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Brian Cook On SUMAC Refusing To Release Their New Album On Spotify: “Spotify Is Great For The Consumer, But Their Pay Rate To Artists Is Dismal”


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SUMAC‘s latest album “May You Be Held”  saw a release earlier this month but you won’t find it on Spotify. A decision to avoid the service was made after the band took offense with comments made by the streaming service’s CEO Daniel Ek and the comparatively low payouts to artists for streams on the service. If you missed this previous report on the matter, Ek stated this past summer:

“…Obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future [streaming] landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough. The artists today that are making it realize 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.”

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“I feel, really, that the ones that aren’t doing well in streaming are predominantly people who want to release music the way it used to be released.”

Spotify themselves sit around the middle spectrum of artists payouts from leading digital service providers, offering an estimated $0.0032 per stream in 2020. Comparatively, Amazon Music Unlimited are seen to offer the highest amount with an estimated $0.01196 per stream.

Now speaking further on the matter in response to a fan on his Tumblr, SUMAC bassist Brian Cook (also of Russian Circles, ex-Botch, etc. fame), commented of the band’s decision:

“…It was a bit of a last minute decision.

I’m not anti-streaming. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a much bigger fan of streaming services than the old P2P platforms like Napster and Pirate’s Bay because there’s at least some accountability to artists and some artistic control that can be exercised on our end.

There was nothing more frustrating back in the ‘00s than finding out some shitty low grade rip of your unreleased album was up on some dude’s blog and having that dude talk about how you should be grateful for his help in spreading the word on your band. Ugh.

But it’s also pretty annoying to have a CEO of one of the largest streaming services talk about your music as a commodity and how you should be thankful for his streaming platform because it’s the only future for music.

Spotify is great for the consumer, but their pay rate to artists is dismal. And while I see Spotify as a great tool for investigating potential vinyl purchases and/or accessing my library when I’m away from home, I’m also aware that it’s become an easy way for folks to circumvent supporting the fragile economy of artists, labels, and record stores. Is Spotify convenient? Absolutely! Is it imperative that our music exists on their site? Absolutely not.

There’s also the factor of knowing May You Be Held is a difficult record to absorb as a cursory listen. I don’t want this record to be something you play on your phone’s speaker while you’re doing dishes. I want folks to actually sit down and listen to it on a quality set of speakers.

So by taking it off of Spotify, we’re reminding the CEOs of tech companies that we don’t need them and reminding listeners that our music isn’t meant to be some ephemera that you listen to once or twice and move on from… it’s something that you should take some time to ponder and develop an appreciation for.

And while I realize that’s a big ask in a time where there’s so much music vying for your attention, I also think it’s valid to try and shape the listener’s experience. Art isn’t always meant to be easy.

And if you’re a streaming-only kind of person, there’s always the lovely artist-friendly Bandcamp option here.”

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