Musicians Drinking the Spotify Haterade: The Collected Complaints


Since Spotify’s stateside introduction three years ago, musicians have expressed their disdain for the streaming service and its laughably low royalty rates (between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream). A number of artists, mostly those in the privileged positions of having already established a fanbase, have pulled their music from the service, or in the case of legacy artists, blocked it from ever being streamed there. Spotify, in addition to other streaming music services like Pandora, led David Byrne to suggest that, “The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left.” The Talking Heads leader is far from the only open opponent of streaming. Let’s take a look at a few others with harsh words for Spotify, a service that claims to have paid out a billion dollars in royalties but still draws constant ire.

David Byrne, in a long, anti-streaming op-ed for The Guardian:

I also don’t understand the claim of discovery that Spotify makes; the actual moment of discovery in most cases happens at the moment when someone else tells you about an artist or you read about them – not when you’re on the streaming service listening to what you have read about (though Spotify does indeed have a ‘discovery’ page that, like Pandora’s algorithm, suggests artists you might like). There is also, I’m told, a way to see what your ‘friends’ have on their playlists, though I’d be curious to know whether a significant number of people find new music in this way. I’d be even more curious if the folks who ‘discover’ music on these services then go on to purchase it. Why would you click and go elsewhere and pay when the free version is sitting right in front of you? Am I crazy?

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys:

You get paid [for streaming], but it’s so minuscule it’s laughable. Anyone on the Internet who makes us look stupid for not being on Spotify usually has some sort of stake in the company. Publications like Pitchfork are teaming up with Spotify, and it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s a cool thing to have if you’re in a new band and you want to be heard. But if you are a bigger band that’s already known and you rely on record sales for a living, then it’s really no place to be.

Jason Isbell, as summed up by The New York Times :

He used a single word, “evil,” to describe Spotify, the online music-streaming service. “I think Spotify is honestly just another one of Sean Parker’s ways of ripping musicians off,” Isbell said, referring to the Napster co-founder who has a stake in Spotify. His comic mini-rant about Parker was so expletive-filled that, to paraphrase Mary McCarthy, even the words “and” and “the” from it are not printable here. But the gist of his complaint is this: “People can listen to your album over and over on Spotify, and you don’t really make anything on it.”


“[The rise of these sites are] inevitable, it’s something that is coming like it or not. But I pose the question of how I can hold on, because what Spotify pays me is not even enough to pay the musicians playing with me or the people working on the disks. The model does not work. I think the saddest thing about streaming is the issue of sound quality…it’s like watching Citizen Kane on your phone. That’s what people are listening to!”

Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Atoms for Peace:

I feel like the way people are listening to music is going through this big transition. I feel like as musicians we need to fight the Spotify thing. I feel that in some ways what’s happening in the mainstream is the last gasp of the old industry. Once that does finally die, which it will, something else will happen. But it’s all about how we change the way we listen to music, it’s all about what happens next in terms of technology, in terms of how people talk to each other about music, and a lot of it could be really fucking bad. I don’t subscribe to the whole thing that a lot of people do within the music industry that’s ‘well this is all we’ve got left. we’ll just have to do this.’ I just don’t agree. When we did the In Rainbows thing what was most exciting was the idea you could have a direct connection between you as a musician and your audience. You cut all of it out, it’s just that and that. And then all these fuckers get in the way, like Spotify suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process. We don’t need you to do it. No artist needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off. But because they’re using old music, because they’re using the majors… the majors are all over it because they see a way of re-selling all their old stuff for free, make a fortune, and not die. That’s why to me, Spotify the whole thing, is such a massive battle, because it’s about the future of all music. It’s about whether we believe there’s a future in music, same with the film industry, same with books. To me this isn’t the mainstream, this is is like the last fart, the last desperate fart of a dying corpse. What happens next is the important part.

Read this entire Pitchfork op-ed on streaming music and its actual royalties, from Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi

Nigel Godrich of Atoms for Peace; Radiohead’s longtime producer:

The reason is that new artists get paid fuck all with this model. It’s an equation that just doesn’t work… The numbers don’t even add up for Spotify yet. But it’s not about that. It’s about establishing the model which will be extremely valuable. Meanwhile small labels and new artists can’t even keep their lights on. It’s just not right. Plus people are scared to speak up or not take part as they are told they will lose invaluable exposure if they don’t play ball. If people had been listening to Spotify instead of buying records in 1973, I doubt very much if [Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon] would have been made. It would just be too expensive.

Aimee Mann:

My record isn’t on Spotify. People may be outraged, but artists don’t make money from Spotify.

Grizzly Bear:

Yannis Philippakis of Foals:

I’d rather somebody stole the record on vinyl than bought it or streamed it on Spotify. I think you should listen to music on vinyl and I think basically anything is better than [Spotify]. … It’s like going to a restaurant when the chef and all the waiting staff have worked their asses off, and you leave coppers as a tip, and you don’t even pay the bill. That’s basically what Spotify’s like, I think.