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metal talk
23rd September 2011

It appears that more Metal record labels are following Napalm Records and Century Media's lead by officially pulling their catalogs from online music site Spotify.

Prosthetic Records have now also officially removed their roster from Spotify, with Prosthetic co-owner E J Johantgen commenting, "There [does] not appear to be an upside. The only income from the service comes in fractions of pennies." It is also being widely reported that Metal Blade Records have begun removing albums from the Spotify service, although there has been no official statement from the label yet.

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Century Media were the first American label to announce that it would pull its catalog as the label wanted to protect the interests of its artists, saying; "Spotify as it's currently configured will "kill...smaller bands that are already struggling to make ends meet."

​The service's royalty rates had come under fire even before its US launch. Spotify has been compared unfavorably to other distribution methods and The Guardian reported that Universal Music Group and Sony Records had cut deals for more favourable rates, an accusation that Spotify has denied.

UK folk band Uniform Motion stated exactly what they stood to make from Spotify streams, and it was almost nothing. Apparently, if you play their whole album every day for three years, they'll make $40!

The stage seems to be set for another showdown between the major label conglomerates and independent companies.

Borknagar's Jens F Ryland weighed in on having their music pulled from Spotify by Century Media. Here's what he had to say on the topic:

"A couple of days ago I received a mail from Century Media stating that they had removed Borknagar and all the other Century Media bands from Spotify. In the two days after this a debate has formed and I've seen articles and comments in several zines and newspapers, including The Independent and LA Times. (sic) is even having an ongoing row with the 'Suits' of Century Media on their site. What I haven't seen yet are any comments from the musicians themselves, so let me tell you what I think of this:

"Stepping into this salad I'm still undecided which side I'm actually on. The way I see it, this situation is an ongoing shape-shift of the whole business. And it's still in it's early stages, most people and businesses are still confused and have little idea of what is going on and noone can really see the outcome of this. It makes most of the ongoing debate into a blabber of nonsense where nothing constructive comes out. Spotify are hiding the numbers, Century Media is offering critics to come work for them for free and Metalsuck are stating that most bands would be better of with no payment as it would lower the use of drugs! Guys, this isn't going to renew the music business!

"I think I just decided to not side with any of these.

"What is this all about then? It strips down to a relation between me as the musician and my audience and listeners. In this equation all the others are mere middlemen. And I want to reach my audience in a way that allows me to keep working as a musician and keeps the audience happy. As simple as that. And it involves some actual income from all the work.

"You see, the change has been made already. It came with Napster and the ability to share music and movies around for free. And even though Napster is long gone, this isn't a problem that has gone away. I would say that my decrease in income has little to do with Spotify, it's more relying on the Music-industry giants like Century Media and their lacking ability to adjust to the 'new' era. I will agree on one thing in this debate; the times where the sales of physical copies as the main income of any artist is long gone.

"The lack of interest from the younger generations to pay for the music is in a way annoying, I would have to admit that. The rise of political parties to force this policy is to me a sign of decadence. I would guess there are more important issues to any country then to force music to be a free-ware? But the message is clear.

"So we need to talk about business-models. And I'll agree to one more thing here; both Spotify and Metalsucks have discovered a business-model that not too many are fully aware of yet. Oh wait, did I just "out" Metalsucks? Maybe everyone believes that Vince Neilstein and his team are working for charity? No they are not. Their income is reliant on how many people they get to click on their website and make use of their advertisements. And don't get me wrong, it's a business-model I appreciate and make use of myself. The advantages are enormous, the audience gets to use the service for free. Advertisement pays the salary for Neilstein and his people.Isn't this just the solution to all the problems?

"But Spotify are taking advantage of peoples lack of general knowledge about this business-model. You see, the big difference is that a site like Metalsucks are making money of something they themselves created; the articles. Spotify on the other hand are selling something I made and all the other musicians and artists out there. And they're selling lots of it. And paying back minimal fees. And they are getting away with it because so few people still know what amounts we are talking about here.

"Two days ago I saw numbers from Great Britain concerning Lady Gaga. The Independent wrote about one of her hits "Pokerface" being played 1 million times in a given period, giving Lady Gaga the whipping payout of 400£. I think the equation was set up that showed that in order for Lady Gaga to reach the minimum salary in British standard she would have to reach 4,2 Million streams on Spotify. Each month!!

"175 000 paying customers in USA alone? Anyone want to do the calculation? And I would also guess that this isn't even the biggest part of their income, but the adz are. 36 million streams pr month (in USA alone)...

"This is where the current problem lies. What seems most strange to me is the utter lack of knowledge about this in the music industry. I do believe that this is now being thoroughly looked into though, by some heavy-weight players like national music organizations, the bigger labels and now also getting attention from investigative journalists.

"As you probably understand by now, I'm no big fan of Spotify either. Although I will acknowledge that what they're doing now have great entrepreneurial value. They are Pioneers into the new era of music industry, but I would guess that their offices suffers from a bit of panic. What is the nature of a process like this? If I were to launch a streaming system that actually paid something to the artists, still without charging the audience. How long would Spotify be able to compete with that? And I hope for their sake that they understand this. They will not have much time to react.

"People are making money on web, and I'm amazed that so many find that hard to believe. This is what creates possibilities for companies like Spotify.

"My revelation of the future doesn't exclude the traditional labels like Century Media. But it requires a huge reorganization. And please guys, stop saying that the physical copy will be the main source of income in the future. It will not even be the main source of income next year!"


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