Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

9 thoughts on “The Coming Spotify Royalty Sh*tstorm. This is Going to Get Weird. REALLY Weird.

  • December 31, 2015 at 6:07 am

    There’s a scary side-issue here that’s nothing to do with Spotify. OK. Just pretend I put up a song on YouTube that became the new Duck Song (the amount of hits that thing’s had is genuinely beyond belief unless you see it!) I didn’t write/record the song, just heard it, liked it, put it up there and everyone listened to it. Would I personally be responsible for making sure the artist got paid as I was the one who streamed the song via YouTube? And how about all the other people who put up songs on YouTube, with disclaimers? Are they actually the ones owing the streaming payments as they streamed the song?

    I genuinely don’t understand what the line is here. If I can put up a track with a disclaimer and I’m OK, what’s stopping Spotify from doing the same thing en masse? And also, Spotify’s a great way for a little-known artist to get his music heard and therefore, hopefully, bought. If Spotify gets taken down, what replacement way would there be to actually get to hear new music? And would all the songs put up with disclaimers on YouTube have to be taken down because the people who put them up aren’t paying anyone royalties? Wouldn’t that mean the only people online would be a few superstars who can make sure they get royalties, making the already wealthy singers even wealthier?

    Sure all this royalty business is great – but isn’t actually being able to get your music heard even better? And if anyone who wants to put a song they’ve heard online has to pay to do so, wouldn’t that just about kill the Internet as far as freedom goes? I guess in a muddle-headed way I’m worried all of this could lead to the Net just being a platform for pay-per-view/pay-to-listen/subscriber-only services that a lot of people won’t be able to afford to use instead of the free marketplace for ideas and creativity it should be.

    I’m all in favor of artists getting what should be theirs, I just don’t want the Net to be brought down by both sides yelling and greed levels escalating. I’d be happy to forgo a few bucks I maybe should have gotten paid just to know that a load of people are hearing my song who wouldn’t be otherwise. I’ve even got an idea for a compromise.

    Why not have links to artists’ websites from songs on Spotify? Then you hear a song you like, click on the link and buy it from the website (for say a buck or so? – Amount to be worked out if that’s a wrong amount.) That way people who get heard and liked could be bought as almost an ‘impulse buy’, while the song’s fresh in the listener’s head.

    End of my rant! Hope someone reads and answers it if I’m wrong here.


    • December 31, 2015 at 8:03 am

      All interesting questions. Like I said, this is a complex issue with many, many players.

  • December 31, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    “And if anyone who wants to put a song they’ve heard online has to pay to do so, wouldn’t that just about kill the Internet as far as freedom goes?”

    You make some interesting points but Im not sure i agree with the above quote. Youre saying freedom to take someone elses work and post it online. How about this: If you could digitally transfer the recipe for Pepsi to a home drink dispenser that had all the ingredients prepared and automatically mixed it to taste exactly like Pepsi and you then pour as much at home as you wish for free forever, would stopping that be bad for internet freedom?

    • December 31, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Well, if you did that, you would be appropriating a secret formula for a commercially-available product, one protected by a patent.

  • January 1, 2016 at 5:53 am

    (to Murray mainly) You can do that already, it’s called SodaStream! I’m not saying it’s ‘right’ for Spotify to withhold payments, knowingly or otherwise, it’s just I can see the streams of dominoes tumbling from this one. OK. Spotify streams a track by Fred and doesn’t pay Fred anything for streaming it. That’s bad, they owe Fred money. But. If I took the same track, loved it, made a little video for it and put it on YouTube (as I’ve seen done by loads of people) and didn’t pay Fred anything for streaming his song, I’d be as guilty as Spotify for the same reason, streaming his song without payment to him. Thing is, not being a big company I prob. couldn’t afford to pay to put Fred’s track up there.

    So I wouldn’t do it.

    Which would mean that YouTube would slowly become the Internet’s MTV, just full of all the Justin Biebers of this world who have companies behind them who CAN afford to pay to get tracks streamed. And all the little videomakers, little music guys, would lose a massive showplace for their creativity. Unless of course they put the tracks up themselves – but then anyone who wanted to use the track on a video they’d made wouldn’t be able to without paying money. Unless of course the creator of the track put a Disclaimer underneath allowing his track to be used on videos – but even that could have a fallout – if – say – an advert. company wanted to use his track on an advert., they wouldn’t have to pay him because they could take it off YouTube and use his disclaimer rather than going to a licensing company like De Wolfe and paying to use a bit of it. So for sure get money out of big business, just make sure the fallout from any judgements doesn’t hit targets it’s not aimed at. I don’t have any answers myself apart from the following which doesn’t really even satisfy me – accept small streaming rates/losses on streaming to get exposure for your work which hopefully can be turned into cash further down the line. Like if when Spotify plays any track, a link comes up to somewhere you can buy the track/album so while the guy’s listening to it and loving it, he can impulse-buy it (the beauty of PayPal, you can let people pay with a few clicks before they get distracted!) Maybe even have a corporate version of Spotify that works with licensing companies such as DeWolfe – search for a kinda music they like in Corporate Spotify, click on link, get taken to licensing company, buy the 30 seconds they want for their advert (or whatever).Again you’re relying on people not to just record the track using Audacity, maybe shove the word ‘Preview!’ in at 30 second intervals or so?

    The last thing that worries me about ramifications from Spotify is that if you scare people off from playing tracks online (like Grooveshark or whoever, or Pandora, especially them!) then many artists will lose the chance of getting heard. Pandora’s especially worrying to me because they choose new artists based on people you like and Mr. New Age here’s found absolutely wonderful composers purely by using Pandora! If it hadn’t been for that lot I’d never have heard of them and yes, I did buy their music legally afterwards. I’m sorta wondering if it might be worth just getting what you can from the cheating streamers like Spotify (and I’ve read up on them, I’m not trying to stick up for them but a lot of it seems to be them swamped under tsunamis of tracks. “You owe $0.10 for playing New Day Dawning…’ ‘Who’s? I’ve got 50 tracks here called that?’ ‘I dunno, someone just called….’) Ineptitude as much as intentional wrongdoing, which doesn’t make it any better of course! Pandora’s a bit different, I feel. Because it’s the Pandora SYSTEM choosing the next artist, and not a random listener, they can automatically clock up an extra dime (or however much it is) to a guy’s account every time the system chooses one of his songs. It’s all tree structures, computer managed and controlled. Spotify/Grooveshark et al are more random grabs and I can see play-pays slipping through the nets of those systems. Which to reiterate doesn’t make it any more RIGHT….

    I really just don’t want all the little artists out there shooting themselves in the foot over this one, losing big chances to get heard for the sake of a few immediate bucks, nice though those bucks might be. And it would be very sad, I feel, if YouTube became the domain of Sony and big business labels only just because they could virtuously afford to cough up the bucks the little guys could not.

    Oh well. End of current rant! Was only intended to be a sentence when it started, this.

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