Gin Wigmore has a love-hate relationship with streaming music. With Spotify. The New Zealander with the mighty voice is, like so many other recording artists, frustrated by the peanuts which rain down from the world’s leading streaming service. Or let’s call it muffins.
When we chatted some months ago from her U.S. base, Wigmore didn’t hide her frustration with the cash-flow situation. Her interviewer, one of the scores of millions of Spotify subscribers, had paid a small fee to consume a smorgasbord of music. Gin’s music. “Oh, for free? Thanks,” she said with a laugh. On the royalties that flow down, “I couldn’t afford a muffin a month on that,” she admitted. “It’s pretty rough.”
Wigmore has the record biz on her side. The IFPI’s CEO Frances Moore has talked about the “enormous anomaly,” the disparity between the explosion of music consumption across myriad services and the revenues returned to creators and content investors. The “value gap” is at the top of the stack of industry issues right now.
Spotify is something of an easy target. It’s the biggest of its kind, the most popular player in a sector driving growth in the global recorded music biz. How big? The company announced in March it had reached 50 million subscribers, and its user base tops 140 million (the majority on the free tier). Its name is part of the vernacular; Spotify has become the default for all-you-can-eat streaming.
Yes its debt burden is a worry, and the “fake artists” story is fresh, but Spotify isn’t going away anytime soon. According to reports out of the U.S. overnight, Sony Music Entertainment has inked a content agreement with the streamer, which leaves Warner Music as the only major music to reach licensing terms. Plans are to take the company public later this year or early next (presumably depending on when it locks up a deal with Warner). A spokesperson for Spotify declined to comment.
For artist it’s about choice, And compromise. Will cash fall from the sky anytime soon? Fat chance. But the future is better than the recent past. In a guest post with Billboard earlier this year, CD Baby boss Tracy Maddux advised indie artists: “don’t ignore a huge opportunity to connect with fans who are streaming. There will be millions more in 2017.” Or in other words, opt out, and miss out on opportunities. And muffins.
The industry and the artists will keep calling for a fair go. Until then, perhaps it’s time to dig deep for those who create the soundtracks to our lives. “Imagine a world without music,” Wigmore says. “It would be so sad and awful and weird and not a good place to be in. Think about that every time. Maybe donate a bit extra, to music. “