Spotify’s economic model has been widely condemned by musicians and songwriters for years, with critics claiming that the service pays out paltry royalties and gives major-label artists an unfair advantage via playlist placement and other promotional avenues. But according to CEO Daniel Ek, the problem is not Spotify, it’s those lazy musicians!
In an interview published Thursday, Ek told Music Ally, “Even today on our marketplace, there’s literally millions and millions of artists. What tends to be reported are the people that are unhappy, but we very rarely see anyone who’s talking about… In the entire existence [of Spotify] I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single artist saying, ‘I’m happy with all the money I’m getting from streaming.'” (Obviously he isn’t familiar with Car Seat Headrest!) Ek continued, “In private they have done that many times, but in public they have no incentive to do it. But unequivocally, from the data, there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself.”
According to Ek, musicians need to get with the times and keep up a steady stream of content: “There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough. The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans.” He concluded, “I feel, really, that the ones that aren’t doing well in streaming are predominantly people who want to release music the way it used to be released.”
Response among musicians on Twitter has been largely negative. One critique of Ek’s interview comes from Holly Herndon collaborator Mat Dryhurst, who writes on Twitter, “Who has the means to generate 2 albums a year? Either those willing to put out subpar work, or those with big enough names to corral others to do the work for them.” Zola Jesus writes, “it is extremely clear that @Spotify billionaire daniel ek has never made music, or art of any kind for that matter. he refuses to understand there’s a difference between commodities and art. the potential for cultural growth will suffer because of it.” Here are David Crosby and R.E.M.’s Mike Mills with similar takes: