In August, Swedish artist and composer Magnus Uggla launched a scathing attack on the owners of Spotify. After discovering that Sony BMG is a shareholder and receiving virtually no cash from his music being played there, he withdrew his tracks from the service and stormed away, declaring controversially: “I’d rather be raped by The Pirate Bay.”
Nevertheless, Uggla insisted that Spotify is a fantastic service with a great range of music to sample. However, he felt that the fact he wasn’t getting paid was the fault of the major labels involved in the project (Sony BMG bought 5.8% of Spotify for 2,935 Euros, Universal Music got 4.8% for 2,446 euros, Warner Music paid 1,957 Euros for 3.8% and EMI pocketed 1.9% for an investment of 980 Euros), claiming that he “earned as much in six months as a BUSKER could earn in a day.”
As the dust settled on the story, many non-Swedish readers were saying “Magnus who?” and wondering if this artist’s lack of mainstream popularity was the real reason behind him earning virtually nothing. But what about big artists? What about really, really big artists with huge international appeal. Say, an artist like Lady Gaga, who has sold more than 4 million albums and shifted in excess of 20 million paid digital downloads?
According to a report today, Lady Gaga’s track “Poker Face” was one of the most popular tracks during a five month period on Spotify and was played more than a million times. So how much money does she get paid by STIM (the Swedish Performing Rights Society) for this massive achievement?
SEK 1150 – that’s around $167 or roughly 113 Euros.
Commenting on the story, Douglas Léon, better known as Swedish rapper Dogge Doggelito, said he was dismayed.
“It is totally sick. We musicians have no rights, you may not charge [for music] anymore,” adding that Lady Gaga could’ve earned more driving an illegal taxi-cab.
Swedish artist, music producer and philosopher Alexander Bard, however, said that this payment was better than Lady Gaga would have achieved from her music being available via The Pirate Bay, noting that the amount was “…more than zero.”
Technically Bard is absolutely right, but let’s be honest – Lady Gaga would blow the money she earned from STIM in a 20 minute hotel mini-bar bender. Looking at the overall downloads, let’s face it, per track she earned pretty much near to nothing from both services.
While Spotify is to be commended for having the guts to try something new, for providing a truly wonderful service and for having achieved such a lot technically in a such a short space of time, one can’t help but wonder if it is ever going to bring in decent money for the artists.
After all, aren’t these the very people the music industry continually holds up as the important ones to encourage, nurture and support?
Lady Gaga’s example shows that Spotify’s business model needs some work, and the labels seem to agree on this. The US launch of the service has been delayed earlier this week, allegedly because of concerns about Spotify’s ability to upgrade free users to paid customers.
“We think Spotify is a great service but they’re going to have to convince us they can convert enough people from free to paid subscriptions to make it worth our while,” one label told the Financial Times. “As an ad-supported service the economics don’t work at all.”
Despite the startup troubles for Spotify the reviews from users, many of which were avid file-sharers, are still extremely positive. The service recently launched an iPhone app that allows users to play the tracks on the go, with or without an Internet connection, which many saw as the missing link. Now all they have to do is come up with a plan to actually make money.