Jimmy Buffett Asked Spotify for a Raise. Here’s What They Said.

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at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday, audience Q&A portion.

Jimmy Buffet to Daniel Ek, Spotify CEO: “Do you see anything in your future where we might get a raise directly from you as opposed to the bullshit you have to go through to deal with a label these days?  Musicians only get a trickle after [Spotify payments] have gone through the major label executives.

“How the stream of revenue gets to the artist, particularly the younger struggling artist… it’s really hard to make it in real life if you’re a young artist.  So I’m hoping that all the music services would look at that.”

[audience smattering of laughter, applause]

“Because it’s one thing when it goes to the record label, but most of it doesn’t get to the artist.”

Daniel Ek: “Obviously I agree.  At first there were a lot of artists that didn’t understand streaming, was it good, was it bad for them.  And Spotify, quite quickly started becoming the biggest music service, and right now we’re about 70 percent of all revenues in Sweden, including physical as well.  So this is a massive part   of the music industry which has actually gone up in revenues.

“But the biggest thing that happened in that process is transparency.  So we started showing, actually the number of streams the artist had. And as a consequence they started asking the labels, ‘okay, what does that mean, how much will actually go out?’  And already today, we have an artist website where we say roughly how much 1,000 streams or a million streams actually mean in terms of dollars back to artists.

“And because we started publishing that, that started creating the dialogue between the artist and the industry.  And as a side consequence because streaming became such a massive part of the revenues, labels even changed how they started paying out the artists.  So instead of once a year, they started paying out much more frequent.

“And right now, we’re actually paying out more than a billion [dollars] in rights payments this year, and more than 70 percent of our revenues go to rights owners.”

Buffett: “But that’s actually still lower than what we used to get.”

Ek: “Of course.”

Buffett: “Which is why I was hoping for a raise.”

Irving Azoff (moderator): “If you’re looking for money, you’re better off selling one of your planes.”

[audience laughter]


33 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “Daniel Ek: “[…] artists that didn’t understand streaming”

    Fortunately, most of us understand now. That’s why windowing is so popular today.

    Those who still don’t understand should read thetrichordist, October 6, 2014 — here’s an exerpt:

    A TALE OF TWO PIRATES? Daniel Ek (uTorrent) and Kim Dotcom (Megaupload)

    “Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is celebrated as the former Co-Founder and CEO of uTorrent. uTorrent is described as “the world’s most popular BitTorrent client with more than 100 million downloads” on Mr. Ek’s Wikipedia page.


    In many ways both Ek and Dotcom represent the same devaluation and destruction of the arts by building personal fortunes as the result of monetizing the work of creators, without paying those creators for their work.


    Megaupload and uTorrent have monetized the mass scale distribution of infringing works for profit. In other words, infringement as a business model where the cost of goods goes unpaid and creators are uncompensated.


    Mr. Ek like his previous cohorts Bram Cohen and Matt Mason would like to say that BitTorrent is not a piracy platform, however multiple independent studies have repeatedly concluded that 99% or more of the files being distributed via BitTorrent are in fact, infringing.


    All of this of course points to the fact that Megaupload and BitTorrent have hidden behind the DMCA, which has failed at it’s intent to protect artists. It could be argued that uTorrent and Megaupload have participated in business models enabling one of the largest transfers of wealth in history from individual creators to Silicon Valley companies and operatives.

    Daniel Ek is reported to have a net personal wealth valued at $400 Million Dollars. Kim Dotcom’s fortune has been recently estimated to be $200 Million Dollars.”

    SOURCE: TheTrichordist, October 6, 2014.

  2. Kevin

    Spotify talks a big game about transparency, but they’re sure not transparent about the equity stakes and other benefits the big labels are getting, none of which ever end up benefiting the vast majority of artists.

  3. Casey

    What does he suggest Spotify should do? Pay artists directly like Sound Exchange? That will never pass approval of the major record labels.

    Every streaming service handles this the same way as Spotify and there is nothing they can do to change it as the labels control whether or not to license music to Spotify. Anyone not happy with the payout needs to go to the labels as there is nothing Spotify can do.

