Beginning of the end for Spotify?

There’s a really interesting article in Music Business Worldwide this week about how Neil Young’s – and now, it seems, Joni Mitchell’s – decoupling from Spotify could mark the beginning of the end for the streaming giant. I certainly wouldn’t mourn its end.

The article is below. Some of the numbers are quite interesting, and could apply to anyone outside of the pop mainstream; and the argument about the music streaming ecosystem becoming more like that for films and TV is really persuasive.


Apple Music and Tidal have been trolling Spotify:


Hi Kevster, did I read he was an artist that already sold his catalogue ?

Kev, bear in mind I’ve already removed one thread in this. There’s lots of politics at the root of this that’s hard to avoid here.

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@Richard.Dane – yes, I know – but am not talking about the rights or wrongs of Young or Mitchell leaving Spotify, or the company “choosing” Rogan over Young (nor does the article I linked to). It’s an argument about long term trends, about economics and about how the Spotify model is out of date and probably not sustainable in the long term, and hat artists are finding new ways of making (or scraping) a living.

This is a key quote from the article:

This long-running, flawed music business dogma that to turn your back on Spotify is to turn your back on progress – and likely your own career – is now provably defunct.

Arguing otherwise, well, it feels a bit like King Canute holding back the tide.

I’m optimistic that if people read the article properly we can steer clear of forbidden territory… :slightly_smiling_face:


I believe he has – but that’s about publishing, not his mechnicals.

And here’s another key quote from the MBW article:

Sidenote: Those sniggering at Neil Young as a supposed luddite might want to chow down on this fact.

In October 2019, the Neil Young Archive – the online destination where Young presents his full music catalog and other digital trinkets for a $1.99 per month subscription – had 25,000 subscribers.

That’s an annual take of over $600,000, roughly equivalent to 150 million Spotify plays, every 12 months.

With the PR momentum his latest Spotify walkout has given him, these numbers could easily be tugged upwards, striking a meaningful blow for the D2C monthly fan subscription model versus the 60,000-additional-tracks-a-day morass of Spotify’s song soup.


Music doesn’t work like movies and series do though, I don’t think many people are willing to pay for multiple streaming accounts. [/quote]

There’s no proof of that, and if there is I would love to see it. Spotify is now the only major streamning platform to offer a free, ad-funded tier. And the article cited, analysts estimate that by as early as 2024, three-quarters of worldwide streaming music subscribers will be using a platform that isn’t Spotify.

The real problem is the amount of money music artists generate from streaming services, it simply isn’t enough, except for a few artists who can negotiate better deals. Being present on a music service isn’t necessary if you can get more attention on YouTube (the MTV of this period) or TikTok.

YouTube pays artists even less than Spotify, but I agree, upcoming artists are more likely to get breaks via YT or TikTok than Spotify. One could even argue that for everyone who isn’t Ed Sheeran, it’s not really that important to be on Spotify any more.


Spotify isn’t going to surrender Rogan easily. They recognised the music issue some time ago and have been repositioning themselves in other areas like podcasts. If they take the offending item down then some of their big ticket podcasters will walk with him knowing they have homes elsewhere. The loss will likely be bigger than the loss of Young and Mitchell. Long slow death then.

I can see Spotify becoming home to podcasts and mainstream pop, but I am resonably sure we’ll see “heritage” rock acts, classical music, jazz and other “minority” interests exiting because they can make more money in D2C platforms. I think 10 years’ hence, the music industry will look very different.

An interesting quoestion to ask: will people still be listening to Rogan in 10, 20, 50 years’ time? Not sure. But you can bet that people will be listening to the rock, classical and jazz giants… I know which I would back if I were playing the long game.


Another interesting article, of which you can make of what you will…

It’s going to be a blip. To some degree it’s going to depend on the contracts. Was Neil allowed to end it. I sort of do not think so. Spotify did him a favor. I doubt they will keep doing it. I doubt there is a long list of artists willing to give up revenue. Plus these apps are expanding to Podcasts etc. Would Jerry Seinfeld turn down a $100M from Netflix because Reed Hastings voted for such and such. Doubtful.

You’re missing the point Greg. Direct to consumer (eg BandCamp, but there are other platforms I’m sure will emerge) is the way to go. Podcasters are signed to do exclusive deals with big upfront, one-off payments. Musicians don’t get those opportunities. So why do musicians need to use an intermediary like Spotify when it gives them very little back?


Got to love James Bland.


Freudian slip?

Warners complied with Young’s request that they ask Spotify to remove his work. In most artist-label contracts the label undertakes to disseminate the artist’s music as far as possible. It is extremely unlikely that in a court of law, if any artist requested, with good reason, that their work be removed from a platform and the label or platform failed to comply, that the court would find in favour of the label, or the streaming platform.

If one of my artists said to me, I would like not to be on Spotify, I could get it removed quite easily (it might take a few days or weeks) with a simple call or email to my distro. A widget maker can sell to the public by whatever means he wishes – if he doesn’t want to sell his goods through Amazon or Tesco, he doesn’t have to. Same with music.

Spotify seem to be increasingly disinterested in music listeners, and having waited for nearly a year for the lossless streams, I’m just about ready to move.

Reasons for dissatisfaction/moving:

  1. money going to artists. Not sure if this is exclusively a Spotify issue. I spend far more on streaming than I did on buying CDs or LPs, but less of that hits the artists’ wallet. It’s a bit of a stitch up by the middle men, but it doesn’t bode well for bringing on the artists of the future (although having to tour and making money from that is possibly where it’s always been for the majority.

  2. failure to offer a lossless option. I suspect, with Naim, I have a system where the difference might be noticeable. Again, it’s a technical challenge - easier to build for than switch too. But the appalling failure in communicating plans makes you realise they don’t actually care about what promises they make - they’re just thinking about the aggregate and not the individual customer.

Reasons for staying put (lock ins):

  1. all our listening devices support Spotify. The key things are the two TVs with sound bars and the Naim. Tidal is only supported on the newer TV and the Naim. So would have to buy a chromecast or Apple TV to get it on the old Tv. But there’s a lot of convenience with it on natively the TV. I’m loathe to replace the TV as it’s nowhere near old enough to bin.

  2. Spotify is currently a bit cheaper - £13.99 a month for Duo, vs £14.99 a month for tidal family.

  3. comfort. I’ve Been using Spotify since day one. Used to its interface. I Like the discovery stuff. One of the reasons for going streaming is to discover new music, this is actually quite a good feature of Spotify. I’ve not played with tidal yet.

I’m really not sure about the podcasts. Spotify is a nice app to use - better than the apple IOS app, for example. However, BBC radio 4 has been doing “podcasts” for about 100 years now; the production quality is better and the range is pretty good. And I mostly still listen to R4 stuff on Spotify. But, avoiding any political aspect, in the U.K. broadcasters are regulated, and have a duty to avoid the kind of issues that Spotify is falling foul of. You can argue the toss about how well the regulation works, but it’s a framework that’s in place.

One good thing, the other half is now up for a switch, which, given some outlay to get it working on devices, the loss of features, and extra cost of tidal, I was feeling a bit selfish as I’m the only one that really listens to the NAIM where the better quality can be appreciated.

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Happens all the time I can never get Ed S***ran correct.

He sold 50% to Hipgnosis last year I believe…

An excellent read and thanks for posting it…give an interesting perspective on the future of streaming services