The Killers and the Undertakers

Daniel Ek is quoted in the below referenced and linked article which begins with the Grammy president being made fun of — and accused of just about ranting — as Neil Portnow rightly repeats himself by asking, “Isn’t a song worth more than a penny?” Someone thought it would be cool to ask the CEO of Spotify what he thinks of the matter. I shall break down Mr. Ek’s answer.

Point #1: Daniel Ek, CEO and co-founder of Spotify, is the leading music streaming service in the world right now with nearly 30 million paying subscribers.

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Breakdown #1: Awesome. Love it when a business can make money. However…how many free listeners do you have, and are you paying those licensing fees? Hmmmm?

Point #2: Daniel Ek is asked: How do you respond to some artists’ claims that music streaming services are harmful to the industry? Ek answers: “Look, we pay the great majority of our revenue back to the music indsutry [sic]. And as we grow, that revenue is really making a difference.” 

Breakdown #2: “Music industry” is a generic term, Mr. Ek. So if by music industry you mean the Warner’s and the Sony’s and the CD Baby’s and the TuneCore’s and the massively under-performing performing rights organizations, then yeah…you’ve made a correct statement. However…profit at whose expense? 

Point #3: Mr. Ek states, “Many people don’t realize that the music industry was in decline throughout all the download years…. Now, finally, after years and years of decline, music is growing again, streaming is behind the growth in music, and Spotify is behind the growth in streaming.”  

Breakdown #3: Mr. Ek, you’ve grown the customer base for your service. Your service delivers ears that pay to listen through a proprietary delivery system. Which system you and others have managed to convince everyone that this is the only way to get music. Not that there’s anything wrong with innovation or claiming market share. However…downloading or streaming, theft is still occuring; and it’s not the music business that is growing, and it certainly is not being serviced to good health. 

Point #4A: “We are all in this together,” Mr. Ek replied to Quora. Mr. Ek insists that Spotify is “committed” to the success of songwriters and producers. 

Breakdown #4A: Mr. Ek, to that I call bull. All that your service and others like yours have managed to do for those songwriters and producers — you claim to be committed to — is separate them from their fan base and their money stream. However…is that completely your fault? 

Point #4B: “We are all in this together,” Mr. Ek replied. 

Point #4B: No, it isn’t. The songwriter and the artist have dropped the ball and ceased to aggressively protect and defend their rights to their own product. The reasons for that are varied, but the result is the same. So, is it any wonder that you are using what they have pretty much given away? However…while the digital aggregators and major labels act in the role of murderers of copyright protections and careers, companies such as yours act in the role of complicit undertaker who wants profit so bad he’s going to encourage business brought to his door as the gangs take over the streets. 

So when the death rate exceeds population growth, where will you get the business then?

So, Spotify et al, y’all just go right on ahead and make your fortunes on the backs of the new slave class. And y’all just go right on ahead and set up your fiefdoms and have your little serfs pick that cotton for you and spin it into gold. And y’all just proceed to send the songwriters down into the mines to put out that next big sparkly hit.

But remember this — and you cannot say you’ve not been told — the revolution has started and this is the last hurrah for the killers and the undertakers. Because the slaves and the serfs are walking off the farms and out of the mines. The big multi-nationals — top-heavy with executives who send out for their coffee — are soon not going to be able to afford a coffee pot to spit in.


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