Spotify Drops the Paid Download Option Entirely…

It pays far more to the artist, but ultimately makes little sense to Spotify’s long-term business model.  And with that, Spotify has terminated the paid download option within its European service, a feature that never quite made it to America.

Spotify isn’t going completely cold turkey: download accounts and gift cards can still be completed, and of course, existing downloads still work within the app.  But this is an aggressive sunset.

And that makes sense given relatively recent and monstrous leaps in mobile connectivity, cacheing technology, and broadband ubiquity, despite glaring differences in rightsholder payouts.  At a certain point, access became very real, with the line between a discrete, owned download and an always-on stream a practical blur.

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All of which means paying for downloads was never Spotify’s core business, and probably an unpopular feature for users and subscribers.  It’s a practical business move for Spotify, but one that speaks volumes on music consumption and eroding artist payouts.


20 Responses

  1. Casey

    Well they never had much success with the download service. Rhapsody still operates their download service, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go eventually too. It has been shadowed by iTunes and artists don’t pay any attention to it. They always seem to think Rhapsody only offers streaming, so if they withhold streaming they also often times withhold from the download service which is unfortunate. Some of us prefer to buy things from the little guy.

    • steveh

      Hey Casey why don’t you start your own blog?

      It’s turning into the Casey show here….

      • Agree

        I hear some of those word press sites need commenters.

      • Casey

        There are people who comment on here much more than I. They just hide their name. Or use more than 1.

          • Satan

            Some irate commenter accused me of being Casey a few articles back…

  2. spotify needs to reach 10 mill

    10 million paying subscribers at $120 a year = $1.2 billion

    70% royalties pay out = $840 million to the music industry

    When will Spotify reach 10 million paying subscribers? (at around 5.2 mil right now)

  3. P_Leezy

    Spotify’s biggest ‘fuck the artist’ yet…

  4. @ahlenlus

    “It pays far more to the artist”

    När du hatar multiplikation

  5. David

    Well at least Spotify’s shills should now stop claiming that it helps artists as a ‘music discovery’ service, leading to increased sales.

  6. Visitor

    Streaming is to downloading as renting is to owning. It’s a completely different model that pays rights holders differently, and it is the future.

    People are not simpy going to go back to MP3s any more than they are going to back to cassette tapes.

    That said, if you don’t feel artists are being fairly compensated your argument isn’t with Spotify, it’s with the rights holders. The master and publishers control payout to the artists, not streaming services.

    • David

      Various DIY artists have reported payouts averaging about half a US cent per stream from Spotify. Mark Mulligan has estimated the total payout to rights holders – labels, artists, songwriters, publishers, collection agencies, and so on – at just over one US cent per stream. This probably includes some large upfront lump payments to labels which may not recur every year. Anyway, with the current business model it is unlikely that artists on average will ever get more than a cent per play.

      Whether this level of payout is viable for artists I don’t know. It depends on the number of streams they can get. Generously assuming a payout of a cent per play, a million plays would generate $10,000 gross income. To cover costs and provide a modest living for one person, a minimum of several million streams is required. This might not seem much if your image of streaming numbers is based on Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, but for genuinely independent niche artists it is a tall order. For example, I just looked up the YouTube view numbers for the Sneaker Pimps, a moderately well-known British trip-hop outfit who still have a cult following (though they have disbanded). Their most-played item has had about 2 million plays over a 6 year period. I haven’t counted the total for all items, but I doubt that it comes to more than 2 million per year. Now, you may well say that nobody owes any a living, and if they can’t get a bigger audience thay should quit. But I would point out that a niche artist *can* make a living selling albums to a relatively small fan base (say, 10,000) whereas it is not at all clear that they can do so from streaming income. So if the future is streaming, as Spotify and their fan club evidently believe, it may well be a future in which choice is narrowed and an even larger proportion of total income goes to a small minority of heavily promoted mass-market artists.

      • Visitor

        The amount of people who are working blue collar jobs in the mean time and are in line “to make a living” from music are in the tens of millions. Just look how many songwriters are registered with ASCAP alone.

        It’s never been easy for indie artists to make a living and Spotify isn’t going to change that.

        • Choc Donut

          More rationalizing from an industry apologist. These companies don’t pay more because there is no structure to force them to. The exact same thing is happening on the visual content copyright side as well. Its a brave new world of salaried techies ripping off content providers, period. And yeah, the world’s content choices are going to be greatly reduced, basically down to bands sponsored by major corporations. Some newbies will be out there pushing their new material until they figure out they’ll never make a living and then they will quit.

          Great world the apologists are arguing for…

  7. HansH

    “one that speaks volumes on music consumption and eroding artist payouts.”

    If streaming is eroding payouts remains to be seen. Still too early to tell.

  8. Martin gerup

    From where do you have this information? Please be specific!

  9. Saumon Sauvage

    So, where is the rogue who invents the application that creates millions of streams, apparently from different sources? Some smart guy must have thought of this already. Seems to me some content owner is going to come along with a method to keep the streaming and thus the payouts going incessantly…

  10. Leeds UK DJ

    What about us DJs?? I have been giving Spotify between £9.99 and £25 a month to Spotify on top of my Premium subscription. To be honest this move by Spotify will encourage me to grab bootleg copies on the fly when I am DJing as I hate the iTunes service. Having iTunes open slows my laptop down too much. I just tried the Amazon service and hate it. There are multiple of thousands of DJ’s in the UK alone and most of us want to be above board with our practices. This is an absolute blow to me. Spotify please consider the DJs of europe!!!