MMT Featured Artist Zoë Keating updated her Spotify spreadsheet with some deep thoughts today, and not much has changed since we checked in around a year ago.  Despite reports about big increases in Spotify payouts, the average per stream appears stuck at a fraction of a penny.

Spotify Accounting: October 2001 – March 2012

Below she compares her earnings from other platforms over the same time period that she received $281.87 from Spotify.

It’s comparing apple to oranges, but I for the same time period (Oct 2011 to March 2012), I received, net (i.e. after fees):
– $46,477.77 from iTunes
– $25,000 from Bandcamp
– $8,352.45 for physical sales on Amazon
– $2,821 from Amazon MP3

Deep Thoughts

I think Spotify is awesome as a listening platform. In my opinion artists should view it as a discovery service rather than a source of income.

The income of a non-mainstream artist like me is a patchwork quilt and streaming is currently one tiny square in that quilt. Streaming is not yet a replacement for digital sales, and to conflate the two is a mistake.   I do not see streaming as a threat to my income, just like I’ve never regarded file-sharing as a threat but as a convenient way to hear music. If people really like my music, I still believe they’ll support it somewhere, somehow. Casual listeners won’t, but they never did anyway. I don’t buy ALL the music I listen to either, I never did, so why should I expect every single listener to make a purchase? I think that a subset of my listeners pay for my music, and that is a-ok because…and this is the key…..there are few middlemen between us.

My financial picture would be worse if I was on a record label. Some people say that if I was on a record label, I’d have a larger reach and therefore would be making more money. To this I’d like to point out that I make instrumental cello music. There is about as much chance of my music becoming mainstream as there is of me being elected President of the USA (hint: not possible, I was born in Canada and there are naked pictures of me at Burning Man). While it is probably true that the right label could help with the reach part, I don’t think they could help me enough to offset their cut, and you know what….no label has ever approached me and the ones I’ve approached said no, so I’m guessing they think the same thing.

I’ve said multiple times what my issue with Spotify is: fairness. I care about making the playing field level for all recording artists: signed or unsigned. Let it be a meritocracy. Also, I wish Spotify would do more to facilitate the connection between listeners and artists – i.e show that the artist is playing nearby, or add links to buy music. It’s early days, so maybe this will happen eventually.

~ Zoe Keating

p.p.s. I’d like to be known for my music more than my tendency to stir up controversy, so I probably won’t say much more on the subject because I have some music to make….;-)