OPINION | Why I stopped using Spotify

Olivia Tanaka-Kekai, Associate Arcade Editor

Shivani Bondada

For as long as I have been streaming, I have been a die-hard Spotify user. Long have I hailed the superior discovery algorithms and social interfaces. I made a playlist every month, usually with about 100 songs, my freshman year of high school. I’ve been acutely aware of the pitfalls of the platform. 

For audiophiles like myself, minor differences in sound quality can be noticeable. The user interface is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as that of Apple Music. And perhaps the biggest flaw of them all: Spotify does not fairly compensate their artists.

 Here’s a breakdown of how much the major streaming platforms pay per play. Napster compensates its artists most fairly at $0.019 per stream. Apple Music pays a less fair $0.01 per stream. Spotify comes in at a measly $0.0037 per stream. 

Even though Spotify remains low-ranked in artist compensation, it houses a hefty 31% of 523.9 million total subscribers to all music streaming platforms. Apple Music sits at a mere 15% by comparison. 

There’s a large disparity in both platform compensation and how music streaming impacts the market. These issues have been prevalent for longer than the last few months: the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers has a page dedicated to “Justice at Spotify.” But after the recent controversy surrounding Joe Rogan, the conversation has gained new steam.

Not only am I an avid music listener, but I love a good podcast. People droning on about niche topics for what can be hours on end? Seriously, sign me up. Some of my personal favorites include The Daily, Charli XCX’s Best Song Ever, Therapy Gecko, Make Art Not Content and my all-time favorites: Dis/sect and Slow Burn.

 I do not, however, listen to the world’s favorite podcast: The Joe Rogan Experience. It averages 11 million listeners per episode. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he made an exclusive streaming deal with Spotify for $100 million. I am no math person, but to make near that amount solely from Spotify’s royalty rate, an artist would have to have 2.7027e10 streams. That’s 27 billion streams. 

 The most-streamed artist on Spotify is Drake with about 44 billion streams. At around 2.7 billion Spotify streams total —  not annually, which is how Rogan’s contract is executed — sit Rex Orange County, The Police, Bon Iver and Brockhampton. 

 Rogan’s contract appears to compensate him $100 million for the exclusive rights to host his podcast on Spotify. More likely than not, he’s still making money from streams. With an average of 11 million streams per episode, that comes out to about $40,000 an episode. Rogan also has sponsors and advertisements, so he’s making a lot more money than most artists who rely on platforms like Spotify to distribute their work.  

A lot more than the people hosting their music who don’t regularly drop racist slurs and spread COVID-19 misinformation. 

 Iconic Canadian folk singer-songwriter Neil Young posted a statement to his website entitled “Spotify: In The Name Of Truth.” He starts by writing about the open letter that 200 doctors signed and presented on a golden platter to Spotify outlining how dangerous Joe Rogan’s misinformation was. 

Having contracted Polio during the last major outbreak in Ontario in 1951, leaving him partially paralyzed on his left side, Young is rightfully passionate about COVID-19 safety. Young then states that even though he was reminded by his “own legal forces that contractually [he] did not have control of his music,” he removed it from Spotify anyway

Joni Mitchell, who removed her music from Spotify in solidarity with Young, also contracted Polio. These are people who endured a destructive disease that was only controlled thanks to a large-scale vaccination campaign. They’ve experienced the worst-case scenario. In addition, four-time Grammy winner India Arie circulated a video compilation of Rogan using the n-word 24 times in his podcast. She then pulled her discography from Spotify. 

 Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, has claimed that Spotify has no creative control over Rogan’s content — they’re a platform, not a publisher. But, that claim seems a little dubious given that after saying that, they went on to remove some of his particularly controversial episodes from the platform.

 I’m a convert who now proudly bounces between Tidal and Apple Music. I’ve been a fan of SoundCloud and BandCamp for a long time. I even listen to CDs. You aren’t missing anything by switching. You’re also getting better-quality music. But hey, at least this kind of got Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young back together.

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