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Spotify CEO: “You can’t record music every three or four years and think that’s going to be enough”

(Image credit: Ilya S. Savenok / Getty)

Despite the fact Spotify is still not making money, critics continue to suggest it's not paying musicians enough in royalties for the streaming of their music on its service. And Music Ally (opens in new tab)'s new with interview CEO and founder Daniel Ek's is unlikely to win them around any time soon.  

The interview followed the announcement of Spotify's Q2 numbers, and the billionaire Swede suggested that the royalties offered by company's business model are not the issue, and it's really a question of volume and marketing when it comes to musicians' output.

“There is a narrative fallacy here," said Ek, "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 realise 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."

“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”

Aside from the obvious quality vs quantity debate this raises in music, talking about album 'storytelling' may be seen as a curious remark from the CEO and founder of a music streaming service that has championed the curated playlist format, but we digress… 

Ek added, “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.”

He addressed the issue of royalties head on in the interview, suggesting Spotify's popularity with artists who want to engage with it suggested it wasn't the bad guy.

“It’s quite interesting that while the overall pie is growing, and more and more people can partake in that pie, we tend to focus on a very limited set of artists,” Ek began, with regards to the reporting of streaming royalties. 

“Even today on our marketplace, there’s literally millions and millions of artists," Ek reasoned. "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.'

“In private they have done that many times," Ek added, "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.”

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The earnings musicians make from their recorded output has been thrown into an even starker light in the advent of the COVID crisis, where traditional live shows effectively ground to a halt. And will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

As you can imagine, there's already been some interesting responses to Ek from musicians on social media, including REM's Mike Mills… 

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Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar. I've currently set aside any pipe dreams of getting anywhere with my own songs and I am enjoying playing covers in function bands.