Spotify CEO Says Artists Who Release Records 'Every Three to Four Years' Will Struggle

Daniel Ek was responding to allegations that Spotify doesn't pay artists enough in royalties. He said those who struggle with streaming have failed to adapt.

Daniel Ek

Image via Getty/Drew Angerer

Daniel Ek

Over the past several years, Spotify has faced plenty of criticism for the way it calculates royalty rates, as a growing number of artists have accused the streaming giant of underpaying. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek addressed the controversy during a recent interview with Music Ally, suggesting many artists were satisfied with their streaming income, but have no incentive to say so publicly.

"It’s quite interesting that while the overall pie is growing, and more and more people can partake in that pie, we tend to focus on a very limited set of artists," Ek said. "Even today on our marketplace, there’s literally millions and millions of artists. What tends to be reported are the people that are unhappy."

He continued: "... In the entire existence [of Spotify] I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single artist [publicly say] 'I’m happy with all the money I’m getting from streaming' ... In private, they have done that many times, but in public they have no incentive to do it. But unequivocally, from the data, there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself."

Ek went on say that if an artist wants to do well in streaming, he/she must adapt to the changing music landscape and increase engagement with consumers. This means they must maintain a steady stream of releases, which wasn't as necessary in the past.

"... You can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough," Ek said. "The artists today that are making it realise that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans."

Ek's comments ignited backlash across social media. Some criticized him for suggesting artists only had "had themselves to blame if they failed to make a living income off Spotify streams. Others pointed out that his advice to increase outputs as well as engagement could potentially cheapen the artistry. You can read some of the reactions below.

Daniel Ek @eldsjal of @Spotify thinks that we want to ‘go back’ to recording albums every 3 or 4 years.

Thinks your lack of liveable income or when you do have 50 million plays and you don’t earn enough to make rent in London, is ‘a narrative fallacy’.

— Tom Gray (@MrTomGray) July 30, 2020

If you don’t understand why many artists would find this Daniel Ek quote to be so disturbing, it may be time to step back and talk to some artists, especially artists with diverse genres and assumptions about the scale of their potential audiences.

— Future of Music Coalition (@future_of_music) July 30, 2020

Jeez, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sounds like a right Tory doesn’t he?

Because famously artists who write/record/release/promote an album then tour it solidly for two years then go straight back into the studio to do another one then start the whole cycle all over again are just LAZY?

— Malcolm Jack (@MBJack) July 30, 2020

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