That’s according to the bigger-than-life vision of Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, who deftly parlayed questions about measley artist compensation into much larger possibilities during a recent SXSW chit-chat. All of which informed a subtext that sounded like this: if you’re focused on pennies today, you’re missing out on all those dollars tomorrow.
During the ‘fireside chat,’ held at the Long Center theater in downtown Austin, Ek outlined a service that will ultimately have a billion users and plenty of ‘decent wages‘ to go around. “Artists shouldn’t be asking ‘How much am I being paid per stream,’ but instead ‘How many times could my song be played?'”
“I want to get back to the time when artists can create a piece of music for five years without worrying about how to pay rent,” Ek said.
So again, if you’re focused on half-a-penny streams or non-existent pass-throughs from your label, you’re missing the point! Just look at any successful Spotify artist, like, I don’t know… David Guetta: “David Guetta now has more than four million followers on Spotify,” Ek told the near-capacity crowd. “So whenever he posts a song, it automatically goes out to those four million people who instantly get a notification on their phones.”
“This is a really huge marketing opportunity for artists.”
Yet marketing is now super-complicated according to Ek, despite costs that are careening towards zero. “We don’t charge any artists to be on the Spotify platform,” Ek said. “That means distribution basically costs zero. Yet weirdly enough, marketing has now become tougher than it ever was before: you have to be on social media, YouTube, Spotify, you have to have all those things working really well for you.”
So how can an artist become just like Guetta? The question is whether Spotify can create an ecosystem large enough to support that level of aspiration, or if Ek’s envisioned ‘new radio‘ is just a way to spread the word. During the talk, Ek revealed that Spotify now has 6 million paying subscribers and 24 million users, but this is a company still in the red and burning millions in investor cash.
And can streams really pay the rent? Just ahead of the Ek talk, Nielsen presented research that suggested that artists could collectively ramp their revenues by more than $2.6 billion – if they were only selling the right things to the right fans (the so-called ‘Aficionados’). Separately, companies like BandPage are trying to create just the platform for that sort of direct-fan ‘Experience,’ all with the idea of tapping the most willing buyers.
Which means, paying the rent could be a lot more complicated than we think in the future.
Paul Resnikoff, publisher, reporting from SXSW in Austin. Image by Brian Gautrea.