Why Artists are Leaving Spotify

Written by: Katherine Penman

When Neil Young removed his music from Spotify he sparked action as Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren, and India Arie followed Young’s move. This left many listeners wondering if their favorite artists will follow. His departure also raised awareness of how much money artists are actually making from Spotify compared to the amount the platform is spending on podcasts. While the action of removing Young’s music seemed simple from the outside, there are legal reasons that many artists, especially those under large labels, would have to face if they wanted to make the move off the platform.


When an artist writes a song, they will typically at least partially own the music and the lyrics, but that doesn’t always mean they get full control over what happens with their song and where it’s available. Oftentimes, the actual master recording of the song isn’t owned by the artist but is owned by the label. This means it’s up to the label where the master of the song is available and if the recording was to be removed from a streaming platform. This makes it hard for artists to actually remove their music as it’s not totally up to them. They could ask their labels to remove their songs, but there’s no guarantee the labels would be willing to lose the money they make from the streaming platform.


News of artists leaving one of the largest streaming platforms caused wonder to arise from many about how much money artists would be losing by leaving Spotify. This led to many discovering for the first time that artists only make about $0.0033-$0.0054 per one stream. Fans were shocked by the low amount of money their favorite artists were actually making from their streams. This is in high contrast to the amount of money Spotify is paying to have podcasters on their platform.

When Spotify announced their podcasts subscriptions, they challenged other podcasts platforms by giving 100% of the revenue to its participants, then only taking 5% after 2023. This is important for Spotify because they are trying to create a space that has content you can’t get elsewhere and wanted to draw in podcasters from other sites who take a higher percentage. This makes it so listeners have to put in more thought when choosing to unsubscribe from Spotify. Listeners can find most of their favorite artists' music on many different streaming sites, but if a listener has a favorite podcast that’s only on Spotify, they now have a harder choice.


This is important for Spotify because unlike some other streaming sites, they don’t have much to fall back on. Apple Music can afford some loss due to their many other revenue streams. Spotify’s investment in podcasts is their way of keeping subscribers from switching by offering content they can’t find on another site.


This explains why Spotify would be more willing to lose an artist over a podcast. When Neil Young announced he wanted his music removed and when other artists followed, listeners wondered how Spotify would cope with the loss. Now after discovering motives behind Spotify’s actions, fans are wondering what artist, or could multiple popular artists, cause Spotify to make a major change if they threatened to remove their music from the platform? Or would Spotify stick with their investment in podcasts?


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