Spotify’s artist relations team held a series of events in the US in recent weeks to talk to artists about the company specifically, and streaming more generally.
Billboard has an even-handed report of how one of the meetings went, noting that artist Blake Morgan wasn’t impressed. “Spotify reached out to me earlier and made it very clear they don’t want to be the next Pandora. Unfortunately, that’s not from a policy perspective; that’s from a PR perspective. The meeting was very disappointing,” he says.
But the Featured Artists Coalition’s Paul Pacifico claims that Morgan was one of “two or three very, very vocal people who came with a strong agenda to deliver some messages to Spotify, as opposed to what we hoped would be more of a dialogue”.
Meanwhile, Spotify’s Mark Williamson also suggests that these voices derailed the desired debate, for example by fixating on why Spotify isn’t about to raise the percentage of revenues that it pays out for streams.
“What I was trying to explain is that we’re a revenue share model. How do we increase the amount of revenue – the pot of royalties – which increases the amount we pay out?” he says, with Billboard noting his exasperated tone while saying this. It sounds tense, and to some extent, Spotify is suffering from past artist anger with Pandora, as implied by Morgan’s quote.
But it’s to the company’s credit that it arranged these meetings with the FAC, having already published more information (through its Spotify Artists site and through making analytics available to artists) on how its business operates from a musician’s point of view than all of its rivals put together.
With no media present at the US meetings, there’s only secondhand impressions of how willing Spotify was to listen to artists’ concerns – and, indeed, for artists like Morgan to listen to Spotify’s explanations.
But beware of labelling such initiatives a failure simply because the discussions were heated: if anything, that’s a reason we need more of this direct contact between artists and digital services, not less – whether that’s in (semi) public events or one-to-one meetings.