Def Leppard Says Spotify Is Actually Worse Than Napster…

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From an interview with Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen CTNow…

CTNow: I’ve noticed that much of the Def Leppard catalogue is not on Spotify or other streaming services. Can you comment on that?

Phil Collen: I love what Taylor Swift has done. I have a friend who is a songwriter, and he had a song that got over a million plays on Spotify, and he received 12 pounds, about $18-$19. That really sums it up.

It’s bad, if not worse, than the whole Napster thing and downloading when it started.

Again, a CEO from [Spotify] would make an amazing profit, whereas the artist is taken advantage of.  I’m not a fan of that.  I don’t know where we stand in the future, but perhaps it would be good to do something else.  When they show their true colors, you go, ‘Well, it’s the same old story again,’ like some old blues guy getting $50 and actually owing his whole catalogue for life to someone who’s ripped him off.  It’s a little like that.

It happens all the time with artists, Michelangelo or whomever, back in the day.  William Blake died penniless doing brass etchings, living on someone’s floor.

A businessman will probably think an artist is just content with the art.  It’s a bummer getting ripped off.

Image by Daniel Ypsilanti, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).

25 Responses

  1. Me

    Not sure how Spotify is worse than Napster. Also, I’m tired of these anecdotes about 1,000,000 streams not paying enough when they don’t provide anything about the deal, such as their split of their share, etc. While 1,000,000 streams seems like a milestone, it’s really not as big a mark as a lot of people think it is. 1,000,000 streams =/= 1,000,000 downloads.

    • Anonymous

      This is ridiculous.

      1 million plays on Spotify Premium equals a payout of about $7000. If you’re paid 18 bucks from that, then take it up with your record company.

  2. JTVDigital

    Again misleading statements from misinformed signed artists.
    Read you f$*!*^(g record deal please. Educate yourself.

    And again mixing up master and songwriters royalties.

    “the brother of my cousin is a songwriter and he only made 2$ from Spotify”. Wow. That’s news.

  3. saxon

    Dear Def Leppard,

    Why don’t you pull everything from streaming?

    It’s really not hard.


    • PiratesWinLOL

      Yeah, it’s totally easy to remove it from StreamSquid etc.

      Now try to accept reality and work with it for a change.

  4. Anonymous

    They probably just got strong-armed in their contract by a label who keeps them at arm’s length. But it makes sense to be up in arms about the pay, since it probably is costing them an arm and a leg in royalties. Maybe their management/lawyer can twist the label’s arm into a better deal.

    • Me

      It at least cost Def Leppard their drummer’s arm…

      • DavidB

        You win the prize for vilest comment of the year so far, which is quite an achievement.

      • Anonymous

        No, he wins the comment for loudest sound of whooshing going over one’s head.

  5. Anonymous

    “I have a friend who is a songwriter, and he had a song that got over a million plays on Spotify, and he received 12 pounds, about $18-$19.”

    Hm, guess streaming isn’t the future then.

  6. Anonymous

    Phil Collen is not Def Leppard’s front man .

  7. FarePlay

    These compensation numbers are all over the place. I haven’t seen this $7,000 number for 1M plays before. Paul can you confirm. Also, the commenter notes Spotify Premium as the basis for all 1M plays.

    The entire blame it ALL on the record labels certainly smacks of the rhetoric used to justify pirating music for the past 16 years.

    • GGG

      The unsigned bands I currently work with, if their current avg stayed the same, would get between $3500-4K, for 1M spins. So, perhaps major artists get more, perhaps more popular acts get a higher average rate either by design or by just how users work, but I doubt there’s a $3K difference. Or if there is Spotify is really fleecing indie artists.

      • Me2

        $3.5 to $4K is certainly better than $18-$19.

        But isn’t the whole “not knowing” part a problem? Is the major label rate higher for whatever reason? Are different unsigned artists getting different rates? We do know that majors got advances and equity that unsigned didn’t.

        It reminds me of critiques leveled at PRO’s for “Black Box” calculations, where dollars seem to defy gravity. But you couldn’t really know for sure.

        In Def Leppard’s case there was a dispute over masters which led them to record new versions of some of their biggest hits. Presumably they did this so they could own masters free of label entanglement.

        • GGG

          I feel like we’ve seen trustworthy sources citing a higher avg streaming rate for majors, if not proof. But that’s how Spotify would be able to cite their average payout as .006/7 whatever they said, as opposed to the lower one people like me report.

          And yes, $3.5-4K is better than $18, but it’s also from a band that owns everything and are the performers, and does not use outside songwriters. By the time you figure how much a songwriter is owed on a presumably major label track, it probably gets down pretty low.

    • Me

      $7,000 is about what you would get for 1M plays on the sound recording. However, this is for publishing. Not sure what that would be.

