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Why I Left Spotify and Why You Should Too

An independent musician explains his decision to pull his music from streaming services despite industry trends

The conventional wisdom among music technology theorists is that the traditional model of listening to music has changed, that music fans listen to streaming services like Spotify instead of buying music. I haven’t seen data or research to support that argument yet, only industry buzz, but I imagine it’s true for a strong minority of music fans.

And industry data may support the trend as well; however my own, admittedly anecdotal, experience doesn’t.

Now I’m not opposed to music streaming services, and I understand why listeners like them. But those services don’t pay musicians. And when my overall sales dropped after I made music available in Spotify, I made the decision to pull my songs. Almost immediately my sales returned to pre-streaming levels.

This makes sense: if a product is available for free, consumers will take advantage, as they should. But if a product has value to consumers, and that product isn’t free, but priced according to its value (the price consumers are willing to pay), then that product will sell at that price. So a basic rule of business is to price your product at the highest number consumers are willing to pay. If the product isn’t selling then either the price is too high or the value of the product is too low.

Thankfully some people like my music and are willing to buy it, and I’m extremely grateful for those fans.

So if people are willing to buy my music, why would I give it away for free in Spotify? To be part of the newest music technology trend? If the current trend is giving away products for free, why would I want to participate in that trend?

Musicians: if your songs are good, someone could make money from them. But if you’re streaming your music in Spotify, then you’re just transferring that profit to another party. My question to you: if someone is going to make money off of your music, shouldn’t it be you?

Author: Zane Tate makes and writes about music. His most recent single, called “El Tiempo Es Circular,” features vocals by Latin Jazz singer Aline Esquivel, and bass by Fusion and Jazz bassist Alex Bershadsky. More info at

Reader Comments (5)

Zane, you make a very good point.

I think many musicians are going to catch on to the "why should I sell my music for less than it's worth" idea and pull their catalogs from Spotify. Or they are going to do exactly what you did: put their music up for a while (sample my new album!) to generate hype, and then pull it after a week or so, much like the way bands used to stream a full album on MySpace during its release week. In the end Spotify becomes a streaming hub for all major label releases (because they paid dearly for it, upfront, and even pay higher royalty rates for those songs) and a sampling hub for independents.

I think the freemium subscription model can really work if you tailor it on an artist-basis (like Crosby, Stills, & Nash's new iPad app) or on a grouping basis (like BlueNote's new iPad app). Giving away some free or low priced music to maintain contact with and data on a fan could be the free model. Giving away all music plus exclusives and discounts on other merch could be the subscription model. For BlueNote it's only $2/month. For CSN it's $4/month.

If you can grow your paying subscriber base to 1000 fans at just $2/month (which won't be easy), that's $24,000 a year. Not bad for just the revenue coming from superfans. It's not a new idea at all, just one being taken advantage of with new technologies at hand.

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

Kyle, interesting point. And it makes me wonder if anyone has a platform for indie musicians to do the same. I imagine you'd need a sizable catalog in order to build a subscriber base...

November 1 | Registered CommenterZane Tate

Zane, I understand your concerns but there are some factors that you have to consider. First of all when your music is streamed on spotify it isn't actually free as with any radio format the artist is payed through royalties. Radio is a promotional tool and the fact that Spotify allows independent artist the ability to showcase their music to the masses is amazing.

Spotify pays around $0.006 per play for independent music the price fluctuates depending on the distribution aggregator on which your music is uploaded through. This number I agree is low one hundred thousand plays only equals $600 in royalties, but Spotify is just one of many sites, and your music is available worldwide.

If you feel that your art is something that you would like to make money with as a life long full-time career I suggest finding an aggregator that will manage your digital catalogue and distribute it to royalty based streaming avenues. Here is a link to help you on your way this is not only for spotify so click on the links provided within this site.

Royalties are the life line of the industry, the more your music is heard the more money you will make. You never know if the right people here your music it might end up in a movie or a commercial. Keep your branding strong, provide nice merch, build your catalog up, constantly engage with your fan base through social media outlets, and tour as much as possible. Creating analytic documentation will give you insight into how well each different platform is working. Platforms such as Spotify provide you with this info.

I really dig your music it has tons of commercial appeal!! Your obviously well on your way and i wish you all the best.
I think this discussion has much to do with the future and evolution of the music industry lets keep this thread going!

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Small

Check out this Link interesting info on royalty compensation and the on going battle for musicians rights!

December 3 | Registered CommenterAaron Small

Your blog footer has a creative commons notice. If your music is similarly licensed then isn't Spotify a great boon for expanding your audience? Direct selling of music is not the most promising business model. Patreon seems like an interesting way to monetize. Live performances and merchandise could also generate income.

April 13 | Unregistered Commenter@strangehill

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