Photo by Daniel Robert on Unsplash

It was no surprise to see some criticism of Spotify yesterday in the wake of its sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona, but this Twitter thread from the UK’s Music Venue Trust could have a constructive outcome, even if it’s clear that the charity is not impressed with the deal.

“For the amount of money Spotify have agreed to spend on TEMPORARILY branding FC Barcelona they could, instead, have secured a PERMANENT future for circa 700 UK Grassroots Music Venues,” it tweeted.

“Such an investment could have unleashed £40 million per annum into grassroots artist talent development… Spotify could have taken this money, invested it in music infrastructure, kept the asset value, improved economics for every new/emerging artist, and be making a small return on a sensible and protected investment which completely aligns with the best interests of their company.”

The Trust went on to claim that it “can’t even get Spotify to take a meeting” about these ideas. That’s something that could change, we hope. Sponsoring football teams and investing in venues is not an either/or thing, after all. As we pointed out yesterday, the rumoured price of the four-year Barca deal – $310m – was less than 9% of Spotify’s sales and marketing spend for the last four years.

Broaden this out beyond Spotify, and beyond the UK. How COULD the major streaming services invest in grassroots live-music infrastructure in a positive way? The Music Venue Trust clearly has some ideas, and we suspect NIVA in the US and other similar associations around the world would too.

The more streaming booms, the more appealing the idea of reinvesting a meaningful portion of those revenues in the grassroots live industry may become – not just for the major DSPs, but for the major labels too.

There would be challenges. You can imagine some of the reactions if, say, Spotify were to announce a big investment in independent venues. Social media would light up with accusations of ‘musicwashing’, seeing it as either an attempt to distract from the arguments about artist royalties, or some kind of nefarious power grab. The same if it were major labels.

Still, the Music Venue Trust’s thread sparks some constructive questions about how streaming services could invest and support the baseline infrastructure of the live music industry. Not just Spotify but all the major DSPs could do worse than to table some meetings to explore whether they can come up with some interesting answers – not as short-term pandemic-era support, but as a longer-term investment.

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