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Opinion Piece: Is Spotify a friend or foe?


Just like many of you I also had great hope in Spotify entering the mainstream and forever changing the landscape of digital royalties and furthermore exposure – but that’s where it ends. Over the past few months we have seen quite an aggressive turn from Spotify in limiting the amount of promotion that is available to independents; from playlist features only supporting major acts, to the removal of crucial tools to connect the listeners to independent playlists. To say many of us are disgusted with the betrayal we feel right now from Spotify would be a massive understatement.

So what’s going on with the feature selection process?

As Spotify started dancing with a potential IPO, the playlists radically changed, and for the worst. We started seeing acts like Tiesto in ‘Friday Cratediggers’ – which to be fair, how in the hell is this a “Crate Dig”? Personally, I was used to seeing quite an array of exciting young and talented producers being chosen for feature spots, so this came as a behemoth surprise to artists and labels whom had been convinced by Spotify to make the jump and experience a new standard of store placement and visibility, for short term plays. This also carries on into other official Spotify playlists, and of course, the ultimate trash pit of playlists created by the major labels in the form of Universal (Digster), Warner (Topsify), and Sony (Filtr).

So what was left? Independent playlists.

In-between all this chaos, there has been some big moves to prevent the growth of independent playlists.

1. Spotify has removed the feature that allows listeners to see which independent playlists have playlisted an artist’s track, preventing users from discovering new playlists other than their own proprietary ones and the rather sneaky major label curated playlists found in the ‘Discover’ section. This comes after news in the past that Spotify was purposely altering searches to bias official playlists.

2. My sources have told me that the major labels have access to intricate playlist analytics, however Spotify refuses to roll this out for independent labels & artists. There is absolute growth stunting occurring.

So what does all this mean?

One can only guess the next direction of Spotify, but we are starting to get a sense of what they are standing for and it’s wholesomely not the independent music sector. Just recently they have been accused of paying prominent producers an upfront fee for producing tracks under fake aliases for their official playlists. This allows them to avoid paying real artists much needed publishing royalties.

Is Spotify a friend or foe? Time will only tell.

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Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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