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 and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own