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Why I Stopped Using Spotify • The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Shivani Bondada

Ever since I streamed, I’ve been a fan Spotify user. I have long praised superior discovery algorithms and social interfaces. I made a playlist every month, usually around 100 songs, my freshman year of high school. I was acutely aware of the pitfalls of the platform.

For audiophiles like me, minor differences in sound quality may be noticeable. The user interface is not as aesthetic as that of Apple Music. And perhaps the biggest flaw of all: Spotify doesn’t pay its artists fairly.

Here’s a breakdown how much the major streaming platforms pay per game. Napster pays its artists the most fairly at $0.019 per stream. Apple Music pays just $0.01 less per stream. Spotify comes in at a paltry $0.0037 per stream.

Even though Spotify remains poorly ranked in artist compensation, it is home to a big 31% of 523.9 million total subscribers to all music streaming platforms. Apple Music sits at a simple 15% by comparing.

There is a huge disparity in platform compensation and the impact of music streaming on the market. These issues have been around for longer than the past few months: the Musicians and Allied Workers Union has a page dedicated to “Justice at Spotify.” But after the recent Joe Rogan controversythe conversation took on new life.

Not only am I an avid music listener, but I love a good podcast. People talk about niche topics for what can be hours? Seriously, sign me up. Some of my personal favorites include The Daily, Charli XCX’s Best Song, Therapy Gecko, Make Art Not Content and my all time favorites: Dis/sect and Slow Burn.

However, I don’t listen to the world’s favorite podcast: The Joe Rogan Experience. It attracts an average of 11 million listeners per episode. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he has an exclusive streaming deal with Spotify for $100 million. I’m no mathematician, but to earn close to that amount just from Spotify’s royalty rate, an artist would need to have 2.7027e10 streams. That’s 27 billion streams.

The most streamed artist on Spotify is Drake with around 44 billion streams. Toward 2.7 billion Spotify streams total – not annually, that’s how Rogan’s contract is executed – seated Rex Orange County, The Police, Bon Iver and Brockhampton.

Rogan’s contract appears to compensate him $100 million for the exclusive rights to host his podcast on Spotify. More likely than not, he’s still making money from streams. With an average of 11 million streams per episode, that works out to around $40,000 per episode. Rogan also has sponsors and ads, so he makes a lot more money than most artists who rely on platforms like Spotify to distribute their work.

Much more so than the people hosting their music and not regularly dropping racial slurs and spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

Iconic Canadian folk singer-songwriter Neil Young has released a statement on its website titled “Spotify: In the Name of Truth”. He begins by writing about open letter signed by 200 doctors and featured on a gold platter at Spotify describing how dangerous Joe Rogan’s misinformation was.

Having contracted poliomyelitis during the last major outbreak in Ontario in 1951, leaving him partially paralyzed on his left side, Young is rightly passionate about COVID-19 safety. Young then states that even though he was called back by his “own legal forces which contractually [he] didn’t have control over his music,” he deleted it from Spotify anyway.

Joni Mitchell, who removed his music from Spotify in solidarity with Young, also contracted polio. These are people who endured a destructive disease that was only brought under control through a large-scale vaccination campaign. They lived the worst scenario. Plus, four-time Grammy winner India Arie circulated a video compilation of Rogan using the n-word 24 times in his podcast. She then pulled her discography from Spotify.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek claimed that Spotify had no creative control on Rogan content – they are a platform, not a publisher. But, this claim seems a bit dubious considering that after saying this, they continued to delete some of its particularly controversial episodes from the platform.

I’m a convert who now proudly swings between Tidal and Apple Music. I’ve been a fan of SoundCloud and BandCamp for a long time. I even listen to CDs. You don’t miss anything by changing. You also get higher quality music. But hey, at least it brought Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young together.