Artists wrapped and tossed out

    Is spotify stealing from our favorite artists?
    Created by Ariel Arrieta
    Created by Ariel Arrieta

    We’ve all seen the Spotify Wrapped posts going around and, though I’m a proud Apple Music user, I too look forward to seeing who my top artists are at the end of the year. But as we’re capping off 2023 with upwards of 10,000 minutes spent listening to our favorite artists, Spotify will have spent 525,600 minutes underpaying their artists. 

    The music industry is a complicated world and it’s getting harder and harder for artists and labels to generate profit for their work. Believe it or not, for every stream an artist receives on Spotify, they earn less than one dollar. Label Grid  reports that the exact amount sits somewhere between $0.003 to $0.005, meaning the profit is split roughly at 70/30 with the artist receiving the greater sum. 

    Although artists are technically gaining more than half of the royalties for their work, it still seems weird to me that their revenue is low. The idea that an artist could get a thousand streams and only receive $3 may seem like a miniscule issue for performers like SZA or Drake who sit proudly on Spotify’s “Most Streamed Artists of 2023” top ten list. With sold out tours and album releases from both performers, I’d say they’ve each had a pretty successful year. But for less mainstream artists who solely depend on streams and social media presence to make their living, increasing their earnings to even just a penny might make a larger difference than we realize. 

    As mentioned above, the industry is complicated but it’s also everchanging. In an attempt to regain artistic and financial power that is often taken by record companies, many artists have opted to release their music independently. As someone who primarily listens to indie artists, I find the idea of them being paid such small amounts for their work to be really upsetting. 

    That being said, it should be easy for me to villainize Spotify and tell everyone to switch platforms immediately. But the sad truth is that there is always going to be an issue with money distribution because whether it’s the label, the artist, or the streaming service, someone will always want more. The industry just isn’t made in favor of creators and I’m not sure that it ever was.

    According to The Guardian, beginning in 2024, Spotify will stop paying for about two-thirds of tracks on its platform. Simply put, smaller artists will yet again be left on the back burner while labels like Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment gain even more power and control. 

    I think artistry should always be about passion and I stand firm in that belief. But I fear for the future of the industry for that exact reason. It’s already hard enough to make a living as an artist and at the rate we’re going, I’m not sure what’s to come next. Does music still hold value within itself? Or is the music industry incentivizing based on status? 


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