Should indie artists boycott spotify

Should Indie Artists Boycott Spotify?

In marketing by watchmeexplode1 Comment

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If you are an indie artist thinking about keeping your music off Spotify (or any other streaming service) because Adele or Taylor Swift pulled their music please read this post first.

Maybe you don’t care about Adele or T.S. and you think streaming services are simply paying artists too little. Again, stop and read this first.

Please hear me out …

Do a quick Internet search for “streaming unfair to artists” and you’ll find plenty of articles about artists being paid tiny amounts for millions of plays on streaming platforms.

(Heres one:

Other articles reference Taylor Swift, or Adele and say you should follow their lead, boycott streaming services, and don’t put your music on Spotify because your fans are just going to stream it for free without ever buying your music.

Well, you are not Adele and I am not Taylor Swift.

Independent artists that either have a small fan base or are just getting started wouldn’t just be shooting themselves in the foot if they boycotted streaming services, they’d be cutting off their legs!

As an indie artist, or a DIY musician, you need all the exposure and marketing channels you can get.

Or to put it another way, you and I don’t have the incredible power that comes with a multi-million person fan base. Adele can pull her music from these platforms and actually increase sales. Decide for yourself whether that’s the power of the press or of her as an artist. Regardless, it just doesn’t work the same for you or me.

We need to go where the fans are and the numbers show that they are on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and the like.

…and if you think your fans aren’t on Spotify, I guess that’s possible, but consider that just this year people were surprised to find that metal fans were the biggest and most loyal category on Spotify. ( Who knew?!

But the question remains:

Why would anyone pay for music when it’s available for free on streaming services?

First consider this: Spotify is not your sales platform.  It is a marketing channel.

Artists today have to use their creativity not only in the music they make but also in their branding and marketing.

Spotify is a channel for someone to find you, listen, become familiar with your music, and then become interested enough to seek out more info.

That’s when they find your website, your Bandcamp page, or your event schedule. And that’s when they buy a ticket to your show, subscribe to your email list, and buy a t-shirt.

It’s a marketing channel that some artists are avoiding because they are lumping themselves into categories with the mega-stars.

Now, that doesn’t mean the conversation about fair streaming royalties should end.  That conversation needs to continue, but in the mean-time new artists should utilize these tools because when used properly, streaming services can generate new fans on a regular basis.


Here are 3 quick tips for using Spotify and other streaming services to grow your fan base:

  1. Playlists. If you haven’t explored playlists yet, you’re missing out on one of the best Internet Strategies for getting your music heard by new people.  Create and curate playlists. Ask fans to add you to their playlists. Contact blogs and ask to be added to their playlists.  Get on playlists! Here’s How:Explode Your Fanbase with Playlists
  2. Make it Social! Encourage your fans to share whenever they listen to you on Spotify. In the screenshots below you can see how fans can share what they are listening to on Social media or email. (many users already have their settings setup to do this automatically.  See below.)
  3. Grow your “Followers” on Spotify.  If people “follow” you on Spotify, they will get notified by Spotify whenever you release new music. Spotify encourages artists to “Think of followers as an extension of your mailing list. The more followers you have, the more fans you can directly connect with.”

Want more ideas?  Check out this page for Spotify Artists

The other big factor that is commonly missing when you read about streaming payouts is the record label.

If an artist is signed to a record label, then it’s their contract that is going to state how much they make from streaming royalties and not Spotify, Pandora, etc.

In other words, some people are suggesting that the uproar is focused on the wrong party and that streaming platforms may actually be helping the music industry by reducing piracy and pumping money back into the system.

They say the fingers should be pointed at the record labels for unfair artist contracts, not streaming services for unfair royalties.


Take this article for example, an essay by independent artist David McMillan from the band Fort Frances.

McMillan references Geoff Barrow of the band Portishead who, via Twitter, announced that “he had earned approximately $2,511 from 34 million streams.”

McMillan goes on to compare Portishead’s earnings for those 34 million streams to his own band’s earnings on 284,575 streams, $1359.01.

Their streaming earnings only differ by a little over a thousand dollars but Portishead has over 33 million more streams than Fort Frances.  What gives here?

According to Mcmillan, “The difference is how each band delivers music to Spotify. We pay a flat fee of $49.99 per album per year to have Tunecore push our material to Spotify and 23 other digital download and streaming stores. Their cut? Zero. We keep every cent of our earnings. In Portishead’s case, their earnings are subject to the terms of their record deal.” -McMillan,

Feel free to work out the math on what Portishead would have earned using Fort Frances earnings ratio…

Or better yet I’ll do it for you… (leaving out tax for simplicity’s sake)

Fort Frances

284,575 streams = $1359.01 = $0.004776 per stream


34 million streams @ $0.004776 per stream = $162,369.64


Say what you want about the rate of $0.004776 per stream, but the difference between $162,369.64 and the $2511 that Barrow says he received is huge. To be fair we can only speculate on whether or not the rest of the money did indeed go directly to the record label… or can we…

A quick read through the replies to Barrow’s tweet supports the idea that it was indeed his record contract that led to his poor streaming payout and not necessarily Spotify’s rates…(see screenshot below) IMAGE ARCHIVED

Obviously, there are many other unknown factors, but the main takeaway should be that there is usually more to the story.

So, please, take advantage of what is happening today.  Ride the streaming wave, and if it keeps rolling, stay on.  If it fizzles, jump on the next one.

What makes sense for a major label artist, does not necessarily make sense for an indie artist.

My music is on Spotify.  Is yours?


  1. Very good article, thank you! I have tried to convince some other indie pop of the same, but those who use the “Spotify is evil” argument is not easy to get through to. I also find it strange when big artists complain about how little they get from Spotify, and I guess you are right about the record label thing. I do everything myself, with a music style that isn’t for everyone (dream pop with shoegaze- and electronic elements), but I still get enough for a few beers from Spotify. I am happy about that! 🙂

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