Currently airing on Netflix, the series The Playlist follows the story of an entrepreneur who paved the way for legal music streaming: Daniel Ek. The innovative Spotify service was supposed to counter the rise of piracy that plagued the music industry in the 2000s. Through 6 episodes, we follow the view points of 6 protagonists connected to the creation of this service (the founder, the director of Sony Music Sweden, the computer scientist behind the application, the lawyer, the financier and, finally, an artist).
Spotify, a new business model
While the Rashômon effect of the series is successful, what about the success of the Swedish platform Spotify? Before it could exist officially, the founders had to find a business model that would hold up to investors. The fee-based playlist is the trick Spotify’s lawyer found to appeal to the latter and not scare off the record companies with the term “free music”. The series traces Daniel Ek’s success story in a somewhat romanticized way, while gently criticizing his streaming service.
Streaming will change everything… or not
In the end, Spotify did not transform the music industry, despite all its good intentions. Indeed, the complexity and the opacity of the world of royalties and record companies has not changed since the beginning of streaming: like before, only artists actively promoted by their record company and hammered on the radio/TV make any money via these platforms. Of course, there are always a few breakthrough artists who, after creating a buzz, manage to play the game and win.
Music streaming, a standardized service
While these services are now standardized and accessible via all our connected hi-fi devices, such as network players and connected hi-fi amplifiers, many users would like artists to receive better pay. Available on all smartphones and DAPs, streaming has become the most common and convenient way to consume digital music.
What do artists earn?
The differences between streaming services are huge. Some platforms are really trying to promote artists. Among them, the French service Qobuz and Tidal are at the top of the list (although Qobuz hasn’t shared any official figures). The series reminds us that 70% of the revenue generated by streaming platforms goes to record companies… Which did not prevent Daniel Ek from becoming a billionaire.
What do you think?
Is it for better or for worse? Or is it just a reiteration of the “old ways” in digital form? What do you think about Spotify and artist compensation in the age of digital music? Do you know of any artists who have been able to overcome the barriers put in place by record companies/streaming services and earn more money?