Spotify is a great way to get music to people globally either for free or at a very low-cost monthly subscription. It is also now being used as an effective social media tool in that it allows artists to gain new fans either through their own Spotify pages or via specifically curated playlists. The streaming service can help to build long-lasting relationships with those artists and their fans either by ultimately encouraging fans to go to live shows or buying the artists’ records.
The following series of interviews with artists, musicians, songwriters, and producers, will discuss Spotify’s financial policies. Looking at how they impact on the music artists make, the value placed on that music, and how this value or lack of value, affects the artist both personally and professionally. Such as the artist’s career goals and the ability to make a living from their music.
In short, these pieces will be a collection that humanizes the impact Spotify has on artists, musicians, songwriters, and producers.
Back in the summer of 2017 I reached out to artists, musicians and songwriters, Lily & Madeleine and asked them to talk about their experience of Spotify’s financial policies both in their professional and personal spheres as well as what Spotify ultimately means to them as both artists and as consumers.
How has Spotify’s financial policies impacted the music you make? For instance, studio time, hiring musicians, touring, publicity and artwork.
Madeleine: Spotify doesn’t really impact us very much. It’s handy to see our monthly listeners and our stats in big cities, but we don’t make enough money from streams for it to actually impact our art.
Has that impact changed since you moved from Asthmatic Kitty, a relatively small label to New West, a bigger label?
M: As we moved to New West, Spotify became even more popular in general. Now there are all these specially curated playlists that an artist can be featured on and different ways in which a label’s publicist team can promote an artist online. Spotify is more of a focus now.
Lily: Spotify is no longer just a streaming service, it is more like a social media tool that artists are using to further promote themselves and their music.
How does the financial value placed on your music by Spotify and ultimately the income you receive, affect your career plans both artistically (the ability to achieve certain professional goals,) and personally (paying rent or even planning for a family)?
M: It is always nice to get a royalty check, but when you get mere cents for each stream on Spotify the checks aren’t very big. It can be disappointing. I try not to put too much energy into worrying about streams because ultimately, they just don’t pay enough to matter.
I know that the most certain way to make money as an artist is to play live shows and sell merchandise. Online music streams are a nice little bonus, but in order to have a career as a musician I put most of my energy into booking and playing as many live shows as I can.
L: Basically whatever money we get from Spotify, Pandora, etc., is just treated like a little bonus and we never anticipate getting real income from that.
I think definitely for more popular artists, there is money to be made off streaming services. Maybe when we become more successful we can factor in that Spotify money!
Also, how does Spotify impact you psychologically both positively (gaining new fans, great musical exposure) and negatively (the devaluing of your work and/or ability or inability to tour, pay rent etc.)?
M: I don’t really worry about the fact that we don’t make much money from Spotify. The best way to reach fans is to play live for them, so that’s what my priority is. It is always nice when a friend or new fan reaches out and says they found us through a playlist on Spotify. That makes me feel grateful.
L: A lot of people have said they have discovered our music through Spotify’s playlists which is great! I also think as a music consumer, I use Spotify every single day to listen to music or podcasts and I really do think it is the best and easiest way to stream.
How would you like to see Spotify’s financial policies change? And if they did, what it would allow you to do as musicians and as individuals?
M: It would be amazing if Spotify paid even $0.25 per stream. That would allow artists to make way more money. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon, if at all. If artists were able to make a lot more money from online streams, we’d be able to finance our projects better. Right now, Lily and I are relying on our label to finance our next record, which is standard. But we would love to have the freedom to pay for whatever producer/studio/musicians/publicity we want and control it all on our own dime.
I think if musicians made more money from online streams, perhaps record labels wouldn’t be as vital in the music making process. The whole dynamic of the industry could change. Interesting to think about…
If you have any further comments or added information about Spotify and its impact on artists that I haven’t thought to ask, then feel free to include this.
M: I would like to add that I am a huge fan of Spotify as a music consumer. I pay the Premium Membership, so I can listen to whatever I want. I am ashamed to admit this, but I haven’t bought an album (either physical or digital) in months. I often buy albums on Bandcamp but then I can’t figure out how to put the files into my library, so I just continue to listen on Spotify. Does that make me sound like an old lady? Ha!
I think it’s so easy to get used to the dynamic of not paying for music. It is different from buying visual art like a painting or poster. Music is harder to grasp, so people don’t feel the need to pay for it.
L: I definitely feel like it’s a compromise. We are getting paid almost nothing for listens but at the same time, we are also paying almost nothing (as consumers) to listen to pretty much anything imaginable! I think overall, I am just glad people all over the world can enjoy our music. Even though they pay very little, Spotify is part of the reason people find and listen to us!
Most popular Lily & Madeleine Spotify Streams
‘Come to Me’ (Ofenbach Remix) – 36 million streams
‘Devil We Know’ – 11 million streams