They Might Be Giants Ask, “Why Can’t We Get a Statement from Spotify?”

John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants
  • Save


…from a Bloomberg interview this week:

Pimm Fox (Host): So you brought us up to the 1990s, but, you stopped —

John Flansburgh: But then there’s the dynamic internet years, the failed Vodka launches [laughs], um … no we basically got into MP3s right as the whole Napster thing was happening.  And we actually released an album online very early on.  And, we’ve embraced a lot of technologies as they’ve come along, and what’s funny is that if you just take that on as a posture, people tend to think of you as being very market savvy, or brand — thinking about what your brand is doing.  But I think for us, it’s just an excuse to do a different kind of work.

Fox: So I wanted to tie back to MP3s for just for a moment, because of course now streaming music is Pandora, is Spotify, or is all of these kinds of things —

Flansburgh: — all that money.

Fox: Right? Which you can’t necessarily get your hands around.

Flansburgh: I keep on wondering why you can’t get a legitimate statement from Spotify and Pandora.  It’s like that part of it has to remain a mystery.  But when you consider that everything — the records are so easy to keep now, why can’t they just pass them along to the artist?

Fox: Like tell you how many people listened…

Flansburgh: Yeah. Absolutely.

Fox: …and how many songs they listened to, and what songs they liked the most?

Flansburgh: Absolutely.

John Linnell: Well it’s like the IRS, the nerve center actually has the least amount of information about themselves.

Flansburgh: I think it’s more like Netflix, that they just don’t want you to know.  There are so many hit shows on Netflix.

Linnell: Well I think that’s what the IRS is good at.

32 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Statements go to rightsholders, not the artists, but it sounds like he also wants analytics on his plays, which are available to artists. Weird.

  2. jot

    Artists/composers should talk to the labels and publishing companies who are probably withholding the money distributing from Spotify/Pandora. Some blame is due for shady royalty tactics on their part.

    The streaming services aren’t innocent, but they’re taking more of the blame than is deserved.

  3. Wooly

    This is a non-issue. Artists can get a breakdown of their metrics and payouts related to those metrics from Spotify.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Another problem solved, right here at Digital Music News!

      Wooly, could you kindly instruct Mr. Flansburgh on how to get the information he needs?

      • Me

        He should get monthly statements from whoever handles their digital distribution, which shows how much they were paid for each stream and how many times each song was streamed.

        • JTVDigital

          The level of ignorance of signed recording artists when it comes to digital is depressing, to say the least…

          • Paul Resnikoff

            Well let’s pick this apart a little bit. Why would such an intelligent, long-accomplished artist be having this problem? Seems a little more complicated than just ‘check your email’ or ‘call your digital distributor’.

          • An Indie

            For Pandora, Mr. Flansburgh can (pretty easily) register himself as a featured artist with SoundExchange and collect his statutory royalties and then he can go to to sign up for the Pandora artist analytics dashboard.

            For Spotify, royalty payments really does depend upon who distributes his music to Spotify and how that distributor (and label) are accounting to him. As for Spotify artist tools others may know better avenues but I’d direct him to

          • GGG

            It’s really not more complicated. If one of my artists called me right now and said “hey, I want to see our streaming/sales/radio/etc data” I’d say “ok, here’s the login to the distributor, here’s the login to amp.pandora, here’s the last radio report, etc.”

            He MIGHT have been thinking about large scale specific payments for spotify/pandora and the interviewer’s interjection sort of through him off, but even those numbers are available for specifics. Sometimes they require you to do a little math but it’s all there.

          • JTVDigital

            Reading the above quotes, it sounds like he doesn’t know how to get the reports. Even intelligent people can’t know everything.
            Seems like they’re signed with this label, they may ask them to see the Spotify reports…

          • Anonymous

            Why are you ASSUMING he knows what he’s talking about when its abundantly clear that he has no idea what he’s talking about?

            He wasn’t even pointing to any specific pieces of info he thinks should be provided to him that are missing, and unless he can do that its an impossible-to-disprove bullshit complaint that means absolutely nothing

          • Name2

            He’s criticizing Spotify. That’s all the wisdom you need on DMN.

      • Wooly

        I actually just sent him a text. He should be fine now.

