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Spotify Unveils New Business Model - Theft

Two criminals pose with drugs and money

I remember the exact moment I was radicalized against the government. In the early 2000s, the FBI raided the house of a 12-year-old boy on behalf of the RIAA to charge his mother with piracy with a liability in the millions.

Like millions of other Americans and most of the American press, we were absolutely horrified that the RIAA would pursue this case and sue for so much in excess of what the downloaded music sold for. After the backlash, they quickly and quietly settled the case.

Now, two decades later, the biggest platform in the music streaming game stands poised to blow this music piracy case out of the water. On October 24th, industry press outlets began reporting on Spotify's planned policy changes for 2024, and most of them boil down to wanton theft.

What Changes Are Coming to Spotify?

This announcement comes on the heels of a previous announcement that the streaming platform would pay smaller artists less per stream than larger ones. There were three changes contained in the announcement, but I will focus on the two that will directly impact artist royalties. There are two major changes that will disproportionately disadvantage smaller artists and sound artists.

  • Spotify says it will implement a minimum threshold of streams (hearing mixed reports whether it's monthly or annual) for artists to start earning royalties

  • Spotify is also cracking down on "non-music noise tracks" by requiring a minimum stream length higher than the present 30 second threshold

Spotify can claim all it wants that it's attempting to increase quality, but both of these measures amount to simple theft. By implementing these changes, Spotify intends to make money on music and soundscapes and simply not pay royalties on them.

Apparently, Spotify believes that while it is illegal to download music without paying for it for personal use, they are somehow in the clear for doing it for commercial use. It boggles the mind.

What Are Industry Professionals Saying?

Some of the music managers I follow on TikTok are very excited about this change. Their reasoning is that this will increase the pool of royalties for "real artists" (whatever that means).

But here's the thing, last quarter, Spotify posted a quarterly profit of $34 million which expectations for it to continue increasing into 2024. These idiot music managers are excited for the intensification of the Hunger Games that Spotify has thrown artists into while it walks away with more and more of our money.

Is This Even Legal?

Prolly not. Under section 115 of the Copyright Act, distributors are required to pay royalties for delivered music at reasonable rates subject to a legally established schedule of reasonable rates.

The law provides that distributors and artists may negotiate on royalty terms; however, there is no provision for unilateral and global reassignment of royalty rates by a distributor. And there is certainly no provision for deciding that the royalty rate should be zero based on low streams or track length.

Spotify is going to have a hard time making its case because there is nothing in the law that makes exceptions for recordings that are "noise" nor are there any provisions making exceptions based on recording length.

How Do We Respond to This?

I still do not use streaming apps to listen to music, and neither should you. If Spotify goes through with these changes, I am very strongly considering pulling my music from Spotify, even though these new policies likely won't affect me.

If you want to listen to digital music, I strongly suggest building a music library of mp3s on your device rather than using streaming platforms.

Every streaming platform has the incentive to minimize the amount of music you listen to so they can avoid having to pay your subscription money to artists. The ideal streaming app user is one who pays for a premium subscription, but doesn't listen to any music.

This needs to end. If you want to listen to my music, I strongly suggest downloading it from Bandcamp for a one time fee rather than giving your money to these soul sucking corporations whose business model is to prevent users from accessing music and finding ways to not pay artists when they do.


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