Joanna Newsom Calls Spotify a “Cynical and Musician-Hating System”

Joanna Newsom (National Arts Club 2007)
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In a just-published interview with the Los Angeles Times

LA Times: Is your concern specific to Spotify?

Newsom: Even with Pandora, you make – I don’t make a lot of money on that, or just record sales in general.  But I understand the mechanics of it.

LA Times: Spotify is different?

Newsom: Spotify is like a villainous cabal of major labels. The business is built from the ground up as a way to circumvent the idea of paying their artists…

So it’s set up in a way that they can just rob their artists, and most of their artists have no way to fight it because they’re contractually obligated to stay with the label for x amount of time and you can’t really opt out.

It’s a garbage system.

LA Times: If you were to tell me as a kid that I would have the world’s jukebox – with a few notable exceptions, of course – at my fingertips, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Newsom: If it wasn’t such a cynical and musician-hating system, I would be all for it.  If there was some way they could divide the money they make from advertising and the money they make from subscriptions and actually give it to artists, I would have a completely different opinion about it.

The complete interview is here

Image by Daniel Arnold, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

28 Responses

    • Spotify is a villainous cabal of Silicon Valley.

      fixed that…

      “Spotify is a villainous cabal of Silicon Valley.”

      Spotify is in it’s most pure essence the translation of what would happen if Apple started charging 10 cents or 1 cent per song download instead of one dollar. It’s a massive reduction in revenue at the TOP OF THE WATERFALL from which the trickle down economics don’t get any better.

      There’s a lot wrong with major labels but there’s more wrong with Spotify, Pandora and the Google interests that have created all the downward pressure on the economics for musicians.

        • yes.

          Yes – the majors have equity in Spotify which is a real problem and needs to be resolved so that if/when there is a sale/IPO artists participate in that revenue (er um, BEATS SALES TO APPLE, HELLO!).

          But that’s not really the issue with the royalties artists are getting NOW. The reason why artists are making so little from streaming is because streaming is making so little money at the top of the waterfall. You can make more money from a system that is making less money to begin with… that’s the issue.

  1. vinoveritas

    This is why we need Aurous. I’m sick to death of these petulant artists. Lets see how far they get negotiating with a decentralised distribution network with no central authority.

    • Jon Hockley

      Artists want a career in music. By decentralising networks and reducing income you kill the hope and dreams of the artists. There will be less quality music created as a result. With no centralisation there will be no curation and no way to sift through all the crap to find good music. It would be a pointless service.

      • Anonymous

        “Less quality music as a result.” Absurd. More music is being made and enjoyed than ever before, thanks to free access to it. Less professional musicians are establishing careers. More money is being consolidated at the top 3 labels. The indies are growing market share because they are more able to adapt to these changes in technology. No amount of lawyers can shut Pandora’s (or Spotify’s, or Grooveshark’s) box for good.

        The only people arguing against free music are (a) naive professional musicians and (b) those who exploit them.

    • Anonymous

      So your solution is to cripple creatives financially, as punishment, for wanting fair compensation for their time? You sir are the epitome of gross entitlement.

      If there is any justice in the universe, your place of employment is mistreating you, and your deep in financial ruin.

      • mack the knife

        Hey, Anonymous the whole problem here is that the compensation is unfairly distributed. I don’t think any musician or independent label has an issue with ‘creatives’, by which I assume you mean the persons who own and operate Spotify or any other legitimate streaming service, getting fair remuneration for their work. Comments like yours are off-point and irrelevant to the argument.

        • Anonymous

          mack the knife, when I speak in regards to “creatives”, I’m referencing musicians, and independent artists. You know, people who create stuff? You know what they say, when you assume.

  2. John

    Here’s an idea, don’t be on a label and release good music via an aggregator and u will get your money. Your label is stealing it not Spotify.

  3. Me2

    It’s not the music business. It’s data delivery racketeers who think their code and platform is the most important thing. Any claims to being in the music business are strictly delusional.

    • Anon


      They think they rule the world now and they want to make sure everyone else knows it. In my experience the new kings at the top see music the same as any other commodity to be exploited for profit. Corporate business and the dead eyed tech world never understood music, now they dont even have to pretend to.

      Hopefully soon there’ll be no need to have anything to do with those crazy right brained idiots any more

  4. DavidB

    As Joanna Newsom has never had her music on Spotify I’m curious to know what she bases her opinions on.

    And of course the only reason it is on Pandora is not because Pandora is any more respectful towards artists, but because they are covered by compulsory licensing.

    • CaptAnonomous

      So she’s never been on Spotify but despises it… yet she has all her music all over YouTube. Wonder how much she’s getting paid there? 😉

  5. Paul Resnikoff

    I’m curious as to why Newsom somehow likes Pandora. Her statement is, essentially, Pandora pays a miniscule amount but at least I know what that is.


    • Bingo

      Because she gets a direct payment from Pandora. Where with Spotify her cut is obfuscated and diluted by her label.

  6. Paul Resnikoff

    Spotify executive Jonathan Prince has just sent this response to Digital Music News:

    “We’d love to sit down with Joanna and try and clear up some of the misunderstandings about how Spotify works to support artists, songwriters, and the whole music industry. For example, someone has led her to believe ‘we don’t pay artists anything’ for advertising and subscriptions — in fact, we pay around 70 percent of all our revenue, from every single advertising and subscription dollar, in royalties. We’re proud that we’re the single biggest driver of growth in music right now, and we’d love to talk with Joanna about how we’re making streaming work for artists and songwriters around the world, cause we’d love to work with her too.”

    • DavidB

      Bb..but… Spotify repeatedly and emphatically insist (quite correctly, for the most part) that they don’t pay musicians (directly) at all. Have they changed their tune?

  7. russ

    only indie artists can voice their opinions. if you are on a major you can’t cause spotify is partly owned by the majors.

    all major label artists hate spotify and others, but can’t voice their opinion because if they do, majors will not support them.