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Spotify has just announced some of the things it’s doing in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. They include launching a music relief project where the streaming service will match donations up to a total Spotify contribution of $10m, and a feature enabling artists to fundraise from fans via their Spotify profiles.

The Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief project will do several things. First, it will point people towards “verified organisations that offer financial relief to those in the music community most in need around the world” – starting with MusiCares, PRS Foundation and Help Musicians with more to come.

(PRS for Music and the PRS Foundation launched their Emergency Relief Fund earlier today.)

Second: “Spotify is making a donation to these organisations and will match donations made via the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief page dollar-for-dollar up to a total Spotify contribution of $10 million”.

This follows the announcement yesterday that Spotify and other streaming services and tech firms – Amazon Music, Facebook, SiriusXM and Pandora, Tidal and YouTube Music – would be contributing to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund in the US.

The other news today is the new feature coming to artists’ profile pages on Spotify. It’s not for on-platform fundraising – Spotify isn’t going to be the middleman for fan donations. Instead, artists will be able to “drive listeners to a fundraising destination of their choice”.

According to Spotify’s blog post, that means from their profiles they will be able to “link out to a verified funding page for themselves, for another artist in need, or for a separate initiative of their choice”. The company stressed that it’s an optional feature, and that “Spotify will not take a cut of any contributions”.

The new feature isn’t live yet, but artists (who’ll need to be registered for Spotify for Artists) can sign up via this link to be emailed when it’s ready.

One important question in the future will be whether this feature is a permanent addition to Spotify’s artist tools, or whether it will be removed when the coronavirus pandemic subsides. There has been speculation in the past about streaming services’ potential to add on-platform ‘top-up’ tips-economy (fan donation) features, akin to those offered by live-video services like Twitch and YouTube.

Today’s news clearly isn’t that: it’s a link to external fundraising pages from artists’ profiles, which like the existing merch and ticketing features, relies on fans visiting those pages.

There might be scope in the future for a little more push to be put behind it: some kind of on-screen button when you’re playing an artist’s music alerting you to the fact that they’re fundraising, for example. Or even personalised emails sent out to fans, letting them know which of their favourite artists are raising funds using the new feature?

The point being that if lots of artists start adding these links, Spotify might be encouraged to promote them in interesting ways. Even if it’s not a tips economy, today’s announcement is an interesting step towards doing more around fan-funding, perhaps, once the current crisis subsides.

Meanwhile, Spotify’s SoundBetter subsidiary, which connects ‘music talent’ including musicians, songwriters, producers and mixing/mastering pros, is waiving its revenue share; its Soundtrap online recording studio is extending free trials for educators; and its podcast-making app Anchor is waiving fees for its ‘Listener Support’ (tips) feature.

Spotify has also launched a COVID-19 hub on its service, drawing together “relevant news and information about the pandemic”, and is making some of its advertising inventory available for health and safety public service announcements from government and non-profit organisations.

Spotify has taking some flak on social media recently, as a lightning rod for streaming more generally, with calls for the company to up its payouts to help artists and songwriters hit by the loss of other revenue streams like live.

While these calls have often seemed to misunderstand how Spotify’s payouts work – they’re a percentage of its revenues, rather than set per-stream payments that could be (as one campaign requested) tripled suddenly.

(Others are more realistic: this afternoon, for example, UK songwriters body the Ivors Academy has called for digital services and collecting societies to “divert £100m+ of black box streaming royalties into a new hardship fund” for musicians. That may be worth exploring.)

However, these demands did come from an understandable core view: that with live and physical sales suffering, the big streaming services could and should step up to support the community of music-makers that has helped them to build their businesses.

With that in mind, today’s announcements from Spotify; yesterday’s news from MusiCares; and (we’re sure) more to come from the various streaming services, is good news.

As Amazon Music’s Steve Boom (who’s also chair at MusiCares) put it the other day: “We’re all in when the good times roll, and it’s important that we’re all in when times are tough, too.”

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