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.
Peter Waterman, and his producing company Longcroft Recording, has produced a myriad of British independent artists including the critically acclaimed Hattie Briggs, Uriah Heep, Emma Ballantine and most recently, the band Carousel. Peter is also a songwriter and musician, and is studying for a Masters in Record Production at the London College of Music.
How has Spotify’s financial policies impacted the music you make? For instance, studio time, hiring musicians/engineers, touring, publicity and artwork.
How much Spotify pays has no relevance to the way a band will finance a recording or a project in my experience. What has been taken into account in the recent past however, is a budget put aside in order to pay for plugging services for playlist support and sometimes even recording in particular ways in order to aim for particular playlists. Financially though, each project is different, and it doesn’t depend on how much Spotify pay.
How has Spotify’s financial policies impacted on your ability to work as a producer?
The amount Spotify pays has not impacted my ability to work as a producer because generally, I am working with brand new artists who are starting from the beginning of their careers and haven’t got previous streaming services numbers to discuss.
How has Spotify’s policies impacted on the artist’s you have produced records for and their ability to continue to make music?
Spotify is so important to independent artist discovery that the only way it can impact on an artist is advantageous.
Spotify is becoming its own unique social media experience and to be popping up on Discover Weekly or other algorithmic playlists because fans are listening to much bigger and already more successful bands, but your track is being played just as much as theirs, is a fantastic way of being pushed. It is basically free advertising if you can obtain enough unique listeners and followers at an early enough stage of an artist’s career and get onto an algorithmic playlist.
If you want to make a living as an independent artist, it’s very difficult. You need to be selling CDs, merchandise and selling out shows all over your country. That alone is a unique skill. Spotify can’t be seen as a direct income that can be added to that list but instead it should be seen as a promotional tool in order to increase those other streams of income.
Spotify is just another social media platform that can help you get pushed onto people’s radar that isn’t by just paying radio plugger’s or PR companies thousands of pounds.
Spotify can get confusing sometimes as an artist because it does actually guarantee you an amount of money per play, unlike physical CDs which can be bought and played for many years without the artist receiving a penny after the first point of sale. There are artists who we have never heard of, unsigned and unpublished, and are completely ‘DIY-independent’, getting millions of plays per month and making a sustainable monthly wage solely from streaming.
It is only when you are getting a few thousand plays a month and therefore not earning enough to see a paycheck directly from ‘streaming services’ in your digital distributor report that people start questioning 0.0056p per play.
The problem with that is, everyone is getting paid 0.0056p per play when they own their recordings and so the trick isn’t to complain about it, it is to find a way of obtaining an amount of support on Spotify that will connect artists to your physical CDs, live shows or whatever else you think you can do to achieve a living.
How does the financial value placed on your music by Spotify and ultimately the income you receive, affect you personally?
It has no effect on my income streams as I don’t charge points or percentages unless I’m co-writing a song. I have never agreed a fee on Spotify income for instance. If I am co-writing, Spotify plays hardly touch the songwriting side and therefore at an independent level, it’s all about sync. My price points for charging for producing have a lot more to do with my services and what budget I have to work with than how much Spotify are paying out.
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)?
I charge a project by project basis rate for producing as my rates all depend on after care, release strategy support, and whatever else an artist is looking for that I feel I can support with. When I work as a producer on an independent record, I can afford my mortgage. The difficult times are only when I don’t find work for 2-3 months at a time.
At this stage of my career, I am still working on one record or for one artist who I have recorded to make it much bigger than any project or artist I’ve had before. Without that, I won’t be able to obtain work with artists at that level until one of my artists is already there. So, it is in my interest that a recording or a project I produce to go as far as possible, hence the amount of work I have put into supporting my artists before and after a recording. If I make a great sounding record and no one hears it, what’s the point?
Also, how does Spotify impact you psychologically both positively (great musical exposure, the ability to connect with new artists and potentially produce their music) and negatively (the devaluing of your work and/or ability or inability to pay rent, buy new equipment etc.)?
Spotify is merely a platform to try and do as well on as possible, just like YouTube, Myspace (R.I.P) or Soundcloud. All of Spotify is only a positive if an independent artist works with it in the right way and is successful for any number of reasons.
The ability for fans to discover you because you sound like an artist they are already a fan of cannot be underestimated. Considering it is now free to upload your music onto Spotify directly and you no longer need a yearly subscription or to pay upfront for a digital distributor. Include the fact you can see where all of your fans are listening to you, so you can see where to book your next show thanks to Spotify for Artistsapp. How can any of that be a negative? And when you do well on Spotify, you also get paid.
How would you like to see Spotify’s financial policies change? And if they did, what it would allow you to do as a producer?
I would only like to see a more transparent way of applying for playlist support as an independent artist and an increase in time and effort from Spotify curators to listen to and choose new and exciting artists, rather than spending a weekly amount of agreed time with record companies and distributors who plug their allocated maximum amount of songs onto the main New Music Weekly playlists.
People subscribe to Spotify as a listener not just because it saves them hard drive space, carrying around every single song that’s ever been created by all of the artists they have ever liked but because they enjoy discovering new music in their preferred genre, and I think increasing new music support would be an advantage for Spotify over other streaming platforms.
Most Popular Album and Artist Spotify Streams (produced by Longcroft Recording)
‘Porcelain’ by Carousel
‘High On Love’ by Frankie Davies
The series ‘The Heart and Soul of Spotify: How Spotify’s Financial Policies Impact Artists’ can be read here.