Spotify: Millions of DJs
As a music fan, the growing number of free and subscription based streaming services can be a dream come true. Install Spotify (or Rdio, Mog, Slacker, Rhapsody, Deezer, etc.) on your computer, your mobile phone, your internet-enabled stereo, and you have instant access to pretty much all the music that’s out there. Build playlists, see what your friends are listening to, those services have become a great tool to discover and enjoy music. Amazing.
From the artists that create this abundance of music, there’s been a very mixed reaction. I strongly suggest you read this 2011 recap by Bandzoogle friend and Nashville music marketing genius Charles Alexander. In it, he links to many articles and posts about Spotify that give you a good sense of why so many are worried or pissed off about it. You can also read the comments section to any post about Spotify on Hypebot, or Digital Music News and you’ll see that very graphic language is often used.
The short version ?
- The revenue that labels and artists get is pocket change (even established artists).
- Indie artists and labels are treated somewhat unfairly vs. majors
- There is a lack of transparency in reporting (so you can’t know by who and where and how much a certain song was streamed, and how much royalties this means, and who gets it).
All valid concerns (especially the third one, if you ask me). So I’ve been discussing the topic with many musician friends and many Bandzoogle members that aren’t sure what to think. Should I make my tracks available on those services ? Is it going to cannibalize my music sales ?
My answer to the first question is “Yes, I think you should embrace it”. My answer to the second question is “Maybe, maybe not. So focus on other parts of your business and view it as an opportunity to grow those revenue lines”.
Here’s what I mean…
You can look at Spotify as an alternative to fans buying your music. “My fans stream my tunes on demand, for free or almost-free, so they’ll stop buying my records. Man, this sucks. Hard.”
And, from that point-of-view, absolutely, it sucks.
But what I tell my artist friends is: Instead, you should look at Spotify as “a tool that enables millions of radio DJs to add your songs to their radio show (audience = 1)”.
If you’ve ever had the happy experience of learning that a DJ at a radio station in your town, or somewhere else, really loves your new single and has played it many times, it’s an amazing feeling, isn’t it ? You haven’t made any money here, but you know that getting this exposure opens the door to getting more fans interested in you as an artist, your music, you next gig, etc.
There are flaws in my argument, but, usage of streaming services will only keep growing, and through streaming services, fans and potential fans can discover and enjoy your music as much as they want, for almost free, at their fingertips. That’s a good thing. (And by the way, my opinion on private file-sharing is somewhat similar…). Get over the fact that streaming won’t ever pay you in any meaningful way, and focus on the opportunities it opens up.
Your job, as a serious artist, is to then find ways to reach those listeners, engage them, and figure out ways to monetize them as fans of your art (and not just “consumers of your shrink-wrapped product”).
This is where your creativity as an artist needs to kick in. We’ll post more soon about innovative ways to engage and monetize your fans (and music sales are still a huge part of it), but you can get ideas from this list that the Future of Music Coalition put together a while ago. I’m personally super excited by everything around fan-funding and patronage and, if your tracks aren’t available where people might discover them, you might be missing out on future financial backers and patrons of your art.
The day after I started writing this, the main business news item is “Kodak Files For Bankruptcy Protection”. Apparently, this huge, established, dominant company was not able to foresee and adapt to huge shifts in how people create images, and in what services and products they are willing to pay for. Makes you think, doesn’t it.
Question: What do you think of Spotify? Do you have your music available on Spotify? Why or why not?