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Is your Spotify packed for 2021? Treat it like a shopping list and directly support artists.


Every year, Spotify gives its hundreds of millions of users a nice little gift: their own listening data, neatly packaged with bright graphics and increasingly squeaky versatile text pretending to be personalized. It’s extremely shareable, inevitably memorized, and generally a reliable blend of precision and hilarious outside of the core. (Petition that all playlists simply named “Sleep” be banned from 2022.)

The sad truth, of course, is that all of those numbers – streams and minutes listened to and different sub-sub-genres of fake-sounding pop – hide the one that really matters. Now that streaming has largely replaced buying as the dominant model of music consumption, the vast majority of artists need you to actually buy things from them in order to make a living.

Spotify sadly pays artists fractions of a penny per stream. The actual amount of money that goes to artists varies depending on the share taken by labels and distributors. But most sources agree that Spotify pays between $ 0.003 and $ 0.005 per stream, and that is before the money is divided according to the terms set out in the distribution contracts.

The money is not taken directly from your monthly Premium Fees (or income paid from the ads you listen to, if you are on the Free tier) and paid to artists you listen to personally. Instead, it all goes into a big pot, which is then split between artists (and labels) based on how many of their songs have helped build up Spotify’s billions of streams each month.

Safe to say that Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Nas X secure the bag in other ways besides having some of the most popular songs in the world. But for small artists – even with hundreds of thousands of listeners – it’s brutal here.

Peter Hollo is a musician and radio host from Sydney who performs in post-rock / electronic / jazz four-piece Tangents. The group released a double album this year through a US-based label.

“We handled 170.7K streams and 71.9K listeners,” he told Mashable via email. “It sounds impressive, but it translated to triple numbers in our pockets at best.”

The artists are starting to fight back, with a new union protesting at Spotify offices earlier this year and campaigning consistently for a fairer model ever since, including a penny per stream payment. Some people have been keen to ditch Spotify to protest this power imbalance – either in favor of other platforms that pay (fractionally) more, or to revert to buying only old-fashioned music, as an album and of single.

But it’s still a useful and fairly comprehensive platform for music discovery and access. There is no shame, really, in continuing to shell out your hard earned money for this pleasure and privilege, nor is there any need to keep your Instagram or Amazon account as it is convenient for viewing photos. of your nieces or have things delivered. hurry. (Yes, your ethical mileage may vary, but it’s up to you.)

What you can also do, however, is make an effort to support artists who make the music you love.


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Making music is expensive. Even at the most popular level, artists have to pay for equipment (whether it’s a single laptop or several expensive instruments), insurance, paying their managers and crew, hosting and travel for touring, time spent in the studio, mixing and / or mastering, and the costs associated with physically releasing the music – not to mention the countless hours of training, rehearsing and writing and composing leading to the recording of a single song.

It all has to happen, over and over again, so that you can put on something to dance or run or cook or sob. And working musicians have had the hardest two years in living memory, COVID-19 essentially shutting down live music for everyone except the most irresponsible acts and places.

So this year, treat your Spotify Wrapped like a shopping list.

“It takes a ridiculously low number of digital sales to eclipse all streaming royalties.”

– Peter Hollo, musician

Look at your top performers and go buy them something, whatever you can afford. Buy a digital or physical album on their official website or at your local record store. Buy a ticket to their shows, not just festivals, if you’re vaccinated and feel comfortable doing it – they missed seeing your faces! And get yourself a shirt or other gear off the merchandising table while you’re at it, if you can afford it. Shows are generally the best place to buy merchandise, as usually more of what you pay will be in the artist’s pocket with fewer middlemen and overheads like postage and e-commerce, but online. also works.

For digital music, see if you can buy your favorite songs or albums on Bandcamp, a platform that only takes 10 to 15 percent of the sale price (and also gives you the option of paying more than the minimum if you wish). Even if you can only afford one song, for the price of a cup of coffee it will mean something to this artist that you put in the effort and spared the change.

“For digital [Bandcamp is] really the best, but all digital purchases are good, ”Hollo explained. “It takes a ridiculously low number of digital sales to eclipse all streaming royalties. “

And try to spend your money where it makes the most difference. Yes, you’ve mostly listened to Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift all year round like so many other people, and the money spent on music is never wasted. But the $ 30 that you could deposit a shit sour bucket hat is almost certainly better spent on a shirt or two whole digital albums by that aberrant indie artist you rehearsed throughout the spring and then forgotten until your Wrapped reminds you of it.

Even though it sounds like a token gesture to go pay a few bucks on Bandcamp for a song you’ve loved this year, even if you never listen to that copy and keep playing it on Spotify, it’s a convenient way and meaningful to help the musicians who got you through this year, so they can get you through whatever 2022 brings.