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
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
Arts and Entertainment
The episode saw the surprise return of shifty caravan owner Susan Wright, played by a Pauline Quirke (ITV)

Review: Broadchurch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo are teaming up for a Hurricane Katrina drama

film
Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

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.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore