Spotify or Not . . . ify?


I’ve finally relented and done something I thought I would never do.

I got a Spotify Account.

Well, actually, I’ve had an account for ages, but never used it once I learned how poorly it paid the artists.

But something has changed and I find myself with a paid for account.

I grew up in a world where you paid for what you used – back when all this were fields, you could buy a house and car with three ha’pence and still have change for a slap up fish supper – even music.  Yes, that’s right!  Music isn’t a free commodity that just magically arrives at your ears. It’s a kind of art that involves practice, talent, hard work and a shit ton money to produce.  The artist sees little enough of the money earned from it as it is – it’s the record companies, recording studios, designers, etc that get the cash there. Spotify basically rubs salt into that wound by giving something like a millionth of a penny per play to the band. Fine if you are Lady Gaga or (insert top hitmaker of the the day) but pointless if you are some geezer from a Grungy Garage band in Grimsby.

Many years ago, when I worked for the BBC, there was a thing called “needletime”.  The budget of our show was worked out by how much needle time we used. Or rather, we were given an allotment of needle time and we had to deal with it.

Needle time was essentially the money we had to pay to the Performing Rights Society for using PRS registered music. In the 80s/90’s it was around £15 per minute. I think our allotment for a two hour show was twelve minutes . . . which explains why a lot of local radio is all local interest, chat and endless talks about the botanical gardens going into disrepair.

Our show was very much music based but the grey area of non-needle time music allowed us to produce a show that not only served national bands – using needle time for supporting interviews, etc – but could get local and indie bands a wider audience. We would always tell the bands about the PRS rates, but most bands decided that the potential earnings off playing their demoes would be vastly overshadowed by the cost of PRS registration, but the fact that they were being heard to an audience that might appreciate them was often enough.  It got people to gigs, got people buying tapes and vinyl at gigs and local record shops.  We did what we could to promote new bands. Often, I might add, at our personal expense. The shows I worked with were all about the talent! It was ‘exposure’ <spit spit> that worked. 

At one point, when album sales were in the millions, the adage was that you went on tour to sell the album, now the album is put out to promote the tour – which is now the only place the musicians can make money (although merchandise companies, gig agencies, etc., are doing their best, damn them.)

So essentially, the music industry is geared towards keeping the money that musicians ought to make by virtue of you know . . . writing it, recording it, paying for it, performing it and so on. So an organisation like Spotify is an anathema to me.


I’ve been having a massive music issue of late. Being a former Macolyte, iTunes did everything I needed. It stored my music, movies and TV show in one place, made everything easily accessible and worked a treat through the Apple TV. Everything integrated beautifully.  But, eventually my mac died and, being unemployed, I couldn’t afford a new one. THen came the horror stories of Apple Music destroying people’s music collections, lives works being erased because it wasn’t on itunes and thus deemed ‘illegal’ and the introduction of DRM on items purchased via the itunes store on items that had been drm free.

It sucks.  Apple seem to have done everything they can to make itunes as unappealing as possible. It amused me to hear they’ve denied that this once elegant piece of software is ‘bloated’ saying it is ‘feature rich’ instead . .  that’s a little like saying Spinal Tap’s appeal is become more selective, really . . .

So, anyway.  I now have a hard drive full of legally purchased music that I can no longer play. It wont play through Amazon Music, it won’t play through anything except itunes. This wouldn’t have happened with vinyl. You buy it, it’s yours!

But Spotify offers an intriguing possibility.  That of continued support.

The thing is, I no long have access to legally purchased music; something that I wholeheartedly resent. Apart from re-buying everything I bought off itunes over the last 15 years, what choice have I got?

Well . . .

I made the decision, probably as a means of justifying access to my paid for music, that using Spotify is okay, but with the following conditions.

  1. It’s a paid for account.
  2. I only use it to play stuff that I have legally bought.

This essentially means that I pay for the music and then in some small way further contribute to the band/artist by streaming from them.  I worry hugely that people equate Spotify with supporting an artist.  It isn’t. The only way I can feel okay about streaming and not feel like I’m ripping the artist off and not feel like I’m getting something for nothing, is by buying the music, not just the right to stream it.

I don’t actually *mind* getting something for nothing as long as it’s given freely, but artists of all creeds are continually fleeced by the supposed backbone of their respective industries.  While most artists will agree that they can do nothing else and this is the artist’s lot, I say bollocks to that mate!  Pay for your art and keep paying! Artists need to pay bills too.   Exposure is not enough and the standard model for Spotify seems to be “We’ll pay you in exposure” – technically it isn’t but given the pitiful rates per stream, it might as well be.

I know times have changed, new methods of delivery need to be explored, etc., but I’d prefer those new methods to actually benefit the artists, rather than the companies making millions while the artists are busy getting their electricity cut off…

Hey ho.

I could rant, but fear that might not be a good move.

Anyway, I have subscribed to Spotify in order to be able to play music now denied to me by Apple. Sorry. 

On the plus side, it also allows me to publicise my new novel which comes with two spotify playlists of the music mentioned in the the books.  But both books in the series only mention songs I’ve bought two.   Well . . . there were two tracks I didn’t have but I’ve since bought them  . . .

Not that this was a cheap ‘buy my book’ post, but should you wish, it’s available HERE.

With the pop/rock playlist HERE

and the piano/videogame  one HERE


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s