Spotify & Profit | Omid Fouladpouri
Nowadays, we are all listening to music. Whether it be on our phones or computers, we all listen to lots of music and subsequently pay for all that access. The availability of online streaming services and music on the go has made music more accessible than ever, compared to the old days of buying CDs or using iPods that had much lower storage capacities. But with all this money and accessibility in music, we’ve also ended up with fairly centralized ways of listening to music. Namely, we have the two most commonly used services: Apple Music and Spotify. This article will specifically be covering Spotify, however, a lot of the commentary can also be applied to apple music.
The concept of streaming music is fairly new, allowing users to pay a set monthly payment to access millions of songs as much as they want and unlimited download capability (as long as they had the storage for it). But while we may listen to music a lot, we never look far into how we get that music and where our money goes. This is where we find Spotify’s structural issues. Aside from a large proportion of the music industry being entirely owned by a few big record companies, Spotify finds ways to hurt artists by underpaying them and having a hold on a monopoly. Four-tenths of a cent is what the average Spotify stream pays out and subsequently causes most artists to have to look for different sources of revenue to be able to make a living, even when they have many streams. The only people that could reasonably live on Spotify streams alone are the same artists that already make a lot of money from other different avenues, such as merchandise and tours. On the monopoly aspects of Spotify, artists have very little in terms of other options to discover. While some alternate services are growing, they are still outweighed by the only other competitor who also deals with the same issues. Additionally, since curated playlists are one of the biggest ways artists can grow, if one doesn’t have connections or a strong label to back them, they are left alone to stay unpopular and continue not making much unless they get on the good side of the Spotify staff.
Spotify has consistently demonstrated to only favor profit as a result of the guiding mechanisms of the current capitalist society. But what has this built? A monopoly that underpays its artists and has centralized control over the direction of the future of music. Additionally, Spotify’s wealthy co-founder invested over 100 million dollars of the money made into an AI military tech venture. As if being a corporate scumbag wasn’t enough, Daniel Ek seems to want to have his share of imperialistic profit too. What does all this say about our current society though? Maybe we should reconsider our society’s assumptions about how useful the profit motive can be when considering the many harms that it causes in the process, since the way things currently are fosters the conditions that allow Spotify and every other greedy company to prosper.