Updated on December 10, 2021
An app analytics firm named App Annie reported several days ago that Spotify is now the world’s most popular music streaming service, in terms of active users, revenue, and downloads.
However, that’s on a global level. Depending on the individual country or region, a local streaming service might be number one, given how long it’s taken Spotify to move into many countries. For example, here stateside, Pandora is still the #1 streaming service by active users. Not surprising given it’s free, and got a foothold here before Spotify reached the US. Meanwhile, Deezer is France’s go-to for streaming music.
Of course, not everyone’s enthusiastic about Spotify. Taylor Swift, Adele, and—most recently—Coldplay, have all yanked their newest albums off of the service. The main reason? They dislike the low royalties the service pays artists, particularly for music played on the free streaming tier, which is at a lower rate than the subscription tier. At a minimum, Adele and company would like Spotify to limit their new albums to paying customers only. However, Spotify insists on all the music they stream being available to everyone, both paying and non-paying. Hence, the above artists yanking their newest albums.
On one hand, I can see why Spotify would want everyone to have access to all their music. Free-level users having access to Adele would at least be able to listen to Spotify’s ads, and not abandon the service for something else. It’s also a bit similar to FM radio’s model, i.e. listeners don’t have to pay to listen to music. Also, only slightly over a fourth of Spotify users pay for the service’s $10/month streaming tier. Finally, services like Spotify offering everything for free has led to reductions in music piracy.
On the other hand, the artists who actually create the music should have the right to sell their music however they see fit. There’s also the low royalty rates from streaming, as well as the music industry (and the new players like Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) still being middlemen.
The webcomic “The Oatmeal” outlined the music industry situation pretty well in one strip, pointing out that we’re stuck at panel #3. While #4 would be ideal (cutting out both the old and new music middlemen as much as possible), the strip doesn’t account for how entrenched streaming music for free is in society. We’ve always paid for albums, but music on the radio for free has been a staple for decades. Some propose that along with the final panel’s “pay the artist directly for an album” model, musicians could also rely more on merchandise, such as posters, concert souvenirs, and so forth.