Spotify’s New “Marquee” Promotion Feature Is Forcing Artists to Pay to Reach Fans They Already Have — As Much as $0.50 Per Click

Spotify Campaigns
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Spotify Campaigns
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Photo Credit: Igal Ness

Spotify is cooking up even more ways to pay artists less — while charging them more. Now, Spotify wants artists to pay to reach fans they already have via a beta-stage “Marquee” push campaign feature.

Tweets from disgruntled artists reveal how Spotify’s new beta Marquee feature works. Screenshots of the new promotional campaign tool reveal that Spotify is taking up to $0.50 per click per user to show fans new music. It should be noted that many of these fans would willingly check out new music from the artist — either on their own or with the help of an organic (i.e., free) Spotify algorithm feed.

The $0.50 price-point for one click seems extreme, though at this point it’s unclear what Spotify’s price range is. It’s entirely possible that $0.50 isn’t the highest per-click price being charged.

Marquee bears heavy resemblance to Facebook’s pay-for-promotion features, which charge publishers to reach their own audience as well as targeted viewers. Similarly, Spotify’s Marquee isn’t only directed at an artist’s Followers, who already expect to receive updates when the artist releases new music. Instead, Spotify vaguely notes that Marquee canvasses listeners who have “shown interest in your music and have the potential to listen to more.”

Here’s a look at the alert a typical fan would receive.

“Marquee is a full-screen, sponsored recommendation of your new release to Spotify Free and Premium listeners who have shown interest in your music and have the potential to listen more,” Spotify explains. “When a listener clicks on a Marquee, they are guided to your new release—and your release alone. This means they can focus solely on your music and discover more of you.”

In other words: Spotify will guide a prospective fan to your music, free of distractions from the rest of Spotify. With an estimated 70,000+ artists uploading music to Spotify a day, that sort of focus apparently fetches a big premium.

Accordingly, Marquee is gonna cost you.

“We have been given access to the new Campaigns beta feature,” one artist recently shared, referring to Marquee. “Essentially, artists will be required to pay to show their *own followers* that they’ve released new music.”

“If you tap on one of these screens, Spotify takes 50 cents straight out of the artist’s pocket.”

So let’s calculate how many streams an artist would have to receive to pay for just one click at a $0.50 CPC.

According to Digital Music News estimates, Spotify pays artists anywhere between $.003 to $.005 per stream, with $0.005 typically on the higher end. In that payout range, it would take artists anywhere from 100 to 167 streams to break even on just one sponsored click. That means each person who clicks on a sponsored Marquee campaign would have to listen to a new album roughly 12 times for the artist to break even on that fan’s interest.

The alternative — implicitly stated or otherwise — is zero awareness, and zero plays. That’s a scary prospect for early-stage, indie artists, who find their greatest enemy is obscurity.

The takeaway? Spotify Discovery Mode and Marquee Campaigns are monetizing music discoverability against artists.

Spotify appears to be leveraging its massive user base by placing it behind a wall. Want to tell your 12,000 followers on Spotify that you’re dropping a new album this week? Be prepared to cough up money for a campaign whose cost has gone up considerably now that Spotify wants to be paid by both music listeners and artists to use the platform.

A2IM highlighted how Discovery Mode is putting the squeeze on artists, too. It asks artists to accept a lower royalty payment rate to be featured and promoted by Spotify’s algorithms.

In essence, Spotify is repackaging features that were previously free, making them pay-to-play. That shift has attracted the attention of members of US Congress, who specifically asked Spotify CEO Daniel Ek what safeguards are in place to prevent a race to the bottom.

Spotify charges you to listen to music, and now they want to charge artists for the chance to be heard. A chance that requires at least 100 streams to be profitable isn’t really a great opportunity any way you slice it.

Unfortunately for fans, supporting artists by streaming their music will no longer be possible if this is the direction Spotify is going. In fact, streaming music on Spotify will cost many indie artists more than they will earn if the CPC continues to be so high.

