Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Thinks Artists Aren’t Working Hard Enough, to Musician’s Dismay

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek thinks that it’s the artist’s own fault they aren’t making enough money because they aren’t putting out enough music. It’s been widely known that the popularity of streaming services instead of buying music from the artists or their labels has hurt the artists revenue but Daniel Ek is taking it to the next level by putting the blame on the artist for their measly payouts.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, photo via Bloomberg.

Spotify has a market value of about $21 billion in 2019 and Daniel Ek himself has an estimated net worth of nearly $2 billion. According to Business of Apps article they say,“Estimates vary on how much a Spotify stream is worth to artist: from $0.006-0.0084 to as low as $0.00318/stream”  at a pay rate of $0.006-0.0084 a stream it would take a million streams for an artist to make $7,000. In comparison the article states that, “Amazon Music tops the list in terms of average payment per stream on $0.01196/stream. YouTube Premium delivers $0.00803, Apple offers $0.00563, and Google Play $0.00551. Pandora’s rate, on the other hand, is even lower than Spotify, at $0.00151.” In the first quarter of 2020 Spotify’s revenue brought in $1.85 billion from Premium subscribers, while ad-supported users generated $161 million for the company.

Graph curtsey of Counterpoint’s article.

Daniel Ek stated in an interview with Music Ally that, “There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough,” essentially putting the lack of revenue the artists own fault. Daniel Ek explained that, “ What tends to be reported are the people that are unhappy, but we very rarely see anyone who’s talking about… In the entire existence [of Spotify] I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single artist saying, ‘I’m happy with all the money I’m getting from streaming.” Which begs the question, are artists not working hard enough or are they just not being properly compensated for their work by streaming services? 

Musicians are not happy about this mindset in the music industry that Daniel Ek has been promotin. Ben Albert of  Rochester Groovecast thinks Daniel Ek’s remarks are, “Disrespectful” saying that, “Music is not a fast food chain.” The fact that Spotify’s CEO believes that artists aren’t working hard enough and should just turn out more music is disheartening to the music community particularly those who are on the road a lot and believe in creating more complex and artistically driven music. Gabriel Marin from Consider the Source spoke on this matter saying, “People like [Daniel]  Ek seem to only look at pop and commercial music as how all music is made. Yes those forms of music are easy to make happen and often a whole career of someone in that field will be 3-4 years. Music that has more weight takes longer; bands that make a living and artistically thrive in a live setting can’t put albums out at a predictable pace like that.”

In times like these where COVID-19 is hitting the music industry harder than many industries it’s hard to understand how someone running one of the biggest music platforms can so easily criticize artists instead of supporting them. Justin Henricks of Wurliday and Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan chimed in on the matter saying that, “Spotify is in a very unique position of ability to offer some real aid and relief to an industry that is in dire need of it at the moment. Take a page from Bandcamp who offered to relinquish their revenue share and give 100% of their proceeds on specific days to the artists/labels. I find it appalling that not only has Spotify chosen to ignore their ability and responsibility to help in any way but have actually double downed to say Artists should work harder, churn more music into their billion dollar money making machine, and leave us all out to dry. Shame on them.” 

Dopapod‘s Rob Compa shared a similar sentiment, saying “I don’t think Daniel Eck understands that touring was how bands like mine and many friends of ours was how we raised any money to record albums, let alone make a meager living. Now, with COVID, we can’t even do that. So if he expects us to produce album after album, where does he expect us to get the money to make them? To me, he’s a little like some general who’s never even been in a fight, telling all of us to get out of the trench and run into no man’s land.”

For more on this story and Ek’s point of view, read Music Ally’s original interview here.

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