To this point, the 2021 news cycle is no less crazy then 2020. Pushing the US and World politics to the side, the music world is ignited over the controversial removal of over 100,000 songs on Spotify.
Earlier this week, we briefed you on the situation in our "The Business of Music Podcast" and in a video post on the subject. Today, we will be updating you on what we know now on this developing story in what will be a continuing series of posts on the subject as the story continues to unfold.
Before we get into all of the current updates, let's lay out the key points from our earlier postings this week.
Setting the Stage
Over the last week, there were over 100,000 DistroKid songs removed on Spotify, without any warning. As you can imagine, both platforms appear to be blaming each other and the result is a large pool of independent artists who are both confused and paying the price.
Here are the important baseline facts so far:
- It appears that only artists who use DistroKid have been affected
- These songs have only been removed on Spotify's platform
- DistroKid is telling artists that their songs are falling under the "Artificial Streams" category
- Estimates are that over 15,000 artists have been impacted
Understanding all of this, let's break down the logic by looking at the artificial streams angle of all of this.
Why Spotify Wouldn't Want Songs with Artificial Streams
If we boil Spotify down to its core, it is a business. All businesses main goal is to make a profit. In Spotify's model, they have to pay royalties to artists for their streams. With this in mind, it stands to reason that they would have zero interest in paying money to artists based on "artificial streams".
Without giving us too much information, this broad claim sets Spotify up to be the good guy who is just protecting against dishonest behavior. Unfortunately, the story doesn't stop there.
Are We Getting the Full Story?
In today's day and age, we are all cautious and hesitant to take just take a corporations side of the story with no questions asked. If Spotify's claim is legitimate, we can understand that. If it is not, then this is a completely different story.
It seems like the latter may be the case.
Independent artists have been taking to social media to exclaim their grievances. This piece from Digital Music News does a great job providing some specific quotes from artists who feel they have been wrongly affected.
To sum them up, there are artists who swear they have not paid for fraudulent or artificial plays have seen their music removed from the platform.
We all know that sometimes people will say they did nothing wrong even if they did, so we have a bit of a he said, she said scenario here. But, if we look a bit deeper there is another angle of this that doesn't seem to add up from Spotify's side of things.
If Spotify is telling the truth, that all of these impacted artists are violating this policy, is it just a coincidence that they all happen to use DistroKid as their distributor? Speaking purely from a probability standpoint, it's highly unlikely.
What can Impacted Artists do Right Now?
As an artist, there are a few options at your disposal at this time, though none of them are ideal.
Spotify Artificial Streams - Counter Notification
In an effort to help rectify this, DistroKid has created a Google form for affected artists to fill out. In the article from Digital Music News, here is what they said on this.
"DistroKid’s mentioned counter-notification form requests information about artists’ removed music – and utilized third-party marketing services, for which “Spotify expects detailed reports.” The seven-year-old distribution service will then “pass it along to Spotify,” according to the text at the bottom of the application – though “DistroKid may not hear back from Spotify regarding the results of Spotify’s investigation, and the content will remain down during Spotify’s investigation.”
As you can see, it is an option though not a perfect or honestly even ideal one.
Switch Your Music Distribution Provider
The other option that you have right now is to change the music distributor you use and re-submit your songs. In doing so, make sure that you are adhering to Spotify's policies going forward to limit future risks.
*Note: We understand that a vast majority of the affected artists believe that they have been wrongfully impacted here. While this may be true, now is the time to practice extreme caution and limit the risk to your business.
Spotify's Stance on Everything Going On
While we don't have a ton of information in the way of official responses or updates. we do have this Twitter response from Spotify Cares.
For your reference, here is the policy link for you.
The takeaway here is that a lot of the information from both companies is vague to this point, perhaps intentionally. Do your best to comply with this policy and look at the solutions we gave you if you have been impacted by this.
This situation is going to be both ongoing and developing. All that we can do is give you the information we have right now and continue to update you as details are uncovered. We completely understand how much this hurts and is unfair to independent artists. We will do everything in our power to update you and help you through this situation.
Here is a wrap up of all of our recommendations at this point.
- Submit your appeal through the DistroKid form
- Consider switching distributors
- Play it safe and be extra cautious about this policy for the time being.
Keep checking back here for updates as this story develops.