  4. FarePlay

    Even legacy super stars, who make a lot of money touring, are asking Spotify, where’s the payoff? Why are we leaving all this money on the table, so you can have a business? Why should Ek be worth $400 million?

    Musicians feel swindled and rightly so, by their labels and by streaming.

    • Casey

      Why shouldn’t he be worth $400 million? He founded the company. Therefore he naturally has stake in the company. The company has a high valuation. Therefore he is worth $400 million. He’s not getting paid $400 million. He’s not taking money away from artists.

        • Casey

          And how exactly is he doing that? Where has there ever been even the slightest amount of evidence that he is getting paid an excessive salary?

          Do you know what it means to own equity in a company?

          • FarePlay

            Spotify is an energy suck that diverts money from the creativity community so that people can have a marginal experience with music for free. And for what? So a few people can cash out at the expense of others?

            Pick your battles dude, cause this one’s a loser.

  5. Me

    Spotify: “We are doing our best to pay a fair rate based on our income and comparable to what our competitors pay.”
    Old Music Industry: “But that’s not how much we used to get paid!”

  6. Lob Befsetz

    “On the one hand information wants to be expensive.”

    That’s the first half of the Stewart Brand quote that everybody forgets but the news media has embraced. Used to be reporters asked hard questions and revealed their answers in their newspapers and magazines, now they’ve all emulated the music business and taken their show on the road, it’s all about conferences baby, where the well-heeled overpay and the hoi polloi get crumbs from the people who can’t write and leave the best parts out.

    Yesterday Jimmy Buffett asked Daniel Ek for more money at the “Vanity Fair” conference in San Francisco. What, you didn’t get an invitation? Of course not, because you don’t count, it’s a whole world of intelligentsia who are all about relationships and the only people you know are hanging at the bar.

    And Jimmy Buffett stands up in all his glory and asks Daniel Ek for a raise. Why don’t you try the same thing. Why don’t you go into Lucian Grainge and talk about his pay and the money Universal is making and ask for a bonus. Even better, ask for a discount on the subway. Better yet, on your taxes. What Buffett is asking for is to throw out the rule of law, of contracts, and to have Spotify throw artists a few shekels out of the goodness of its corporate heart, although the last time I checked they didn’t have one, no corporation does, Apple doesn’t pay taxes and neither does U2. Everybody’s in in for themselves but since Buffett makes art, he gets to evade the rules. Huh?

    Even better, how about Jimmy kicking back some of that live dough to his label. Ticket prices have far exceeded inflation for years, doesn’t Lucian Grainge get to dip down into the seaman’s pocket for some of that?

    Actually, they do that today, with a 360 deal. Which you don’t have to sign.

    You want the label to make you famous, you want it to employ its marketing power and relationships, and then you want to bitch that you’re just not getting rich. No one said you had to do it their way!

    Bitch about something you can change. Elect a different congressperson, fight to ensure gay marriage or abortion, take to the courts, because jawboning hardly ever works, check it, the President rarely employs it.

    I expected more from Jimmy, who’s a minor Gene Simmons, for all his affability Buffett is supremely confident, he thinks he knows everything. When his record sales started to tank he opened restaurants, put the pedal to the metal on merch, even got into the casino business. Once again, did he share a piece of this revenue with those who got him there? Of course not!

    And no one beats up on Google, which started this problem, with YouTube, because Google is their friend, those guys are over forty, we all use Google every day, it’s an institution in this short term memory society.

    But the wisest words were spoken by Tom Freston, who declared that music no longer drove society, tech did. This is the same guy who said MTV was no longer gonna show videos, that they’d become an on demand item online. But the artists complained about MTV’s U-turn until very recently, when they found out YouTube allows them to go directly to their audience whenever they want and get paid in the process. Come on, hear anybody bitching about the cable channel recently?

    And they won’t be bitching about streaming services either.

