do. Music lovers play music they love through a streaming service, and the streaming service is supposed to pay the artist who made the tracks. That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. Pretty simple! But Spotify doesn’t like that. The company is either blind to the idea of independent musicians actually being popular in any way, or they just simply don’t want to pay. I cannot see this kind of behaviour as legal in any way, but because it’s “big them” vs “little us”, they get away with it. Them’s the breaks.


Right now at the New Artist Spotlight, we are in the process of doing a survey of all its members. The purpose is to compile some statistics about the members’ experience of fraudulent streaming. Here are the stats so far:


72% have definitely been added to a botted (fake and fraudulent) playlist without their knowledge

23% are unsure

5% never have

97% have never paid for guaranteed streams

20% have received warnings from distributors

10% have had their music taken down (and since writing, this figure has increased)


While these statistics might seem rather lowering, they do show the extent of the matter. This is far from the odd isolated incident. There is clearly a lot of fraud going around, but the wrong people are being targeted by Spotify. We are the VICTIMS, not the perpetrators.


So, speaking of breaks, are the brakes on for good? I mean, if it is all this futile, why bother writing this? To moan? To vent? Well, partly. But that really isn’t the point. We need to all club together. We need this to spread. I don’t mean we fight them like an angry mob - we would either get slaughtered, pulverised or robotically ignored. Or worse - they could be vengeful. Yes, I see Spotify as being capable of this, with the power they currently possess. What we need is attention. We need as many independent artists as possible to come together as one, and gain the attention of the Press. The Press is these days the only thing that seems to make companies react. It is unfortunate that the bullying tactic of "The Press" is the only thing that makes them talk and makes them change, but this is why I am writing this very article. With the hope that it will start the ball rolling. To pressurise Spotify into being fair (not to mention legal). And should this fairness bankrupt the company, well, then it was never a good business model in the first place...


Here is what I'm asking of you. We have made a petition demanding Fair Play (link below). Please sign it. We need as many of you independent artists as possible, because numbers matter. I also urge anyone with links to the Press to share this article so we can push this as far as possible. Even if you don't know anyone in the Press, please share this article. All we're asking is for we artists to be left alone. To be allowed to have our music on Spotify. To enjoy the few measly pennies we have earnt honestly, through our hard work, dedication, skill and craft. This is our art. Our passion. Our raison d'être. If someone happened to stumble upon our work, liked it, saved it, added it to a playlist of their own, why on Earth should we NOT get paid for it? But of course, it’s not just the money, is it. We are being treated like criminals. Our work is being deleted.


I must point out at this juncture, that despite me saying “we”, I personally have NOT been affected by this dreadful and disturbing spate of culling. Nothing of mine has been removed, and I have had no word of any of this from Spotify - not that they would notify me. It just occurred to me, is Spotify supposed to rhyme with Notify? Nah. I digress. But the reason I mention being unaffected, is to emphasise that this is not a personal matter, nor am I trying to get you all on my side for the sake of me. I am doing this for the good of the good. The deserving yet unlucky ones. I care about the New Artist Spotlight and its honest members, and I care about independent artists in general. This cannot go on. It MUST not go on. There has to be an end to all this madness, with a positive outcome. For God’s sake, only last year Spotify announced their new rules stating that each song by each artist must have received a minimum of 1,000 streams per year, in order for them to pay the artist a single penny! Now, while this is extremely unfair, I see this as a push for independent artists to keep promoting their music. Legally. Never pay for streams. Ever. No matter how it is dressed, it will be a scam. What is really making me itch with anger though, is what I cannot believe is legal. Those 1,000 streams necessary for unlocking the gleaming Spotify bank vault… This simply opens it. They are no longer paying for those first 1,000 streams. Just take that in. They just made up a rule. They just decided not to pay us for all those streams. Meaning, if one of your tracks receives 1,003 streams in a year, you will be paid for 3 streams. You will receive no more than one penny.* This was last year’s announcement. This year came with no new announcement (other than the subscription price going up by £1). It seems they feel they are above announcements. Just do it anyway!! And do what? Cull the music and profiles of innocent independent artists - THAT’s what.


Regular readers of my weekly Connolly’s Corner will know my light, silly side. This article started in this way, then rapidly “got real”. We are hurt. We are offended. We are in pain. And we are trapped. The New Artist Spotlight is like family to its members. Art is everything. Art is truly all we have left as humans, as A.I. gets a stranglehold on everything else we used to do. Spotify needs to allow us our space on their platform. Spotify needs to go through PROPER procedures like the rest of the world, should anything raise their human suspicions.


I would normally end my articles with an amusing little quip, but this time it’s all too lowering. Let’s make a change, so we can feel the joy of music once again!


Oh okay. One quick quip so you’re not left searching for a razor blade:

Spotify Premium boasts "unlimited skipping". I always wondered why this was a selling point... Until I finally heard the new Taylor Swift album. Turns out it's a great feature!




*I didn’t want to fill the article with confusing technicalities, but in this case, they are necessary in order to fully understand. To clarify: Spotify will start paying royalties once a song passes the threshold of 1,000 streams in the previous 12 month period. They will pay royalties on all streams in the month the song passes this threshold. 


