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Music fans and artists hit back as Spotify CEO claims “the cost of creating content” is “close to zero”

May 30th, 2024

Artists and music fans from across the globe have hit back at Spotify’s CEO, after he claimed that “the cost of creating content” in today’s world is “close to zero”.

Daniel Ek, the CEO of the streaming giant, sparked backlash following the comments he made yesterday (May 29) – implying that it is easier and more affordable than ever to create “content” thanks to modern technology.

Writing on X/Twitter, he shared an update which read: “Today, with the cost of creating content being close to zero, people can share an incredible amount of content. This has sparked my curiosity about the concept of long shelf life versus short shelf life.”

He continued: While much of what we see and hear quickly becomes obsolete, there are timeless ideas or even pieces of music that can remain relevant for decades or even centuries. For example, we’re witnessing a resurgence of Stoicism, with many of Marcus Aurelius’s insights still resonating thousands of years later.”

In the update, Ek also went on to debate what is being created now that will “still be valued” after centuries.

“This makes me wonder: what are the most unintuitive, yet enduring ideas that aren’t frequently discussed today but might have a long shelf life? Also, what are we creating now that will still be valued and discussed hundreds or thousands of years from today?” he added.

Needless to say, the tweet soon spared backlash from many users, with numerous music fans and artists highlighting the struggles that are still faced when trying to make a career out of being a musician.

“Music will still be valued in a hundred years. Spotify won’t,” one wrote in response. “It will only be remembered as a bad example of a parasitic tool for extracting value from other peoples music. (or “content” as some grifters like to call it).”

Producer and musician Rusty Egan shared: “Cost of time to write music, cost of equipment to record music, cost to master and to upload to all platforms is not zero. Zero is the cost and value of tiktok hits.”

Another user suggested that a bigger issue at hand was how “now everyone feels like they have to do content every day [and] are forcing content” – implying that it was these pressures that would be more responsible for the implied decline of quality.

“It actually can still be expensive to make records, especially if you care about paying your collaborators fairly,” agreed the Future Of Music Coalition. “Many musicians are skilled at cutting corners to accomplish their creative goals within limited budgets. And indeed some aspects of production are more affordable than in the past. But this often ends up radically overstated.”

Proxy Music founder and journalist James Thornhill also criticised Ek, writing: “Making music costs – time, skills, studio time, mastering. This guy is totally out of touch.”

“Their whole business model was stealing music, using it to build a foundation and then come to terms afterwards using record companies negotiations to then insist they dont have to pay the artists & songwriters,” another user wrote.  Find more responses below.

Part of the criticism towards Ek’s latest comments may also stem from the recent reports that Spotify confirmed record profits of over €1billion (£860m) – following staff being laid off and subscription prices rising.

The Swedish company has around 615million users globally, and has invested a huge amount of money in growing the brand since its initial launch back in 2006. However, reports of the profit come following a year of the brand cutting costs and laying off staff.

Late last year, Spotify announced that it was cutting down 17 per cent of its workforce in order to save costs. That was after an earlier decision to lay off another 6 per cent of its staff at the start of 2023, which at the time it said was to promote “speed”.

It also came following the news that the streaming service had officially demonetised all songs on the platform with less than 1,000 streams. The policy was launched on April 1, but had been planned by the platform for some time. It was quickly criticised for making it harder for artists to generate royalties from their music and restricting new artists who were looking to break into the music industry.

Reports of the huge profits come after the number of premium subscribers rose by 14 per cent in the first quarter (up to 239million), and following the streaming service confirming that it would be raising the price of its monthly premium presentership yet again.

As well as emerging talent vocalising how the rise of streaming has hindered their growth, more established names have also come forward to voice their concerns about the consequences of companies like Spotify dominating the scene.

Daniel Ek, CEO of Swedish music streaming service Spotify. CREDIT: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images

Nine Inch NailsTrent Reznor, for instance, said that streaming has “mortally wounded” many artists, and James Blake recently claimed that “the brainwashing worked and now people think music is free”.

Last year, NME chaired an artist-led ‘Year in Music’ panel at the Featured Artist Coalition’s (FAC) 2023 End of Year Party, where a number of musicians spoke about these same challenges.

Murray Matravers, the frontman of the band formerly known as Easy Life, pointed out that the royalties that artists receive from streaming platforms is also severely hurting musicians’ income. “I assumed as a naive young man that if we got to where we are now then I would be really, really rich,” he said. “That’s just not the case sadly. I just want to see artists getting paid for selling records. Wouldn’t that be good? That would be a good place to start.”

Amid the pressures faced by new talent, many in the industry, including the FAC and the Music Venue Trust, called for a levy on tickets for gigs at arena size and above, and for major labels to pay back into the grassroots scene, amid a “disaster” facing live music.

Just last month, it was also reported by NME that a case had been made for a £1 ticket levy on all arena gigs to help aid the survival of grassroots venues and artists.

Here, English Teacher frontwoman Lily Fontaine – who had previously spoken to NME about the importance of grassroots music venues as essential cultural hubs – recalled how artists are facing “a crisis in terms of funding” and being able to support themselves.

 Lily Fontaine of English Teacher performs on stage at Electric Brixton on May 29, 2024 in London, England.
Lily Fontaine of English Teacher performs on stage at Electric Brixton on May 29, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns/Getty Images)

Highlighting the long list of outgoing expenses faced by artists, Fontaine mentioned studio time, rehearsal space, tour managers, engineers, van hire, musicians, non-artist fees, driver fees, accommodation, travel, carnets, visas, insurance, equipment, food, drink and photography to name a few.

“To maintain a level of professionalism in this industry, you have to have all of those things in place,” she said. “There really isn’t any money coming in to fund that. You get record labels that give you an advance that has to be split between a number of people. At the end of the day, you’re left with zero profit.”

She continued: “If you can’t support artists who are signed to a major label and you can’t support artists at a lower level, then how is anyone without money or from a regional area where they don’t have access to venues going to have an opportunity to create music and tour it?

“That leads to a homogenous music industry which leads to less diverse music scenes. If there are less diverse music scenes, then music as one of our biggest exports, is then diminished.”

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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