Is Spotify the future of music?

Is Spotify the future of music?

Pop music and technology used to always go hand in hand- oddly in the 21st century there seems to be a fear of the future and an assumption that every change is for the worse. Of course this can be true sometimes but is it true in the case of Spotify?

In the past few months there has been an increasing amount of teeth gnashing about Spotify- the music streaming service. There is the sense that its low royalty rates are meaning the death of everything and that it another piece of digital thieving.

High profile artists like Thom Yorke are running campaigns against it and at every panel at every conference that I chair people are wringing their hands and calling it the end of music as we know it.

There is the feeling the so called fifty pound man (and that is the term that is bandied about) that the music business relied on for so long has been replaced by the ten quid man who pays for the monthly streaming service and that’s it. We live in very different times and there is genuine concern that to create all this stuff to listen to is becoming cost prohibitive.

The complaint is about that low royalty rate and also the general drift on the internet to break albums up by the listener into songs but then isn’t that the way we have always listened to music- in the glory days of vinyl it was always half played seven inch singles piled up on the floor as you trued to find the musical hit.

But there is now a new point of view and it’s one that makes heartening reading.

This week I was chairing a panel at the great Sensoria music and film festival in Sheffield and the record label boss Korda Marshall was on the panel. Korda has become a bit of visionary, using his experience of years in the music business and never keeping still and never being stale and he caused a shocked silence in the room when he stuck up for Spotify.

It’s always great to hear someone go against the grain and we like to celebrate change here- after all when music went from 45’s to 33’s people panicked and I’m sure when people stopped buying sheet music there was much hand wringing and Korda’s argument was rock solid claiming that the royalty rates on Spotify may be low but with the amount of plays even now and the amount of increasing subscription fees to the service and similar services the money is starting to come in for the labels to pay the bands and pay the bills and that the way this whole system of listening to music was increasing so quickly that he was VERY optimistic about the future and felt that streaming was the way forward and that within a few years the whole current crisis could be over.

I have to say that I agree with him, as much as I love the concept of vinyl and love its aesthetic I simply can’s cram any more into my flat and it sometimes feels like the arcane world of the antique dealer.

Like a lot of people my life involves a lot of movement and I want the music now- having all that music in a small box I can put in my pocket is great and most of my listening is now on Spotify and it’s good to hear that the artists are going to get paid unlike the pirates who are still quite happy to claim the moral high ground and pay nobody.

What do you think? do you use Spotify? do you think they pay the artist enough? do you think that instead of being the end of music this really is the future? do you feel that this really is the future of listening to music?

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I’d rather pay pirates and the artist nothing than to make some company who are operating on the fringes of the law rich whilst paying the artists pittance. I”m sorry but it was never their content to make money off in the first’s like me starting my own drive in movie theatre, charging people full price to get in, showing ET, then paying Spielberg 5p. It’s a farce. A joke.

  2. I would be slightly more convinced if the cheerleaders for Spotify ever mentioned some real figures.

    I’ve heard various opinions to the effect that Spotifty can be a real cash-grabber for bands, but nobody ever mentions exactly how much cash – in quids, dollars or euros – they’re talking about. It’s all kept very vague.

    Here’s one of those opinion pieces – from the Belgian mag Side Line:


    They’re very keen to big-up Spotify as a significant moneymaker, and they mention various labels which, they claim, are making impressive incomes from their Spotify streams. But they never tell us *how much* money is being made. They say woolly, could-mean-anything stuff like this:

    “All 31 labels that participated into our survey announced that Spotify now is their 3rd (and in several cases even 2nd) biggest source of digital income after iTunes and Amazon MP3.”

    Well, so what? That might mean Spotify brings in 10p a year for all we know. Vague terms like “3rd biggest” are meaningless unless we know how big “biggest” actually is.

    Unless labels, bands, or even the media is prepared to reveal the actual amounts of money Spotify is bringing in, I’ll take it all with a truckload of salt. If any band or label is making a significant lump of cash from Spotify – let’s say, a few hundred or even a few thousand pounds per month – then let’s hear about it. Tell us exactly how much dosh Spotify pulled in for you, over what sort of timescale.

    But nobody ever reveals anything like this. The only people who mention actual cash amounts are those artists who have made piss-poor returns off Spotify, and have decided to name it and shame it. All the people who have (allegedly) made big money, or at least claim that it’s possible to do so, keep mysteriously quiet about the actual amounts.

    Without hard stats, I suspect it’s all just hot air.

  3. I was at Sensoria in that room (great panel by the way).. Korda was saying Infectious make about 40 grand a month from streaming. I wonder if any other labels will offer up figures so we get more of a picture.

  4. Streaming is the future, there is no doubt at all about that and it creates a level playing field, artists that cant get into walmart or tesco or asda can get on spotify. Vinyl? great but about 2% of the population have a deck, its a romantic notion and nothing more. CD’s? I physically dont have room for what I have, I actually groan when people by me one as a present, they remain unopened as I can listen to the same thing within seconds on spotify. I was the £50 a year man, now I pay £120 a year to spotify and I love it. The questionable thing of course is the royalty rate, this will eventually get sorted as streaming overtakes downloads, the sooner the better. You cant stop the tide of change, but you can work towards making it a fairer platform for all and it needs people like Thom Yorke to highlight this, however, its here to stay cos basically as for as modern living and access to music is concerned its fantastic.

  5. If the big problem with Spotify is the low royalty rates (and the *other* problem is the poor sound quality), doesn’t that create a gap in the market for another company to do it better?

    If a new streaming company popped up that paid royalties – let’s say, broadly in line with radio rates, and had better quality too, surely it would sweep the board? Artists and listeners alike would flock to it. Spotify would be left for dead.

    Has anyone tried this? If so, why don’t we know about it? If not, why not?

  6. Surprised by the comment here, yes portable, accessible anytime, anyplace digital music is here to stay but Spotify is far from the solution, you should read this: httpss://


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