Counting Crows Lead Singer Adam Duritz Says Spotify Doesn’t Pay: “It’s Not Trickling Down to Us In Any Way”

Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz discusses Spotify royalties during a recent Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode (photo: Digital Music News)

Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz discusses Spotify royalties during a recent Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode (photo: Digital Music News)

Counting Crows has hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify — and possibly more than one billion streams in total. But lead singer Adam Duritz says the money’s not adding up for himself or the band.

Counting Crows is easily one of the biggest bands on the planet, thanks largely to its searing success in the 90s. Those who lived through the era can probably rattle off the lyrics to smash hits like ‘Mr. Jones,’ ‘Round Here,’ and ‘A Long December,’ among other huge songs.

As you might expect, those hits produced some serious album sales back in the day. At last count, the band has sold more than 20 million albums and has more recently racked up hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify. At this point, the band may have surpassed one billion streams on Spotify, making the group one of the most highly-played artists on the platform. But Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz says the streaming money isn’t filtering down to his band.

Duritz discussed the lopsided streaming economics during a recent podcast episode with Joe Rogan (which is ironically hosted exclusively on Spotify).

“When they came up with Spotify, the record companies went to Spotify and said, ‘pay us a lump sum, and we’ll give you all of our music,'” Duritz explained. “And that’s not trickling down to us in any way like it used to with record sales.”

Interestingly, Duritz noted that the money from CDs was making it back to the band — which we’re glad to hear given the extreme amount of sales the band generated before things went digital. But despite played heavily by nostalgic 90s fans today, streaming money doesn’t seem to be making its way back. That mirrors similar complaints from dozens of artists, including newer artists that own their music but only receive paltry per-stream royalties from the platform.

But why is a heavyweight, heavy-selling legacy group like Counting Crows struggling to get paid by Spotify despite its streaming-era success?

Rogan asked whether the situation would be different if the band owned their music rights. But that was largely unheard of for label-signed artists before digital distribution. And the answer from Duritz exposed more of the issues that label-signed artists experience, particularly when it comes to sharing in the upside from streaming.

“It [trickles down] if you own your music, right?” Rogan asked.

“Right, but even so, you’re still getting kind of screwed,” Duritz explained. “And very few [legacy] artists own their own music for one thing, record companies are never going to give that up. And you can get it now, kind of, reverting to you in a shorter amount of years, but that was nothing that was available back then.”

“When did that change?” Rogan continued.

“Well, because record companies have lost a lot of their power. Before, you needed a record company — it was too expensive to make a record and it was too expensive to distribute it. So you needed the record company. Now, you can make a record on your computer at home, and you can distribute it by uploading it onto Bandcamp, it doesn’t cost you anything. So you don’t really need a record company as much.  You can have one, and they’ll do a lot of good things for you sometimes — like we did this deal with a record company—”

“But that was your choice —”

“Right, we sign one-album deals now, and we do it when we’re done with the record. We go to the record company, and we say, ‘We have something. We’ll let you work with us, you can do some of the distribution, you can help us with some of the promo.’ And there are some valid reasons to do that, and we’re getting it back after a few years. But you didn’t have any leverage back then.”

20 Responses

  1. The Ghost of John Candy

    1 billion streams only generates like 4 million dollars. even if they were getting half and splitting it, wouldnt be tremendous amounts for all the years it took to get to the billion streams. its only workable and livable for top artists of the moment generating billions of streams per song

  2. Ken

    So, Adam is saying he hasn’t seen any money, or just not enough?

    • Eck Schmeck

      Band of 4-5 guys, manager and agent.

      The label is still sucking out whatever percentage based on a plantation contract.

      It’s almost better to NOT have been signed. Maybe you can get famous now (very unlikely), but at least you still own your songs.

      There should be national legislation to protect musicians, but it’s way down the priority list and will not happen.

      New Artists need to form their own non-profit streaming site that possibly charges a small rate or percentage to basically be another Bandcamp, but with the promotion power of a bigger streaming site. There’s a small surcharge that’s enough to pay to run it, maybe even sell shares eventually. That will fund it.

      But F Eck and his arrogant approach to music.

      • Stephen

        Not get signed? You apparently don’t understand distribution and the benefit of the machine.

  3. Screw You Sellout

    Now…

    At the end…

    When you picked up a pen

    Signed a slave contract!

    Enslaving us all one sellout at a time!

    Do Not Sign

    Hold The Line

    Study The Block Chain And How It Will Free Us

    We Will Never Need A Middle Man Again!

    • Yes Boss

      You can’t judge musicians of the past, although 1990 stuff was well known and Neil Young and Metallica didn’t sign sh*t contracts, but they were big. Counting Crows faced a simple decision – get a career or get no career, and they got a career, but clearly, their contract sucked.

      Contracts should be standardized and codified by a national law group working for musicians, not evil profiteers like Scooter Braun Feezes Blender.

      Exploiters need to be personally and publicly shamed.

      • Wr-eck-ed

        ‘1990 stuff’ referred to the point that there was no internet, or other distribution system other than taking your cassettes/cds/ vinyl to the record store yourself. Tower prob would’ve laughed at you. If the record was good, it got to a label who signed you. They owned the route to fame, particularly radio.

