Musicians Union launches ‘Justice at Spotify’ campaign demanding higher artist rates, greater transparency

The United Musicians and Allied Workers Union (UMAW) are demanding all artists receive at least one cent per stream on the platform

The United Musicians and Allied Workers Union (UMAW) have started a new campaign titled ‘Justice at Spotify’ which, among other goals, is demanding that the platform raise its average streaming royalty from $.0038 USD to a penny per stream for all artists.

“One of Spotify’s core goals is to give ‘a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art’. Yet, to generate a single dollar on the platform, a song needs to be streamed 263 times,” organisers explained on the campaign’s website.

“To put that in perspective, it would take 786 streams to generate enough revenue to buy an average cup of coffee. To pay the median American monthly rent ($1,078) an artist needs to generate 283,684 recurring streams monthly. And to earn $15/hr each month working full time, it would take 657,895 streams per band member.”

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At the time of writing, over 4,000 artists have signed the UMAW’s petition – which you can do here. According to UMAW’s site, musicians including Thurston Moore, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Frankie Cosmos, Deerhoof, Julianna Barwick, JD Samson, DIIV, Alex Somers, Zola Jesus and more have all thrown their support behind the campaign.

In a pair of posts on Instagram, DIIV frontman Zachary Cole Smith endorsed the formation of UMAW and took shots at Spotify, commenting: “Support artists you love. Spotify and most popular streaming platforms rely on an exploitative business model that ensures that all but the largest acts are unfairly compensated for their work.”

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Support artists you love. Touring musicians have lost the ability to perform their labor. Spotify and most popular streaming platforms rely on an exploitative business model that ensures that all but the largest acts are unfairly compensated for their work. Selling merch online is one of the only ways most touring artists are able to support themselves during the pandemic. If you are able, please support artists whose music you listen to by purchasing merchandise from their official online stores. Money you spend in official online merch stores is guaranteed to get directly to the artist in full and is as good as buying straight from the merch table. If you want to support us or just want to wear one of these cool shirts, head to DIIV.net and click on the store link in the menu. A link is in our bio. Thank you. -cole 📷: @connerreedlyons

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The UMAW – which describe themselves as an organisation that “aims to organize music workers to fight for a more just music industry, and to join with other workers in the struggle for a better society” – is also urging the streaming giant to switch to a “user-centric” payment model rather than its current pro-rata system.

“Spotify is the most dominant platform on the music streaming market. The company behind the streaming platform continues to accrue value, yet music workers everywhere see little more than pennies in compensation for the work they make,” reads a statement from the union.

“With the entire live music ecosystem in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic, music workers are more reliant on streaming income than ever.”

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Spotify is the most dominant platform on the music streaming market. The company behind the streaming platform continues to accrue value, yet music workers everywhere see little more than pennies in compensation for the work they make. With the entire live music ecosystem in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic, music workers are more reliant on streaming income than ever. We are calling on Spotify to deliver increased royalty payments to at least one cent per stream, adopt a user-centric payment model, show transparency in their practices by making all closed-door contracts public, reveal existing payola & end it all together, credit all labor in recordings and to end all legal battles intended to further impoverish artists. Sign onto our demands at unionofmusicians.org/justice-at-spotify 🖤

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In addition to better payouts for artists, organisers also want greater transparency from Spotify regarding how the service operates. They demand that closed-door contracts are made public and information regarding all the platform’s revenue sources made available.

They also want the platform to publicly reveal and then end its practices of payola, in which Spotify encourages labels and management companies to pay for plays, boosting the prominence of certain tracks on the platform.

Additionally, UMAW want all labour properly credited on the platform, so that every musician, producer, audio engineer, mastering engineer and others involved in the work of recording is properly recognised.

Finally, organisers want Spotify to end their legal battles to lower royalty rates for songwriters, and pledge not to fight artists, songwriters and other music industry workers.

 

Earlier this year, a petition set up by musician Evan Greer asked Spotify to permanently triple its royalty rates for artists following the loss of earnings that arose due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, PRS director Tom Gray shared data collected by The Trichordist showing how many streams artists need to earn minimum wage on each streaming platform. Musicians promoting their music on Spotify would need 3,114 plays to earn one hour of UK Minimum Wage (£8.72).

In August, Spotify’s Daniel Ek was widely criticised by musicians after the CEO said it “wasn’t enough” for artists to “record music once every three to four years”.

In the original interview, Ek said there was a “narrative fallacy” about the idea that Spotify doesn’t pay enough for artists to live on.

“It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans,” he said. “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.”

Songwriter Nadine Shah was among those who took issue with Ek’s comments.

“Millionaire Daniel Ek telling us how it is here. What are we to do? Im tired of having to kiss the arses of these companies that exploit me and other music makers,” tweeted Shah at the time.

“We need the whole music community (including fans) to come together and demand change.”

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