    But the truth is artists are dumb. Trotted out for entertainment. Unaware of how business really works. U2 will not recover from the stink of the Apple cram down forever, the same way Metallica has never fully recovered from the Napster fiasco, because in both cases they could not read the landscape. Napster died and was replaced with worse and piracy reigned and then streaming services reined piracy in. And U2 is the poster boy for aging out of touch rock stars which tech companies will now keep at arm’s length, because they’re only about the money, only about the promotional value, do you really think Tim Cook is gonna listen to Jimmy Iovine now?

    Streaming revenues will go up.

    And if you create something as good as the iPhone you will not be bitching about your income.

    That’s right Jimmy, write a hit, you’ll make money in ways you never thought of, and you can whore it out to the corporations you bitch about, licensing it to the beer company or TV show or movie du jour, never mind playing corporates for seven figures.

    But that’s much harder to do than complain.

    “Jimmy Buffett Asks Spotify C.E.O. Daniel Ek for a Raise”:

    • Justin Mayer

      Erm, making hits don’t guarantee a damn thing, it can actually scuttle careers, depending.

      If someone’s looking for some hits, I got a ton of em, collecting dust, cause I ain’t into the social media hey check me out wanna be me fan and new best friend? And I’ve never been able to get anything going otherise, my mistake of course, no one to blame but me.

      Tech clearly kills it and content helps drive sales, but is mostly just noise, fodder, but its still music and music is awesome and kicks ads and stuff, so yeah it sucks however a good extroverted party hype entertainer who loves attention can still ship tonnage and put bums in seats… So if there’s a couple of rich kid chiseled extroverted schmoozy wanna be famous rich kids, get the fuck at me.

      You want hits, I got a ton, lets make some money and make some dreams come true for a couple label kids or rich kids or whoever, I just don’t have any budget to act as the label and sign em…

        • Justin Mayer

          Won’t be public music biz hits until the right people get in front of them and then the right money/people gets behind them …

      • Justin Mayer

        Kicks ads…

        kicks ass… Kicks ASS

        thats where technology misses the plot, its demeening, acting like its better then me telling me what I want to say and how to spell it… no, its not ass you want to say, its ads, you want to say ads and I know best. Really?

        and the best part is humans have accepted being below technology, just as they have accepted being below most other people, corporations, policies and procedures etc etc.

        most of it actually isn’t that good, but the collection and storing of I formation and knowledge is rather I credible and other non consumer technology is incredibvle… Consumer tech still really sucks, so music definitely has some beef, but they tossed the salad a long time ago, sorry, tossed the salad out a long time ago.

        Anyways what was being talked about again?

  7. FarePlay

    Here’s the lineup for the Vanity Fair Event. Lots of Tech heavy hitters as usual. I wonder if Azoff has a piece of Spotify or actually, I wonder how big a piece Azoff has of Spotify.


  8. Throckmorton Ploop

    C’mon now…….give big Jim a few more crumbs!

    • FarePlay

      I don’t think that’s the point. I’m fairly certain ALL of us would be upset if our big checks shrank to nothing over night. But more to the point, why give it to Ek and his cronies. I’d rather give it to the artist.

      • jj

        certainly, and to the long-winded fella above: comparing Ek and Universal? ROFL.. Tell me this- how much has Ek or ANY of his companies contributed to creation? to development? tour support? to anything?
        That’s what I thought…

  9. NORadio

    Is this for real? Buffet sounds like and effing idiot. If the company is paying 70% of revenues in royalties to labels, and the artist can’t get their fair share, then go after the damn labels. What other business in the world can someone afford to pay 70% of revenues and stay alive. The artists beef is directed at the wrong folks.

    • FarePlay

      What we can always count on:

      Successful artists will get criticized for having money, the uber rich tech guys will always get a pass. What’s wrong with that picture? What’s Spotify or Pandora or YouTube have without content fans want to experience? Nada.

  10. Anonymous

    Jesus Christ!
    WOW! Jimmy looks older than Warren!

    Lets talk to Buffets and GRAB THE MUSIC INDUSTRY BY THE FACE or the balls!

    Primitive opportunity to recover almost dead $14B dollar global pathology to $100B music industry HAPPINESS FOR ALL BY 2020!

    Simple task for politically connected businessman!