Why suing Spotify hurts independent and emerging artists

There has been a lot of press lately about several lawsuits against Spotify.  And many are in support of these lawsuits, pioneering artists’ rights and talking about more royalties for artists.  While some of the suits might be warranted (e.g. Spotify allegedly streaming music without the artist’s consent), fighting Spotify really hurts the greater music community.

As an independent artist, I stream my music through many different channels including Apple Music, Google Play, Deezer, XBox Music, and Spotify.  At this point in my music career, Spotify matters the most to me.  Is it because it offers me the most income from my music?  No.  Spotify’s royalties are indeed dismal, but that’s not why I’m on Spotify.  In fact, most of the projects into which I launch my music serve the purpose of reaching an increasing number of people, not sustaining or gaining a substantial income.  Someone like me, with only a few hundred listeners, sees much more value in Spotify than just track dissemination.

Spotify is very social – it connects easily to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, making it easier to connect and share music (and it’s hassle free, as in the platform does it all for you.)  It has a unique community-driven playlist system that allows discovery of new artists through playlists as well as its own, constantly evolving, music matching system that will connect artists based on everyone’s listening habits.


And, most recently, Spotify added an About page for artists that offers some analytics reporting and insights into where listeners are coming from.  It even shows the playlists through which listeners are discovering your music.

About Stats

These are services that Spotify offers to me that I might even pay for if they were not included as part of the package that Spotify has put together.  These are services that new artists like myself appreciate and use; we care less about payment of each individual and more about how we can leverage this system to get more exposure.  And therein lies a huge gap in the complaints that people hear from largely successful music artists and the complaints they don’t hear from young and independent artists that are just starting to share their music with the world.  What is driving these lawsuits, in my opinion, is greed. If you’re an enterprising and popular artist, then you wouldn’t need Spotify for anything other than the streaming service itself.  In fact, if you’re popular enough, you really just need a venue where your audience can purchase or stream your music.

The highest tier of this group includes artists like Adele and Taylor Swift – their immense popularity is so incredibly strong, that their audience will switch platforms just to hear their new music.  So they don’t care; they just sell their music elsewhere.

Just below that tier lies established artists that are still very much dependent on Spotify because it’s just so big.  And so they have a legitimate argument – they’re simply not getting paid enough for their music on Spotify, but their audience isn’t interested in switching platforms.  They’re in a bind, and they fail to see how else Spotify can benefit them.

What’s left is the large and voiceless community of musicians that want to use Spotify for all its worth.  That’s where I sit.  There’s an enormous and intimidating barrier in the music industry looming over me, and places like Spotify and Soundcloud can change the game.  Whenever a large artist like Adele chooses not to put music on Spotify, it removes listeners who could potentially discover my music through Spotify’s nifty music-matching platform.  When artists sue Spotify for exorbitant amounts of money, it threatens to change the way that Spotify functions so as to benefit artists that already have their foot in the door.

There’s a lot of really good music out there waiting to be discovered.  And there are a lot of artists out there that are more excited about people enjoying their music than they are about how many more fractions of a penny they’ll make when you stream their song a second time.  Spotify, as it is now, favors those artists; and it’s for those artists that I hope Spotify can continue to do what its doing.