For example:

  • If a song is released and receives 1,000 streams within the first month, Spotify will pay royalties on all of these streams.

  • If a song is released and gets 750 streams in month one and 500 streams in month two, Spotify will pay royalties only on the 500 streams from month two. 

  • If a song receives 500 streams in month one, 400 streams in month two and 400 streams in month three, Spotify will pay royalties only on the 400 streams from month three. 

  • If a song receives less than 1,000 streams in the previous 12 month period, Spotify will not pay any royalties.


These royalties are calculated month-by-month based on a rolling 12 month period. So royalties for January will look at streams from February to January. Royalties for February will look at streams from March to February, and so on.


Royalties are also calculated on a song-by-song basis, not per artist. So if an artist has a catalogue of 100 songs, all receiving 999 streams or fewer in any 12 month period, Spotify will not pay any royalties on these. That is 99,900 streams on which Spotify is not paying any royalties.



Please share this post and let me know your thoughts in the comments below


Fair Play For Independent Artists

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189 comentários


steveokwormusic
steveokwormusic
05 de mai.

Thank you CC for taking the time to write this petition. It is particularly important given the state of affairs with independent artists on Spotify. It’s so unfortunate that a person like Ed Eagle would be targeted by Spotify. When he and NAS community have been campaigning against paying for streaming for years. I would have thought that Spotify would have been happy with that. Sure they’re spending millions trying to stop Payola. It seems to me that Spotify has become so automated that they have lost all human touch. It’s all machines working and taking to machines and making decisions about humans. We are in this together and we will continue to fight until someone listens. Thank you

Curtir
Respondendo a

Thank you, Steve. We can but try.

Curtir

Keyon Harris
Keyon Harris
05 de mai.

I'm tired of having to pay for or be propositioned for promotional opportunities. It seems like almost everyone is just out to make some money off of us Indie Artists. That isn't right. A lot of people can not afford these types of things. An they should not be punished for it. When is it going to change??

Curtir
Respondendo a

Yep. Besides, we're the ones with the least money!! We need food, not streams!! Hopefully it will change soon. We just need to keep pushing and spreading the word. The WORDS!!! All of them.

Curtir

Thank you CC for shining a light on a problem which affects all indie musicians at the moment. As a member of NAS I have had such positive feedback, made friendships and heard such great music from artists around the world. For me, the most worrying statistic, is that 76% of members have been added to botted playlists, run by shady entities who have no interest in music, other than to try and extort money from artists. This is a problem that does not just affect members of NAS but all indie musicians trying to build a following for their music. You can have your music removed, and many have, and yet you have no power to remove your music…

Curtir
Respondendo a

Thank you! What I find weirdest about these fake scamming playlisters is that they stick our music on their playlists without contacting us and without our knowledge. Meaning they don't and won't earn a penny. I just can't see why they do it!! I have always been baffled by this. I have started being scared to try and get on playlists for fear that they might be illegal. Which stunts my possible growth. Isn't this crazy??! I am in the process of releasing an album, and I haven't reached out to ANY playlisters for this very reason!!! Actively NOT trying to get my music on playlists for fear of being struck off. This is stupid. What a situation. What a…

Curtir

Boy HaNZY
Boy HaNZY
05 de mai.

Being an independent artist often feels like navigating a stormy sea alone, pouring your heart and soul into your craft, only to be overshadowed and ultimately shafted by billion-dollar corporations. It's a constant battle against an unequal power dynamic, where creativity and passion are often undervalued and exploited for profit. Despite the challenges, the drive to create and share our art fuels our resilience and determination to persevere, knowing that our voices deserve to be heard and respected, regardless of the size of the corporation standing in our way. #iStandwithEd

Curtir
Respondendo a

Nicely put!! "...like navigating a stormy sea alone" - brilliant! And the big corporations are the wind and the waves. The NAS is the sun and the calm. The desert island in paradise. It's no mirage. Great comment, thank you!

Curtir

Leo lofthouse
Leo lofthouse
05 de mai.

As an indie artist who relies on Spotify to share my music, I’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by musicians. Spotify’s actions, especially toward indie artists, are nothing short of criminal. In an industry tainted by corruption, even massive corporations like Spotify cheat artists out of hard-earned royalties.

Indie musicians often produce works comparable to mainstream artists, yet they’re treated as second-class citizens. While I respect mainstream artists who achieve success through talent and hard work, bribery and corruption shouldn’t be the norm.

Ed Eagle, founder of The New Artist Spotlight, has created a free community where indie musicians support each other. Spotify’s recent suspension of Ed is an insult. He’s never asked for payment to feature artists on his…



Curtir
Respondendo a

Tainted by corruption, is one way of putting it. BUILT ON corruption, is perhaps another way some might put it... This thing goes FAR beyond Ed. He is simply an example close to home. The bigger picture is the problem. Independent artists should not be treated this way. It's that simple. NO ONE should be. Well, except criminals, of course. But even criminals have rights, and proof of wrongdoing has to be submitted. This is all just so absurd. Can't believe we're in this situation.

Curtir

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