This week’s big digital music story is Spotify and streaming music payouts. Again. A series of independent labels and distributors have been pulling their catalogues from streaming services, citing low payouts and cannibalisation of download sales.

One of the artists affected is UK production trio Blu Mar Ten, as we reported earlier today.

A message had been posted on the group’s Facebook page (Update: and since deleted) headed “Word from our distributor about Spotify / Simfy / Rdio / Napster & all other streaming services”, with the following text (presented as a quote from the distributor):

“We have taken the decision to no longer provide content to any of the above streaming-type music services. This decision is based on the fact that the revenue from such services is negligible and these services cannibalise revenue from the likes of iTunes.

The following facts have been established.

* Q3 was the first full quarter supplying content to all the above services.
* Overall digital revenue for the quarter was down 14%.
* iTunes EU Q3 revenue down 24%
* This is the first time ever our digital revenues have fallen
* Spotify / Simfy / Rdio / Napster accounted for 82% of all tracks ‘consumed’ in Q3
* Spotify / Simfy / Rdio / Napster generated just 2.6% of Q3 revenue
* Spotify / Simfy / Rdio / Napster revenues are tiny. (e.g. Spotify total Q3 streams = 750,000 = tracks. Spotify Q3 revenue = £2500)

All content is currently being removed from Spotify / Simfy / Rdio / Napster.”

This message appeared under a full status update that read simply: “Haha –” pointing to a site displaying this message:

“Just a quick note to thank you ever so much for offering artists, musicians and songwriters everywhere the chance to preserve our credibility by offering us (spelled: dictating to us) royalty rates that even a crack-head would turn down. We really don’t like getting paid for our music, and thanks to you and other apps like you, we won’t have to be bothered by it. Love & Kisses, Every musician and songwriter in the world.”

So, it’s Blu Mar Ten’s distributor ST Holdings that has removed their music from Spotify and other streaming music services, not the group themselves. The statement is published on its own website, and also quoted in this piece by music site The Wire:

“As a distributor we have to do what is best for our labels. The majority of which do not want their music on such services because of the poor revenues and the detrimental affect on sales. Add to that the feeling that their music loses its specialness by its exploitation as a low value/free commodity. Quoting one of our labels ‘Let’s keep the music special, fuck Spotify.’”

That phrase again.

But it’s fair to assume from Blu Mar Ten’s posting of the first statement and the link that they’re not Spotify’s biggest fans. They certainly aren’t the only artists to feel like that.

Chris Marigold from Blu Mar Ten posted a comment on our original story, clarifying that those comments about negligible revenues and cannibalisation came from ST Holdings, not the group.

“A number of the 238 labels from ST Holding’s roster have posted & tweeted the news, we just happened to be the ones who got picked up on. Not really sure why our name’s plastered all over these articles to be honest. We’re one of STH’s smaller acts!”

One reason Blu Mar Ten’s name may be prominent in coverage of the decision is that one third of the band works for Apple.

Leo Wyndham is listed on LinkedIn as director of iTunes Europe – Music, and his photo on the business social network looks like it was taken from the same photo shoot that provided the images for Blu Mar Ten’s own site.

Woah there with the conspiracy theories. Wyndham is only one third of Blu Mar Ten, and the group (or their distributors) can make their music available on whatever services and stores they like, for whatever reasons they like.

Meanwhile, there are enough labels and artists publicly expressing their concerns about streaming payouts to scotch the suggestion that this week’s spate of anti-Spotify stories are some kind of dirty tricks campaign by Apple.

There is a pressing need for a more transparent debate around these issues. PaidContent has a very good piece calling for exactly this, which is where the Blu Mar Ten updates were originally referenced. Spotify and its rivals have questions to answer, and work to do to convince some artists and labels that streaming can a.) co-exist with downloads, and b.) pay off in the long term as the scale of these services increases.

Transparency cuts both ways, though – Wyndham’s role at Apple is a relevant fact in his group’s implied criticism of Spotify in those Facebook posts.

In a final twist, the PaidContent article has been updated today with details of his role, and another clarification by Marigold that Wyndham “is no longer an active band member and has no influence over its public stance toward streaming services”.

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