Billionaires inspiring hatred by spouting ignorant, patronizing, and tone-deaf takes on how we mere five-figure salaried mortals can best improve our circumstances is nothing new. From Marie Antionette’s infamously callous “Let them eat cake” response to being informed her subjects had no bread, to Nepotism Barbie’s flat insulting “Find Something New” campaign –– a supposed easy-peasy solution to pandemic-instigated unemployment –– the well-insulated rich have lobbed their condescension from behind armed-guarded stone walls for literal centuries. Sadly, the guillotine has lost favor as a means of resolving such insensitive stupidity.
The latest to inspire the pitchfork-wielding masses to storm the proverbial castle (at least on Twitter) is Spotify CEO, and actual man-sized macrocephalic infant, Daniel Ek. In a recent interview with Music Ally, a self-described “modern global music business knowledge company,” Ek laid the blame for his behemoth streaming service’s miserly royalty payouts not at the tootsies of the laughable $0.00348 that the quadruple billionaire pays per stream but at artists’ supposed lack of production.
“Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape,” Ek said when asked about the impact that streaming services –– which have largely replaced direct purchases of musical content –– have had on the music industry. “You can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.”
The implication here is that the artist must overcome the stinginess of tech giants’ exploiting her content for shareholder profit by continuously churning out new material at the same pace Tyson Foods does salmonella, um, I mean “chicken.”
“The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans,” Ek continued. “It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans.”
Decoding the CEO-speak, the message is clearly, “Get your ass into the studio (don’t ask me how you’ll pay for it) and write a damn song that’ll help put new tile in the onboard shower of my yacht, the S.S. Bloodsucker.”
This mentality shows how divorced the rich have become from identifying with not only the average person but also often with the very industry they trade in. It’s obvious Ek has never attempted to do anything musical on his own in his entire vampiric life. Set aside the fact that creativity is hardly an on-demand resource. Even if artists could easily write the next “Don’t Stop Believin’” every time they picked up an instrument, Ek’s shortsightedness completely ignores the time/expense/logistics of recording and releasing music. Even in a world without a global pandemic that has robbed musicians of their main source of income –– live shows –– putting out new music every few months is simply impossible. The average song costs about $500 to produce from start to finish. Not exactly cheap, especially when you consider Ek will pay you only $348 if that song earns an eye-popping 100,000 streams.
Even if Spotify paid a decent royalty, there’s still their heinous pay-to-play activities and inherent bias toward major label schlock, which buries the small, independent artists who depend on the broad reach of the platform for exposure the most. Ek’s comments have piqued the ire of many local musicians, prompting singer-songwriter Jacob Furr to threaten to remove his music from the platform altogether.
“I know it’s probably futile, but today I’m going to start figuring out how to take my music off of Spotify” he said via tweet. “Hardly anybody listens to it anyway, but I can’t be part of that app anymore. Maybe we all ought to go on strike?”
I’d encourage music fans, especially fans of local music, to ditch the ominous green dot service and instead use Bandcamp. As opposed to the fraction of a penny per stream that local artists will likely never see from Spotify, Bandcamp offers listeners the ability to purchase music from their favorite artists directly, taking only 10 or 15 percent commission. With the recent addition of “Bandcamp Fridays,” the site is actually waiving its share of royalties on these select days to help artists impacted by the pandemic earn just a bit more scratch. Bandcamp has long been the preferred platform of small, independent artists. National acts are now offering their music through the site as well.
By actually purchasing music (usually at below standard retail store prices), you’re not only restoring the financial gain of art made back into the pockets of those who made it, but you’re reinstating a more organic method of discovering music instead of it being force-fed to you by some inhuman algorithm. All parties are the better for it. You might even help a local musician pay his/her rent. Or, I suppose, there are those who still just can’t get enough of the same five tired Red Hot Chili Peppers songs that you can find at literally any given moment on commercial radio, and for them I hear Ek’s yacht shower still needs new tile. –– Patrick Higgins
Contact HearSay at firstname.lastname@example.org.