Spotify is making it harder to find new artists you’ll love
SPOTIFY could be hurting small artists from being able to spur their careers, said Jeremy Wineberg, co-founder of social media music startup Heard Well, due to a “false sense of discovery”.
“I cannot tell you what Spotify has done in the negative,” Wineberg said to Tech Wire Asia in an interview at the All That Matters conference in Singapore this year. He explained that while Spotify has helped build a platform for independent and unsigned artists to be discovered without the help of a label, the platform may actually be harmful for artists in the long run.
“Spotify has definitely given artists a platform through playlisting to be discovered but I think there’s a big false sense of discovery there,” Wineberg said.
“More and more, people are saying that they don’t want to be a Spotify artist, and they don’t want their promotional plan to revolve around Spotify playlists.”
Wineberg hits at a sore point with regards to Spotify’s role in the overall marketplace when it comes to streaming music services. On one end, it’s financial: Spotify just doesn’t pay independent and small-time artists very much because it has no incentive to. Big labels have leverage and are able to negotiate bigger packages, power that smaller artists do not wield.
What more, Spotify’s payouts are pretty abysmal. According to Digital Music News, each stream of a song will earn an artist between US$0.00121 and US$0.00653 depending on whether or not a user streams via the platform’s ad-supported version or premium. Usually, only mega-stars are able to rack up enough streams to earn them serious money, leading to a situation where music-making becomes an unfeasible source for revenue for small-timers.
On the other hand, while having an easy-to-access and democratic platform is essential for artists today to get out their music to as many people as possible, the platform may also be feeding into a trend of oversaturation. Today, more than ever, users have access to such a variety of content that really digging into what consumers enjoy is becoming more complex.
“Social media has made a lot of artists get bigger than they should be before they’re ready to be there,” explained Wineberg.
“You have a lot of musicians trying to make it in the social space…then you have Spotify which is able to amplify a song super quickly before an artist is ready to get there. Between all these different avenues, you’re now creating this oversaturation in the market again and you as a consumer don’t know what’s good.”
“For example, I’m on Spotify and I have 5 million plays, but do you know how many artists who have that many plays but no one knows who they are? They know one song, they’re not coming to shows, they’re not buying songs, they’re not re-following you.”
“There’s a disconnect with people coming back and discovering you and wanting to know more about you as an artist.”
An artist may get discovered through the power of Spotify’s AI-powered playlists and back-room editors, but at the end of the day, the lack of authenticity could impact artists in the long run. Heard Well started as a social music platform that drove the growth of unsigned artists through the power of influencer-curated playlists. In effect, the widespread use of music streaming platforms could actually be widening the gap between artists and listeners, the latter of whom barely knows anything about who they’re listening to.
“I think for the first time we don’t know what’s good anymore,” said Wineberg. “So you’re on the Spotify Hot Playlist, so someone from Spotify saying this is good.
“It’s not authentic, it’s just a programmer saying that this is good, then you have the same thing happening at Apple Music.”
The power and pitfall of the algorithm is a topic that has been widely discussed by content makers, social media mavens and technologists for a long time now. Algorithms embedded within platforms and social media streams have become the target of censure by many who see it as a facilitator of the “bubble” effect.
It’s a struggle that smaller companies are also facing in the overall technology space – when something huge is so overwhelming, how do you stand out in the oversaturated crowd? For music, Wineberg sees the solution in the power of influence and community-driven promotion as a way through. His company works with influencers in order to discover relatively-unknown artists, who are then pushed on social media and incubation projects.
“More than ever now, we have so much content but we need to lean into someone for that content,” he said.
“More than ever now we are trusting people to help identify what we want to listen to and experience.”