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Indie artist delivers an impassioned and smart defense of Spotify

Published May 22nd, 2015 9:30PM EDT
Why Spotify Is Good Indie Musician

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Just because Jay-Z’s Tidal service has been a bomb so far, that doesn’t mean artists aren’t right to be upset about the paltry sums of money they’re receiving from Spotify. However, Fort Frances lead singer David McMillin argues over at PopMatters that musicians shouldn’t be upset at Spotify at itself but at their own record labels for taking such huge chunks of cash from Spotify royalties.

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Instead of going through a major label to distribute work on Spotify, McMillin’s band pays a distributor called TuneCore $50 per album per year to distribute the band’s records on Spotify and nearly two dozen other streaming sites and online music stores. The band made $1,359.01 in royalties from 284,575 streams in Spotify, which is vastly more per stream than what many major artists receive if they rely on their labels to distribute their work on streaming services.

That says, he knows that money in and of itself won’t let him live comfortably. However, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless to his band’s ambitions.

“Let’s face it: $1,359 is not a game-changing amount of money for a band,” he admits. “In our case, though, we’ve earned enough to cover the costs of mastering our next full-length record. At the rate our Spotify plays have been increasing, I’m betting we’ll earn enough revenue from Spotify alone to help cover gas and hotels by the time we release that record, too. That’s more than a lot of other streaming services are doing for us.”

As for Tidal, McMillin is impressed by the amount of money it pays out to artists. However, he thinks the way the app is designed around exclusives from big-name artists mean that it likely won’t reach critical mass in the same way that Spotify has.

“For emerging acts, though, the key is casting as wide net as possible,” he says. “We need as many sets of ears possible to be open to hearing us. I appreciate any service dedicated to increasing financial compensation for creative work, but I’m not convinced TIDAL will reach the critical mass necessary to make streams really start to add up.”

McMillin’s whole essay is worth checking out and can be found here.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.