The Heart and Soul of Spotify: How Spotify’s Financial Policies Impact Artists – The Label

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.

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The Label / The Musician

Early in 2018 I reached out to Reed Watson, the label manager for Single Lock Records and the drummer for Belle Adair and John Paul White. I talked to Watson about how Spotify’s financial policies affect the label and its’ artists, the awareness Spotify brings to Single Lock Records, and the impact Spotify’s policies has had on him as both a musician and a consumer.

How has Spotify’s financial policies impacted the music you make? For instance, studio time, hiring musicians, touring, publicity and artwork.

It hasn’t impacted it at all, because Single Lock Records has always been more DIY than other labels. Our costs have always been low. We’ve always tried to be efficient. Whether we make a bunch of money or not really doesn’t dictate how we behave in that department. When someone says the word “budget” around here, we tend to laugh.

What role does Spotify’s play in bringing awareness to Single Lock and the musicians on the label?

It is crucial. To me, it’s as influential as terrestrial radio. Look around and you’ll quickly see what the preferred listening method of young people is—mobile and streaming. We work hard to build relationships with programmers and secure good spots on playlists for the songs we release. Typically, it opens up new ears to what we do. That is priceless.

How does the financial value placed on your music by Spotify and ultimately the income you receive, affect you personally?

I certainly don’t take it personally, but I am also not offended by the amount. It really boils down to whether you’d like to take a lump sum or get paid per stream for the rest of your life. Could the pay be better? Sure.

In the States, we haven’t really reached a critical mass yet… so it’s hard to say if things will improve. Tech folks talk about “scale” a lot, and I think that has a lot to do with the argument, too. I try not to let the business side of music affect me personally—the music business is only 150 years old or so. Music has been around forever, and it will endure forever.

Furthermore, how does the above affect your career plans both artistically (achieve certain professional goals) and personally (paying rent or even plan for a family)?

Again, I haven’t seen much of a difference. Streaming usually leads to purchases, at least in our (Single Lock Records) case. I know, personally, I buy more music now than I ever did before. Spotify, as a discovery tool, is very powerful.

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.)?

It is totally positive for me. I love the fact that anyone, anywhere, anytime can immediately and easily pull up our music to enjoy. The potential that introduces is truly endless, and I think it’s one of the great technological advances in the music business—ever. I don’t consider it a devaluing at all, and I haven’t seen a change in my bottom line to suggest it makes it harder for me to pay bills, etc.

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?

I would like to see Spotify compensate songwriters fairly. I think that is a necessary change and I believe it is coming very soon. They certainly have a long way to go in terms of financial transparency, as well. Unfortunately, that’s not the fault of Spotify. That’s the fault of the major labels and their sweetheart deals with the company.

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.

It is the future. I think artists should stop whining about it and embrace it, which I think is starting to happen. You can feel it shifting. When something new happens that you don’t like, your first inclination is to fight it. A smarter approach would be to recognize that it is not changing anytime soon, so use that creativity we all have to figure out a way to make it work for you. In the end, you may have more power than you ever had before. Spotify, and the future of streaming, excites me.

Most popular Single Lock Records’ Spotify Streams

St. Paul & The Broken Bones – ‘Call Me’
John Paul White – ‘Hate the Way You Love Me’
John Paul White – ‘My Dreams Have All Come True’

The first in the series of ‘The Heart and Soul of Spotify: How Spotify’s Financial Policies Impact Artists’ can be read here.

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