Another day, another artist piling onto Spotify for its payouts. This time it’s Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis, with the attention-grabbing claim that he’d rather fans stole his music than streamed it.

“I’d rather somebody stole the record on vinyl than bought it or streamed it on Spotify. Because I think you should listen to music on vinyl, and I think basically anything’s better than that,” he told Channel 4 News.

“It’s like going to a restaurant when the chef and all the waiting staff have worked their asses off, and you leave coppers as a tip, and you don’t even pay the bill. That’s basically what Spotify’s like, I think.”

Note, Foals haven’t (yet) pulled any of their albums from Spotify: 2008’s ‘Antidotes’, 2010’s ‘Total Life Forever’ and this year’s ‘Holy Fire’ are all available to stream on the service.

So how much is that “insulting pittance”? Foals’ profile page on Spotify gives us a few clues in its ‘Popular’ section, which shows the 10 most popular Foals tracks on the service. Nine of them are from ‘Holy Fire’, which was released on 11 February, and their cumulative streams so far on Spotify are nearly 22.3m – 22,282,762 plays if you want specifics.

Maths time. We’ll take as our starting point this SonicScoop piece, which notes that average gross payouts from Spotify are around $0.005 per play for ad-supported streams, $0.0075 for streams on the $5-a-month Spotify Unlimited subscription, and $0.015 for streams on the full Spotify Premium service. These are rough (and rapidly-changing) numbers, but they’ll do for a start.

If those nine tracks from Foals’ latest album had all been streamed by free Spotify users, the gross payout might be around $111.4k. If they were all streamed by Premium users, it might be $334.3k. Clearly, it’s somewhere in between.

We’re not taking sides in this dispute, as ever. Unknowns include how Foals split their income (both in terms of recorded music and songwriting royalties), and just as importantly, the terms of their contract with label Warner Music. There’s no way of knowing what numbers Philippakis is seeing on his royalty statements regarding Spotify.

More unknowns: we don’t know how much money Foals has made from sales of ‘Holy Fire’ and the live gigs around it; nor do we know how much money they’ve made from other streaming services, from Deezer and Rdio to YouTube; nor is there any way of knowing how much the album will be streamed in the months and years to come.

There’s lots we don’t know. We know that Foals wouldn’t make anything from stolen vinyl copies of the album, which depending on your views either shows how heartfelt Philippakis’ anger at Spotify is, or makes him sound rather chop-nose-facey about streaming music. Update: Ahem, Foals might make money from stolen vinyl if the retailer has already bought it, of course, as pointed out first by Brian Steele on Twitter.

We do suspect a fair few waiting staff working their arses off would quite fancy swapping their pay packets for Foals’ Spotify royalties, but a poorly-chosen metaphor doesn’t mean the views of such a prominent artist shouldn’t be considered as part of the wider debate around streaming and artists.

More on artists and streaming
It’s crunch time for streaming to justify its value for musicians. Here’s how.
Amanda Palmer, Will.I.Am, Imogen Heap and Zoe Keating talk music disruption
Artists to sue labels over streaming earnings in Sweden

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  1. The last mail out I received about vinyl was from Warp regarding the BoC re-releases. The to-the-point mail had nice, big links to said albums on the usual streaming services. They had in fact only just been added, in conjunction with the vinyl releases. This struck me as an excellent use, and a label rightly seeing Spotify et al as the shop window rather than the main shop, for now, and so ideal for promo newsletters.

  2. I’ve never read an interview with him where he isn’t having a whinge about something. Massive chip on shoulder.

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