  8. DavidB

    Collen specifically refers to his friend as a songwriter, so the royalty is presumably for the songwriter/publisher share of the payout. According to Spotify, this is usually about 20% of the amount going to the owner of the recording. (In the US, at least, and it is unlikely to be very different elsewhere.) Assuming a total payout of 0.6 cents per play, this gives a songwriter/publisher royalty of just over 0.1 cents (a thousandth of a dollar) per play. On a million plays, that implies a total songwriter/publisher royalty payment of about $1000. Is there any way of getting this down to $18 or $19? I don’t see it. Publishers and other intermediaries shouldn’t be taking more than 50%. Even if the friend is only one of several songwriters on the track, it’s hard to see how his payout could be less than $100 (say, a one-fifth share of $500). The only way of getting the royalty so low is if for some reason nearly all of the million plays were paid at the lowest rate – say, the ‘radio’ rate. But why would this happen? So there seems to be a mystery. It isn’t the first time someone has claimed such a low payout rate, and unless they are all fibbing, someone really should investigate. Hell, it might even be a job for DMN!

    • Faza (TCM)

      One thing I’ve noticed about my payouts is that the rate per play tends to be inversely proportional to the number of plays, so that may be a factor.

      I can think of several things going on here, so let’s run the sums:
      1. I’ll assume that all those plays were Spotify Free and use the rate quoted by David Lowery recently (my own statements do not allow me to discern between Free and Premium – $0.000966 per stream, payable to record label (I have seen rates as low as $0.0001 within the last year).

      2. I’ll assume the songwriters’ rate is 20% of the label rate, at $0.0001932 per stream.

      3. I’ll further assume a 60/40 split with the publisher, in favour of the songwriter, which used to be a pretty standard rate for covers (meaning, songs not recorded by the songwriter himself) in the UK. This gives us a rate of $0.00011592 per stream, payable to the songwriter.

      At 1 million plays, this gives us a total revenue of $115.92 – which is frankly pathetic in its own right, but not twelve quid.

      The difference can be explained in several ways:
      1. Co-writing splits would reduce the songwriter’s individual share, albeit we’d need a five-way split to get us in the ballpark (one way this could happen is if the writer was collaborating with a band, who otherwise do even songwriting splits – as might happen with a producer, who also gets writing credit)

      2. Most of the plays were generated in low-value regions (Spotify does not cost the same the world over, for example: Spotify Premium only costs the equivalent of five bucks plus change in Poland)

      3. The statement does not include sums paid to collection societies (most likely, PRS for Music in this case) which will work their way to the songwriter eventually (net of processing costs).

      4. Any and all of the above.

      • DavidB

        Thanks. From what you say, I don’t think we disagree about the calculations. The difference is in the assumptions. If you assume a low total payout rate (about a tenth of a cent), and other ‘worst case’ asumptions, the payout to a songwriter could be as low as claimed. I just think it would be improbable to get such a low average rate on a fairly large volume of streams. If there were only a hundred streams of a track, maybe they could all be free streams in Kazakhstan, or wherever, but with a million, I would expect them to be more widely spread.

  9. Rickshaw

    Def Leppard is worse than Motley Crue.


  10. Equality Saint

    The key to understanding the market is to understand how the top 10 music companies have been able to acquire their market cap valuation. The market has been based on the hope model …….that aggregating copyrights and a new business model will find a way in the market and deliver a profit.

    The investment funds then put a pile of cash on this horse in the hope that it will cross the finish line or run second or third. …a minro placing means less cash but the horse still returns a profit depending on the bet made.

    The collective value of the top 10 music companies from iTunes to Amazon to Deezer to Spotify is all based on the aggregatred collective value of the copyrights of the artists that created the music in the 1st place.

    If the value is based on a collective of the copyrights then should we not give the collective a share of the value that the collective has generated.

    If we are able to deal with this fundamental concept then the music industry problems are solved in one simple agreement. The agreement could be something like an addendum to a distribution agreement that says:

    ” If my copyrights are to be used to aggregate value for a company and or allow a company to raise capital then I am entitled to 10% of the aggregated value generated on a pro-rate basis on a track by track count.”

    In simple terms this means that if the BIG companies take the copyrights and use them to aggregate a market cap then they should pay for the right to do so and a 10% premium would mean that 10% of the combined networth of all music companies would have to be paid back equally accross the board to the artists that made their business exist in the first place.

    Interesting concept. Anyone out there care to champion this with the international copyright courts / united nations or fair trade organisations ?

    If this was the medical industry we would have a global enquiry !!!

    But because it is an industry of an un-united group of content creators we get no where. There is a good sound arguement to be had for all copyright creators to unit and make this a reality.