Dr Mumbo

Apparently Spotify wants musicians to be OK with not being paid these days

Spotify just released its annual Loud and Clear report, and judging by the excited tone of it all, and the repeated use of the words ‘billions’ and ‘millions’, Dr Mumbo is thinking he needs to strap on the old six-string, learn those four chords from There She Goes, and clear a fortune before breakfast.

Being a musician is an easy gig, according to the report. And, as Spotify points out in the report’s very first sentence: “Artists deserve clarity about the economics of music streaming”.

Of course, this clarity stops short at providing an actual clear dollar amount per stream – but we are treated to such opaque jewels as “Many of the artists who generated at least $1M on Spotify in 2023 aren’t household names and didn’t need a ‘hit’ song to have a big year” and “as a rule of thumb, artists can start approaching $1 million per year with around 4-5 million monthly listeners or 20-25 million monthly streams”.

Glad that’s all cleared up.

There are comedy gems sprinkled through, too, such as: “We’re focused on helping emerging and professional artists make a sustained living off their work, year after year.”

There are lots of records being broken here — and not just from frustrated bands snapping copies of vinyl they will never be able to sell because Spotify ruined the economics of music — but big, vast, billions-generating records.

Like: “In 2023, Indies generated nearly $4.5B on Spotify. This marks the first year ever that Indies accounted for about half of what the entire industry generated on Spotify, which totaled $9B+.”

Sounds good, until you realise that Spotify has around 80 million songs on it, and it’s doubtful that 40 million of these are from majors. The tail is long, indeed.

The part that really captured Dr. Mumbo’s attention was the Numbers In Context part, which suggests that us musicians (update: I learned the There She Goes chords, and now self-identify as a muso) shouldn’t even bother with money, because music is art, not commerce, man.

“Sure, more than 10 million uploaders have at least a single track on Spotify, but when it comes to building financial opportunities, we’re focused on those most dependent on streaming as part of their livelihood: these 225,000 emerging and professional artists that are building careers.”

In fact – it’s not even ‘art’, according to Spotify – your artistic endeavours are actually closer to going down the park for a kick around with some mates. Listen to this:

“As a point of comparison, FIFA estimated there are hundreds of millions of people who self-identify as ‘footballers,’ but 128,694 people are actually getting paid any amount of money from it. While music and sports are quite different, this demonstrates how widespread the aspiration is to participate in creative and athletic pursuits and make a living from them.”

This comparison is slightly off. It’s actually closer to college basketball, where a great deal of wealth is generated from the efforts and sweat of a small few — the college students playing the game — who are the only ones not being compensated for it.

“Another way to think about it: The 10+ million uploaders on Spotify are comparable to the tens of millions who have uploaded at least a single video to YouTube, often just to share something they enjoy with the world. The number of creators trying to build a career as a video creator is much smaller.”

So, there we have it.

Spotify is actually trying to convince musicians not to gripe about their paltry royalty payments, because music is a fun hobby, the billions are already accounted for, and two-minute-noodles are getting really good these days.


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