        Millenials spend way too much time judging the past, but it’s part of the deal of changing the future. I get it, but you can’t call bands sell outs for taking the only road possible, well, sort of. They could’ve tried the Metallica route, but these guys had a short window of opportunity.

  4. Tom Hendricks

    But when thousands of musicians say this in the music revolution, it’s not news?
    Where do you have to send press releases?

  5. Storming Thru the Barrio

    Where did the money go when people were buying download files from iTunes over a decade ago?

    Oh, that’s right. The money went to your record company who took their filthy and obscene share due to the contract you signed.

  6. Eck Get a Job

    THis is pure bullsh*t. No company, manager, business person, blah blah blah should be able to retain copyright from an original distribution or even production deal more than 20 years out, and I would make it maybe 15 max. This has to be done retroactively. These in perpetuity contracts still being enforced 30 years later are total bs and nonsense.

    Oh yeah, and F Spotify. Modern artists need to form their own streaming company and completely freeze out Spotify, who has proven to be a dishonest actor. F that bald B.

    • Ecoutez A Midi

      F Spotify?

      What is with this relentless hatred of Spotify? If Spotify wasn’t around, you’d be hating Apple Music. Oh, wait, you did hate on Apple back when they were selling downloads a decade ago and taking 30%. You hated the big chain record stores in the 90s. You hated FM radio in the 1980s. You hated AM radio in the 70s. Dick Clark won’t put me on American Bandstand in the 60s. I can’t play the good gigs without a union card in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Bunch of whiny little Marxist losers who can’t write a hit song, but want a living handed to you using somebody else’s money.

  7. Roger Scott Craig

    Beatles, Beach Boys and the AFM (largest Union for musicians in the world), I put people from these three camps together TEN YEARS ago to discuss musicians building their own Platform and got almost NO SUPPORT from the musicians. They were all too busy recording new music for the fans to get for free on Youtube!! Building a newer and better Platform costs money and until the musicians figure out how to do this they are all wasting their time. The Record company, the distributor, and the Tax man ALL make more money than the musicians from their music! But change needs to come from the musicians and soon! The old system does not work and who will build the new Platform??

  8. Anon

    How is no one focusing on the fact that Counting Crows current popularity is being seriously oversold in this article? Cherry picking some of the quotes:

    “Counting Crows is easily one of the biggest bands on the planet”
    “making the group one of the most highly-played artists on the platform”
    “heavyweight, heavy-selling legacy group”

    Folks, 1 billion plays on Spotify is not a big deal anymore. Taylor Swift and Drake likely get those numbers within days of dropping a new record. While I feel for Counting Crows and was a fan back in the day, they are not relevant enough to be put on this kind of pedestal, not in 2021. The money they do get from their label will be commensurate with their market share on Spotify as well as with their label deal, no different than any other artist on the platform. Regardless of the fairness of this dynamic, album sales from 20+ years ago should not drive today’s streaming royalties, that wouldn’t be fair to current artists releasing new content, who may or may not be getting paid fairly by their labels.

    • I Wanna Be Bob Dylan

      Counting Crows is easily one of the biggest bands at your county fair.

      • Darren Wheat

        Their music was better than most of the crap today!

  9. JAS

    One of the biggest bands on the planet…um, no…

    My opinion (with out data to back it) regarding their ‘size’ as band, has no bearing on the lack of fairness with payment.

    The problem probably stems in the fancy wording in their contracts, that negates their share from streaming, which was not a thing back in their hey day.

    Musicians now need to have wording to the effect of ‘other forms of revenue generation known or unknown, in the known and also unknown universe now and forever in perpetuity’, or something to that effect.

    It is sad that a revenue stream that does generate decent numbers can’t be shared by the record companies and publishers. This reminds me of insurance companies that court you for your business, only to try every trick in the book to NOT pay a claim. Even after publicly claiming to ‘be there for you’.

    Some think a billion stream is not much compared to some artists, but to not see a penny, seems wrong. We don’t have all the data, but record companies, publishers and spotify et al, are not your friends. Never have been, but sometimes a necessary evil at times.

    • Adam Duritz is Worth $60 Million

      How does Spotify qualify as a “necessary evil”?

      Spotify is essentially a collection of music fans who pay money for a subscription, or free but they have to listen to ads, in order to hear licensed music.

      You give Spotify your money, and Spotify pays about 70% of the revenue to rights holders.

      How is that evil?

      Who is EVIL here? The fans? The people running Spotify? The companies and artists licensing their music?

      What I suspect you deem evil are just the contracts. You think a record company taking 85% after recouping advancements is evil. Maybe it is.

      Adam Duritz has an alleged net worth of $60 million. Oh yeah, he’s being screwed.

      What do you care? You’re not going to sign one of those contracts.

      How is all that Spotify fault?

      • Until Tomorrow

        It’s always been easy to blame tech companies, whether right or wrong. It’s never been about the labels and greedy execs who don’t do anything except leech off artists.