Spotify: 1 million plays, £108 return

That's what Lady Gaga earned last year from fans listening to 'Poker Face'. Jonathan Brown on the latest row over who's making money from the net

It promised to revolutionise the way we bought and listened to music, heralding a golden age of cheap and legal on-demand tracks from the world's biggest rock and pop stars. And for once, the hype has been matched by the reality.

Since being launched last year, the music website Spotify has grown at an astonishing rate – signing up more than 7 million customers to its free service and recruiting nearly 300,000 subscribers willing to fork out £9.99 for the privilege of listening to the likes of Lady Gaga, Tinie Tempah and Rihanna without the interruption of adverts.

The company, founded by the Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Ek, plans to stream 36 billion songs by the end of this year when it launches in the United States. Yet not everyone is singing along to this happy tune.

Songwriters have grown increasingly frustrated at what they say are the minuscule payments made available to them through the streaming process. Yesterday, they called on Spotify and other online music services to come clean and explain exactly how much they are willing to pay creative talent for the right to use their material.

It has been claimed that Lady Gaga, who continues to dominate the streaming charts much as she does the conventional Top 40, earned just $167 (£108) from one million plays of her hit "Poker Face" last year. Others have calculated that for a solo artist to reach the minimum US monthly wage of $1,160 they must have one of their tracks streamed up to 4.5 million times a month, with performers pocketing little more than a tenth of a penny per play.

The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (Basca), which hands out the influential Ivor Novello Awards each year, has warned that the current secret arrangements could make it impossible for the next generation of songwriting talent to emerge. Basca chairman Patrick Rackow said that while many musicians strongly supported the principle and ideals of Spotify, there were mounting concerns among his 2,000 members. "There will always be certain songwriters out there who will earn gazillions, but the worrying thing is that if you are starting out now, the prospect of earning a living is very difficult," he said.

The licensing deals are shrouded in "cloudy obfuscation [and] are preventing the industry from developing transparent, robust and equitable agreements," he added.

Spotify continues to refuse to clarify how much it pays or even reveal how many times an artist has been streamed via its site. Senior vice-president Paul Brown, who recently addressed a meeting of songwriters in London in an attempt to assuage their concerns, told The Independent that it was necessary to give the business time to grow and that "significant revenues" were already finding their way back down the creative food chain. "Of course artists should be compensated fairly for their work and amazing creativity and we hope that the revenues we are generating and sharing are finding their way to them, as they should," he said.

Jez Bell, director of broadcast and online at PRS for Music, which collects royalties on behalf of writers, publishers and composers, said it set a minimum rate of 0.085p per stream.

"When multiplied by the vast number of users, streaming on successful services adds up to significant royalties for our members. Online services are already generating significant revenue for our members and in 2009 online royalties rose 73 per cent to £30.4m," he said. But songwriters still want clarification on whether Spotify has signed up at this rate.

There have been other rumblings of discontent too. Last year, Bob Dylan pulled much of his back catalogue off the service and iTunes refuseniks The Beatles have so far declined to get involved. But in general, the music world is succumbing.

How it works: Spotify

Much of Spotify's success is because it is so easy to use. Once a user has logged in to the site, all they need to do is type in the name of their favourite artist or a chosen album in the box in the top left-hand corner of the screen and wait for the tracks to appear. The music can be listened to for free but not downloaded, thus making it popular with record companies keen to fight piracy. Record companies own a major stake of the company in the UK.

The music is interrupted every few tracks by adverts. However, users of the premium service pay £9.99 for the right to listen without the hassle of adverts and for the tracks to be streamed at a higher quality. But the goal of creating an online global jukebox is still a work in progress and not every obscure album track is yet available – although most artists do have a presence of some kind on the site. Other streaming websites offering a similar service include the Hype Machine and MOG.

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvMartin Freeman’s casting is a stroke of genius

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival

film
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players