Daniel Ek of Spotify

Is Spotify Playing Fair With Its Data?

According to Dr. Richard Burgess, CEO of A2IM (the major trade association which represents independent labels), Spotify does not play fair with the data it holds on the artists streamed through its platform.

What are we talking about?

If you’ve been following the headlines, there’s a hub-bub going on over Spotify’s announcement that it may/will start signing direct deals with artists and managers.  There’s a lot to this announcement (click on the link we just gave you to absorb some ramifications).

One point, in particular, that our friend Dr. Richard wants to make is that Spotify sees data on artists before anyone else.  It can see how quickly a song is taking off, before other “competition” sees the specific data around that song and can make overtures to sign the respective artist  Thus, Spotify has a competitive advantage and can make contact (and maybe an offer) to that artist before another independent label.

Dr. Richard James Burgess, center, flanked by Dr. Esteban Marcone and Professor David Kirk Philp at 2017’s Music Biz convention in Nashville.

A2IM represents indie labels, not Spotify, Burgess is in a position to make a stink about this.  And he’s right.  It’s not fair.  But…

If I were Spotify, I could argue this – “The world is not fair.  Create your own streaming platform and do the same thing we’re going to do.  You could have.  But you didn’t.  We did.  So we’re taking advantage.  It’s not illegal.  It’s just not fair to you.”

This comes from the article: “Burgess’ comments underscored how indie and major labels alike ultimately have little control over distribution, in the sense that they lean heavily on streaming services to provide the consumption and engagement data they need to serve their artists effectively and make smarter business decisions. In turn, these services can arbitrarily pick and choose what data to show to — and hide from — content suppliers and rights holders.”

There aren’t really “sides” to this issue.  There’s just a reality.  Spotify is the leading streaming service around the world.  It is generating billions of dollars for labels and distributors (some of that trickles down to artists, but that’s a whole other discussion).  When your main “customer” also becomes a competitor, things can get foggy.  Things can get more complex.  The message for labels, and indie artists acting as their own labels, is to keep their eyes open and push themselves even harder.  Maybe some can beat Spotify to the punch.

If you want to know more about A2IM, listen below to our 2017 interview with Doc Burgess.


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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music & Entertainment Industries and Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too).  Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition.  Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.

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