Do Spotify want to pay everyone but musicians?
Lucy Harbron
12:38 16th March 2022

More about:

First they drive away the legends, and now they’re sponsoring football. Spotify have announced that they will partner with FC Barcelona for a huge sponsorship deal that includes renaming the iconic Camp Nou, and it honestly seems like Spotify wants to do anything but pay artists. Consistently, the streaming service seems to prioritise things further and further outside of what we all pay our premium for.

I remember when I first got Spotify. I still have those early playlists and I remember how obsessed I quickly became with finding new songs to add to the carefully-curated vibes, sharing them around friends, and feeling so plugged in while being stuck in Middlesbrough. Realistically, Spotify can probably take a lot of credit for making me a music journalist, being the matchmaker that introduced me to most of my favourite artists, from old-timers like Sam Cooke to the upcoming indie darlings of the 2010s. I love Spotify: my £10 a month would always leave my bank happily each month with no complaints. Until lately.

Allowing Joe Rogan to use the platform (and spending $200 million for the pleasure) to share Covid misinformation felt like just another in a long list of missteps. But as iconic musicians like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Graham Nash pulled their catalogue from the service—and Spotify just...let them—the streaming service made a clear statement: they don’t care about music anymore.

Spotify were quite happy to strip future generations of the chance to learn about the legends in favour of supporting Rogan. Joni Mitchell’s Blue is near impossible to find on vinyl, Crosby Still Nash and Young aren’t exactly about to drop any new merch and we’re still reluctant to finally make the move to Apple, so their legacies become a lot harder to hear. I feel sorry for 13-year-olds, sat at home just like I was, but now unable to stumble across ‘Little Green’ in some random playlist and fall in love. It’s no less than a tragedy.

And as that news cycle started to die out and Joe Rogan published his apologies, Spotify was covertly signing a £237 million sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona. Earlier this year the football club announced that it had debts of around $1 billion, so I guess Spotify deems it more important to help put some cash towards saving a football club rather than paying the artists that keep the platform popular and pushing forward. 

Now with a stadium in their name and their logo on some football jerseys, will the streaming service finally turn its attention back to its cause? Maybe stop taking over 30% of all earnings? Or start paying more than $1 per 250 streams? Just think how many streams it would take to make up £237 million. Maybe if Spotify had to earn it the hard way they wouldn’t throw it away so easily.

Don't get me wrong: it’s exciting that the company wants to expand. Many of the additions to Spotify have been amazing, from the growth of podcasts to making it accessible for anyone to create their own—and the constant improvement of the algorithms that suggest tunes. But big business moves that are so far out of their remit feel cruel when artists are still screaming out for fair pay.  

Bragging about the ‘first-of-its-kind’ deal, I can’t see much of what Spotify is getting out of the cash splash other than some big branding. The president of FC Barcelona excitedly stated that “this partnership will allow us to continue to bring the club closer to its fans and make them feel even more part of the Barca family through unique experiences”, while Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is constantly going on about this new global stage for artists. But how does this help the new artists coming up in local scenes who can barely even make enough money for petrol to a gig on those measly stream prices? Benefiting no one but big artists that really don’t need the extra support, the move has nothing to do with music as Spotify seems increasingly focused on anything but its origins.

After pulling his work from the platform and speaking out against Spotify’s decision to side with Joe Rogan, Neil Young put it best: “The only goals stated by Ek are about numbers – not art, not creativity.” On a course further and further away from music, it might be time to jump ship…unless you support FC Barcelona that is.

Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.

More about:

Photo: Press