Spotify thinks it should be paid $0.50 per click just for doing its job — but shouldn’t artists be paid more for creating the content that Spotify is recommending? Why should a recommendation cost artists fifty times the amount they’re paid for reaching someone who already enjoys their music?

17 Responses

  1. Scott B.

    Feels very predatory on behalf of Spotify – exploiting artists as an income source rather than supporting their content that drives their subscription and ad revenue. Not sure we can do about it, though. 🙁

      • Jim


        This is really no different than banner ads 20 years ago, and the many banner ads on this very page.

        I haven’t heard yet that Spotify’s default position here is “opt out” and not “opt in”. I would think that acts would be surprised and unhappy if all their money went away because Spotify decided that you wanted to buy a bunch of banner ads with a 50c cost of a click through.

        Buying fake plays on Spotify is very cheap and very common and has been around a long time. This is like that.

      • Eilo

        Class Action Suit By The Artists. However because the Spotify is Boot-Strapped by the major labels they won’t sue themselves.

        • Christina

          I hate spotify. I hate the way they push certain artists while burying others, for example – new releases. I see Justin Bieber in “new releases,” but not Kacey Musgraves – anywhere in new releases. And there’s no way to sort lists – you get what you get. I hate their search function which is not user friendly, how you can’t readily find artist or album information, how I will be listening to one artist and they just switch to another rather than playing the next album of the artists i was listening to. There is clearly some form of payola going on with it and it is as far from a “music loving, artist promoting” platform as I’ve used. Purely transactional, like some PE company is running it. Hate it.

  2. BoBlu

    What’s the difference between this and paying co-op fees to physical retailers to get your albums on the front rack, etc.? Obviously this was a practice more common when physical retail was at it’s peak. But Indie stores and others still charge to highlight certain products.

    • Meg

      Exactly, people are being hilarious about this. If you want to promote your music on the platform, targeting fans or similar fans, it’s the same as if you’re paying for it on social platforms, out of home, etc.

  3. Will k

    Perhaps I’m not typical but I as a consumer I am extremely sensitive to being advertised to. If a full screen advertisement like that pops up, I am less likely to check it out because it interrupted the use of the app. I usually already know what I want to listen to and don’t need help from Spotify.

    Hopefully it is completely optional and nobody is foolish enough to give Spotify money to do this…

    On Facebook, promotions are much less intrusive and I’m more likely to click on them, it is also a free service so I can accept that I am the product. If Spotify thinks they can treat a paying customer the same way I think they are fooling themselves.

  4. brendan

    Here to confirm the $0.50 per click is the baseline. Spotify doesn’t have a bid system so they just guarantee you pay that price and serve as many people as they can to hit that with your budget.

  5. Marc Arsenault

    Paying to reach fans you already have has been part of Facebook’s targeted marketing for years. They restricted distribution of page content and then basically held you to ransom to reach the people who followed your page.

  6. Blobbo

    Spotify sucks period. Do ALL your promotion elsewhere. I suppose one has to keep an account there, but they’re dicks, and the look of their website is mediocre pablum, and they push trash. F ECK in particular, and all the giant record labels who handed the music industry to that bald b*tch.

    • Christina

      Agre – hate it. The only thing I like is being able to create playlists and that it’s better than pandora. Got a better alternative? I would happily bail on this bitch.

  7. Just Play My Song

    It’s not Spotify; they’re just being a typical business trying to increase revenue. Blame today’s fans, for they feed this machine. Many of today’s fans simply don’t care if artists make money from their art (except Taylor Swift’s fans). They just want you to play their song when they want to hear it. For them, it’s: “What pay problem?”

  8. Ivan T

    Yes, it does sound expensive. But marketing is just that. And no artist or any other company can get everything for free. It’s just reality. If you don’t believe in marketing, don’t do it. It’s optional. You have a problem with Spotify and it is personal, not objective at all. They’re doing what Facebook and other platforms are doing, allowing to pay for marketing. Are you upset about Facebook and Instagram too, who doesn’t pay anything? How about YouTube?