  4. JTVDigital

    Again a signed artist indirectly complaining about his record label not being transparent, but completely missing the point by putting the blame on the digital service providers…
    Are there still people in 2015 who believe music services are not reporting the detailed data to labels or distributors? Seriously…
    Every single transaction is reported with all details, if the labels hide it from their recording artists, this is certainly not Spotify, Pandora or whoever else’s fault.

  5. so

    Pandora provides the information that he is seeking via AMP (how many people listened, what songs they listened to, which songs they liked the most), and as for Spotify, they provide statements that are quite good to the record labels, so he should be asking them about it.

  6. Anonymous


    Where’s the mystery??

    i get these statements all the time, i see what track was spun and how many times and what the price per stream was, my last distributor i even saw the territory and the tier it came from…

    Bad look guys, that’s a real bad look…

    So why can these people, the reporter and artist alike, all be successful and make money, and some of us that have a better understanding, that do the work, and are what we say we are, get screwed over all the time??

    This is getting silly…

  7. Anonymous

    i mean like what fucking God do i have to pray to down here to get some damn respect and a fucking paycheque??

    WTF!!! And their all allowed to steal my unreleased and unpublished property and use me as a target and pinata, ruining my reputation and defaming my character??

    And its better for society for all of them to be in positions of power and control? And better to nail me to the cross???


  8. Anonymous

    are all these people trying to start some revolution by getting other people to sacrifice and do the dirty work all because they signed bad contracts and now want out of it or something??

    What is going on in that stupid business, wow…

    Good thing they know how to pluck a fucking guitar string and are narcissistic enough to think they are the reincarnation of jesus or whatever, wow, scary stuff…

    Hey label artists, 1+1=2, just in case you didnt know…


      • Anonymous

        why and how am I a tech douche troll?

        I’m interested to know how people perceive and think… thanks

      • Anonymous

        F off tech douche troll??

        Wow, classy, that’s the kind of world we live in, right now, unbelievable… The bullying the threats, why even bother living with people like that around, certainly don’t want to bring kids into a world filled with people like that…

  9. Anonymous

    they dont own their rights, they dont own their masters, they dont own their music, they just play the stuff, take your 15% less your producers 3%, or whatever you signed to, put it in the bank, after your advance has been recouped, and dont ever bother me or steal from me or anything ever again…

    If you have a problem with that, tell your boss to come see me, but make sure to tell your boss to tell their boss the same thing, and do that until you get to someone that isnt told what to do and how to do it, and then send them my way, otherwise get back on the bus, shut up and play your instrument and do your little dance and back way up off of me already…


  10. David

    I know nothing about TMBG, but according to their Wikipedia entry, since 2003 they have been independent, self-released artists. Their albums since then are mainly listed as released by ‘Idlewild’, but this seems to be a record company they set up themselves. They may be distributing to digital platforms through an aggregator, in which case the amount of detail in their accounting may vary. (Incidentally, Tunecore’s website mentions TMBG among ‘their’ artists.) No doubt some of DMN’s readers know much more about this than I do.

  11. Anonymous

    Ultimately i shouldn’t be so hard on the guy, i flipped off a distributor the other day, taking out all my frustrations from the industry et all, on people just working a job to survive who don’t deserve the wrath of my fury over something they likely don’t even care about anyways, as they sit and toil tethered to some desk in a cubicle thinking of the day they can do something better or worthwhile or satisfying, and it appears i may have been at fault and didn’t take enough time of my own to ensure the problem wasnt on my end, making a poor choice due to all of my frustration to take up their time with it… I ended up rather embarrassed about it and now i have to tuck my tail between my legs and go back over my records to ensure they arent responsible… So perhaps there is something else going on here that caused such an odd and peculiar statement or else just a little brain lapse for a moment…

    Maybe hes just doing a little vague backhand to the label or distributor or whoever he signed something with instead of just straight up calling them out on it… who knows…

    I find that everything thats happened has left me short on patience to deal with a planck time of bother from anything and anyone music related, which really sucks so I have to apologize for my rudeness, hopefully ill find a way to settle all of it and move on free and clear from music troubles…

  12. Carmine

    Guys… IDK if they are complaining about their indie royalties or their major royalties, but most major label statements are not set up for that kind of detail. BOOM, logistics.