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  • Rich Kassirer

One music fan's boycott of Spotify

I won’t listen to Spotify. In fact, I am personally boycotting it.

I’m sure the music streaming executives are quaking in their collective boots over my decision. “Yeah, there go a couple thousand streams we won’t get. Boohoo!”

It doesn’t seem to bother Spotify or Pandora that they are ripping off musicians by underpaying them for their music, but it bothers me.

I’m not a musician, just a music fan that needs music to feed my soul. I gladly pay for that.

Yes, I have illegally download some music in the past. It was almost always from what I perceived as commercially successful artists – Springsteen, Tom Petty – those who I could at least rationalize wouldn’t miss my $0.99 per song. But I have since realized that was short-sighted thinking, and don’t do it anymore. I fully understand that selling music is the only way most musicians continue to afford to make more music.

I have read interviews with musicians like Rosanne Cash who rail against Spotify, Pandora and other streaming sites for their practices. Cash says her music had been streamed by Spotify 600,000 times over an 18-month period, resulting just $104 in royalties.

This makes me angry, angry enough to boycott. But she continues to allow her music to be streamed there? This puzzled me at first. Now, of course, I understand that these services offer a visibility, an outlet to be heard in great numbers. But is it worth the cost – the cost in principle?

It’s easy for me to ask. I’m not the one trying to spread the word of my own work and make a living at it. The recourse would be, what? Trying to spread the word yourself? Good luck with that. Anything short of a Taylor Swift PR campaign will get lost in the Internet’s here-today, gone-tomorrow news cycle.

But someone has to fight back!

Could that someone – to pull their music and give Spotify a kick in the ass – actually be Taylor Swift? She recently pulled her catalog off the site and wrote in the Wall Street Journal that music is valuable and deserves to be treated like “art.” I’m not exactly sure what Swift’s real motives are: I’ve read conflicting stories about why she’s pulled her catalog. She sounds like she gets it, and though I believe she is genuine, I’m not completely blind that this could motivated to sell more albums.

It really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that by pulling her music off the site, she has brought the issue of musicians being paid by streaming sites to the forefront again. And what really would make a difference is if other artists immediately followed suit and pulled their music catalogs.

Spotify could probably care less if Rosanne Cash pulled her music. But if it was Swift and Cash and Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Tom Petty, oh, and Dylan (the times they are a-changin’ again, Bob), I bet Spotify would notice. Maybe then something would happen.

It’s easy for me to propose this. I’m not a musician. I’m just a music fan.

But I’m a music fan who cares about the artists who put out music that I love, that I need to feed my soul.

I pay for that music, Spotify should too.

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