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Australian Hi-Fi Magazine

March / April 2022


Editor's Lead In
Money Talks
Spotify uses a version of the 'bait and switch' selling tactic to get users on their Premium platform.
Editorial By Greg Borrowman


Australian Hi-Fi Magazine March / April 2022


  I have often railed about the miserly amount of money musicians are paid by streaming services, and have always encouraged readers to try to buy direct from those musicians from their own websites either as downloads or as physical media, or by using platforms such as Bandcamp.

My constant frustration is that so few users of streaming services realise how the money they pay for their subscription is distributed. First, let's say that you're paying $144 a year for your subscription. The sad truth is that only around $18 of that goes to musicians. Even sadder, most of that measly $18 doesn't go to the musicians whose music you're actually listening to, but to the musicians whose music the streaming services' algorithms say are the most popular. Apparently Deezer is working on what it calls a 'user-centric payment system' (UCPS) that would ensure that subscriber revenues directly benefit the artists they listen to, but it's not up and running, and no other streaming companies appear to be interested in developing their own UCPS.

One might ask why musicians allow their music to be streamed at all. According to Charles Harrison of the law firm Carroll & O'Dea, it's because musicians are currently in a position where they have no choice but to engage in the streaming industry despite its exploitation of them. "The problem is the arguable belief that it is the streaming platform, as opposed to the music contributed by artists, that is the product," he says.


Australian Hi-Fi Magazine March / April 2022


Spotify, in particular, uses a version of the 'bait and switch' selling tactic to get user to pay for its Premium platform. How this works is that when you try out the 'free version' (as you inevitably would!) you will get to hear all your music with almost no advertising whatsoever, so you'll get sucked into the streaming experience. However if you continue to use the free version, they'll gradually stick in more and more advertising until you're almost listening to more adverts than music, at which point you'll likely decide to switch to the paid, ad-free version. The result, says Harrison, is that many casual music fans are now spending more money on music than they did on downloads or CDs. "But the nature of the exchange has utterly changed: people are not paying for music but for a lack of advertising. The music is available either way," he says.

Spotify in particular is not only music, it also supports podcasters such as Joe Rogan, who's in trouble for spreading misinformation about Covid, but also for maligning people of colour. The horror of this is not only the behaviour of Joe Rogan himself, but that if you have a paid subscription, you're actually personally complicit in his tirades because you're actually paying him to make them. I'm not surprised that Neil Young told Spotify he would not share a platform with Rogan, so it was either him or Rogan. Needless to say, Spotify chose Rogan, because he makes them more money. The only light note in the Joe Rogan saga was James Blunt's threat that if Rogan wasn't removed, he'd release more music on Spotify.


Greg Borrowman





Australian Hi-Fi Magazine

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