Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s comments claiming that artists not being paid enough is a “narrative fallacy,” and that the modern industry landscape requires “continuous engagement with fans,” has seen backlash from across the music industry. These comments have sparked criticisms from artists across genres, as performers such as Neko Case, Massive Attack, Fucked Up and Zola Jesus and more speak out against Ek’s remarks.
Zola Jesus was one of the most vocal proponents against Spotify’s measures, tweeting criticism at Ek stating he considers music as more of a “commodity” than art. In her Patreon post, she expands on these criticisms, saying that the certain music, such as songs found on “chill out playlists” do better on the platform.
as a musician i am angry and disappointed that a company with so much global influence like @Spotify can be so irresponsible in the ways in which it supports the arts
— ZOLA JESUS OF TSUSHIMA (@ZOLAJESUS) July 30, 2020
“The only ones who could potentially live off the income are the ones who are either already very successful, on a major label, or are making music that is rewarded by Spotify’s algorithm,” Zola Jesus wrote on Patreon. “It’s no surprise that certain music does better with streaming — anything that can be put on a ‘chill out’ playlist, that’s easy enough to listen to, thrown on in the background while you’re cooking… but that music isn’t music as much as it’s muzak.”
This sentiment was echoed by R.E.M.’s Mike Mills who simply stated “Music = product” before telling Ek to “Go fuck yourself.” Zoe Keating gave a similar reply telling him to “fuck off” before stating “I didn’t get where I am by doing anything a business man ever told me to do. Quite the opposite.”
Music=product, and must be churned out regularly, says billionaire Daniel Ek.
Go fuck yourself. https://t.co/zJjl3NWjLl
— Mike Mills 🌿 (@m_millsey) July 31, 2020
I didn’t get where I am by doing anything a business man ever told me to do. Quite the opposite.
— Zoe Keating (@zoecello) August 1, 2020
Pioneering trip hop group Massive Attack also lambasted Ek’s comments, stating that the algorithm “will actually replace artists.” Geoff Barrow of fellow Bristol trip hop group Portishead took a comedic approach stating that the artists that do well on the platform create “fuckin awful non descriptive live style tunes,” and to look out for his ‘chilled beats’ collection coming soon.”
In Daniel’s streaming dreams of the future, his company’s algorithms will not only determine the platform’s playlist feedback loop, they will actually replace the artists.
And he won’t have to pay anyone. https://t.co/bFy0aMDNng
— Massive Attack (@MassiveAttackUK) August 3, 2020
There are quite a few artists that do very well out of Spotify
Most of them own the rights themselves and the music is fuckin awful non descriptive live style tunes.
So look out for my “chilled beats” collection coming soon. https://t.co/xOC6b23UvU
— Geoff Barrow (@jetfury) August 2, 2020
Some more classic artists such as Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row both gave criticisms, with Snider calling the platform “part of what’s killing a major income stream for artist/creators,” while Bach called out Ek stating “When this guy puts out an album himself I will listen to him tell me about my albums.”
While you (the listener) benefit & enjoy spotify, it’s part of what’s killing a major income stream for artist/creators. The amount of artists “rich enough” to withstand this loss are about .0001%. Daniel Ek’s solution is for us to write & record more on our dime?! Fuck him! https://t.co/IpPy7QCQWB
— Dee Snider (@deesnider) August 1, 2020
When this guy puts out an album himself I will listen to him tell me about my albums https://t.co/wveGKXTIEk
— Sebastian Bach (@sebastianbach) July 31, 2020
Robyn Hitchcock who launched a solo career after leading The Soft Boys in the 1970s stated that he’s been trying to get his music off the platform. His significant other, Emma Swift, who is not a musician, posted Tweets showing how little Ek brings in from streaming services, allegedly counting in only $5600 for a year’s worth of streams. “Needless to say, once I’ve clarified the digital distribution situation with my former label, all my past recordings and those of the Soft Boys that we have control of will be removed from exploitative streaming services,” Hitchcock stated.
In Robyn’s case, he is a prolific artist with more than 20 albums on there. He’s written over 500 songs. It has been his full time job for 40 + years. He’s been playing guitar since before Daniel Ek was born.
— e m m a s w i f t (@emmaswiftsings) August 1, 2020
Country artist Mary Chaplin Carpenter criticized Ek’s comments, sarcastically, while Joan Osborne stated “Daniel Ek has no idea what he’s talking about.”
Daniel Ek has no idea what he’s talking about. He has never created any music in his life and has zero right to tell any working musician what they can and can’t do. STFU, asshat. https://t.co/3sOVRCFQOQ
— Joan Osborne (@joan_osborne) July 31, 2020
Wow, all this time I just haven’t been working hard enough RT @thefader: Spotify CEO Daniel Ek says working musicians can no longer release music only “once every three to four years.”https://t.co/OBH6iv6g3e pic.twitter.com/PuM3oWMhSN
— MaryChapin Carpenter (@M_CCarpenter) August 3, 2020
Neko Case said that Ek has “nothing to say about musicians” and criticized the timing of his comments during the pandemic. Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater stated that Ek was “suggesting we need to make MORE music for HIM to make more money!”
Also, great timing, dickweed
— Neko Case (@NekoCase) July 31, 2020
(2/2) I have 8 full album releases in 2020 & will make PEANUTS on them (if anything at all…) So his theory of artists needing to make MORE music to succeed is shit! F-@eldsjal & F-@Spotify! Support THE ARTISTS DIRECTLY if you want them to be able to continue to make music…🤬
— Mike Portnoy 🤘 (@MikePortnoy) August 3, 2020
Both Fucked Up and former New Pornographers member AC Newman took comedic approaches with the former stating “ill never forget when my dad sat me on his knee, and showed me his dusty old vinyl record collection.he pulled out Daniel Ek’s “Q2 2020 Results” LP, it was magical moment we shared & why i became a musician. whenever i hear “Audio-First Focus” come on the radio, I think of my dad.” Newman simply stated “These struggling working musicians that only want to put out a record every 3 to 4 years are the Antifa of the music industry.”
ill never forget when my dad sat me on his knee, and showed me his dusty old vinyl record collection.he pulled out Daniel Ek’s “Q2 2020 Results” LP, it was magical moment we shared & why i became a musician. whenever i hear “Audio-First Focus” come on the radio, I think of my dad https://t.co/hq2j9moEFu
— Fucked Up (@FUCKEDUP) July 31, 2020
These struggling working musicians that only want to put out a record every 3 to 4 years are the Antifa of the music industry. https://t.co/ApT4dygNqS
— Carl Newman (@ACNewman) July 31, 2020