David Bowie producer Tony Visconti slams Spotify artists’ low pay

After facing a mass exodus of musicians following the Joe Rogan controversy, Spotify is again under fire for the way it pays artists. David Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti was outspoken in his review of the platform, describing their compensation as “disgusting”.

In a since-deleted Tweet, Visconti asked his followers for help deleting his Spotify account at the height of the Rogan podcast issue. Despite his qualms with the platform, Visconti did not end up deleting his account. “I thought about it, but I use Spotify as a tool,” he said. “You can’t start banning people because they have a different political opinion than you do, and I think the truth is coming out anyway.”

While Visconti has remained neutral on the issue of podcasts, he has been harshly critical of the extremely low rates Spotify pays its artists. “Spotify is disgusting, the money they make with it [artists],” he said. “If you had 12 million streams, you could barely afford lunch for two. That’s ridiculous, I don’t know why it’s allowed. Spotify doesn’t do anything to support the culture music.

According to Spotify website, the company pays out two types of royalties each time a song is streamed through the app. The first is recording royalties, which go to the record labels and distributors who own the rights to the track. The second concerns publishing royalties, which accrue to the songwriters or owners of the composition.

However, this money does not go directly from Spotify to artists. “Once we pay rightsholders based on their share of streams, labels and distributors pay artists based on their individual deals,” said the Spotify Artist Page bed. “Spotify has no knowledge of the deals artists sign with their labels, so we can’t explain why a rights holder’s payout reaches a particular amount in a particular month.”

In 2020 alone, Spotify said it paid over $5 billion in royalties to rights holders. However, just a year earlier in 2019, artists were only receiving between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream.

Unsurprisingly, these figures exasperate many players in the music industry. David Crosby echoed Visconti’s criticism on services like Spotify, saying, “I don’t like any of the streamers because they don’t pay us properly. Their proportion is wrong. They make billions with a ‘b’ and they pay pennies with a ‘p’.

Spotify responded to this criticism by launching loud and clear. The site’s goal is to increase transparency regarding Spotify’s revenue and payment policies. Making this information publicly available will hopefully help artists get the most out of sharing their music on the platform.


Photo of David Bowie by Paul Bergen/Redferns.

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