Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

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Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

windshieldman
Casual Listener

This is a true story from the band Smokey and the Mirror.  

 

We are a folk band. We get by on a shoestring. We raised just under $5000 from our fans to help record our last album, Thin Black Line. We put roughly $5000 of our own money into the album as well. It meant the world to us that so many folks cared enough to donate their hard earned money to our artistic endeavors. We went into the studio and made an album that we are proud of and that we felt honored the investment our fans made in us.


We released Thin Black Line on April 15th. We put a lot of time and energy into the decision to load our album onto Spotify. We listened to what other artists like Taylor Swift and Jason Isbell had to say against Spotify. We were with their viewpoint at first, but then we also started to notice fewer and fewer folks buying our CDs at shows. We even called our distributor, CD Baby, to ask a few questions about whether or not we should be on Spotify. We asked our rep, "Why should have our music on Spotify?" She answered with a question, "Do you want your music to be heard by anyone under 30?" We caved. We made a 180 in our thinking about Spotify and got with the times.
The album came out on April 15th and was released on Spotify around that same time. We made a big push with our fans. 2500+ Facebook fans and roughly 4000 folks on our email list. We asked them to have a listen. Many of our fans were not Spotify members. Some of them wrote to us and told us that they were signing up for Spotify just so they could listen to our album and support our music. Even our favorite local bookstore, Nightbird Books, starting playing our album in the store. We were overwhelmed by the support. We still are overwhelmed. It has been so amazing to hear from folks who have truly enjoyed the album and have listened to it multiple times. Many folks admitted that they wouldn't have bought the CD but that Spotify gave them a way to listen to and fall in love with the album.
Today we were notified by our distributor, CD Baby, that Spotify removed our album because they analyze the listening data on our album and felt that it was excessive and that the listening was coming from a small group of listeners and/or the listeners were predominantly listening to our album more than other content on Spotify.


We were shocked. We inquired and it turns our that Spotify has removed our album and WILL NOT reinstate it. In our option it seems that Spotify is not working for independent artists.

 

Here is the explanation from CD Baby:
"Hi Bryan –
Spotify made the decision to pull the album in response to streaming activity that they determine to be abusive. This can happen if fans are encouraged to stream the album on repeat for long periods of time or something along those lines. Most digital music providers are ok with a lot of streams for indie content, but if a handful of users are just playing an album or track on repeat, which does not resemble normal listening behavior, they will remove the content to avoid financial losses. Royalties that are accrued by this kind of streaming will usually not be paid out if they are determined to be abusive.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
-Kevin"


As of today we had roughly 79,000 total plays of the songs on Thin Black Line. That is equivalent to the 4000 fans on our email list listening to the record 1.5 times. Does that seem excessive?


Just so you get an idea about the revenue from 79,000 listens it equates to roughly $474. Is this the financial loss that Spotify is worried about?


At this point it sounds like Spotify will not be paying the $474 in royalties from our listens. We can live with this, we will book another gig. But, it got us thinking, why would Spotify care enough to withhold such a small sum from a small time, independent band? It just doesn't feel right.


In the end, we are going to pull our other music from Spotify. They don't deserve it. They won't care, they have already made what they wanted from us. We spent the last 2 months trying to get our entire fan base to get interested in Spotify. Even if 100 of our 4000 fans signed up as new premium subscribers that is $12,000 of revenue (annualized) to Spotify, they are also opting to keep the $474 in royalties they would have had to pay out on our album listens. They WIN. Independent artists lose.


We are not telling this story to complain or to be outwardly negative. There is enough negativity in the world we live in. We are telling in because we support independent musicians. We promote shows, run a festival, and tell our audiences about independent musicians every time take the stage. If you care about independent musicians like we do, find another way to support them other than Spotify. It is hard being a professional musician in 2015. Spotify claims to be the salvation of musicians and declining sales of recorded music. We think our story sheds light on this claim. We will let you decide for yourself.

 

What are your thoughts?

14 Replies

Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

Rock Star 18
Rock Star 18

Hello,

 

Sorry to hear this story..

 

Just a quick question.

 

Do you have an idea of how many of your 4000 or so "fans" who have signed up and listened to your album with Spotify, have been following your band profile on Spotify and do you have encouraged them to do so ?

 

Actually, the band profile shows 30 followers, which certainly pushed Spotify to think that something was not right with so few followers and 79 000 plays.

 

This number of plays is actually reached by bands with much more followers.

SoundofusRock Star 18
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Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

user-removed
Not applicable

What do I think, the artist profile page show 30 followers. Something is off? You can not reach 79,000 plays of a single album without at least having a far larger number of followers, the math and common sense does not work out, something is off here. Where did those mysterious 4000 fans come from, and then listen to the album but then mysteriously did not follow the artist? Something is not correct. Spotify has ways to track how albums and tracks are played and where the streams are being played from, be it if something looked fishy they might have made the proper move to the pull the release until further investigation was complete. Fraud is fraud. I would not expect a company to pay for any kind of fraud, businesses would fail everywhere from it. And why did not this mysterious hardcore 4000 fan count not also purchase a CD copy of the same release? Most indie artist are able to pull this off with 4000 in CD sales, this should not be that hard, most bands of any genre are able to pull this off just selling CD's at gigs and small shows? Most indie artists would notice rather quickly a spike in CD sales from such an event, 4000 x $12 bucks a pop is almost 50k in revenue, did this band see a revenue increase of almost $50,000 from this increased interest in their music? There are big gaping holes in this story.

 

I even checked on this release at Rdio and it only has 54 plays. I truly think something is off with this story and this was all just a publicity stunt. Spotify is in the news allot and ever since Taylor Swift's somewhat narcissistic view on things and her melodrama, other artists are probable thinking, can we create a false narrative to get some media attention on the Spotify Brand?

 

Also it is smart to also provide sources for stories like this, even if the story might be complete B.S. anything that can not be fact checked or even looked into is fishy enough and gets nothing but scorn from me.

Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

windshieldman
Casual Listener
I have nothing but scorn for the way Spotify treated this band. I was one of the heavy listeners of the album and know the band personally. It was definitely not a publicity stunt.

Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

Paha_Agentti
Regular

You have to remember that artist can have 0 FOLLOWERS, but still have thousands of LISTENERS. I'm not following all the artists I listen.

Irene Cara has about  13 769 followers, but still her top ten songs had been played way over 20 million times.

And why Spotify punishes artists if someone is listening their album "too much". They should punish those who listen music in "wrong way".

 
This is also a bit odd: "Most digital music providers are ok with a lot of streams for indie content, but if a handful of users are just playing an album or track on repeat, which does not resemble normal listening behavior, they will remove the content to avoid financial losses. Royalties that are accrued by this kind of streaming will usually not be paid out if they are determined to be abusive." 
 
So, Spotify can "steal" money from artists if some fans are listening songs "too much". I think Spotify should remove those listeners, not content.
 
 
 

Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

2loraine
Newbie
I am an independent artist and got kicked off of spotify as well for excessive plays from too few sources. No warnings. Banished forever. It makes me think that they really aren't here to help independent artists.

Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

saved
Roadie

Two weeks or so ago I discovered a new band. Since then I have been totally hooked on everything they have on offer and I've been listening to those tracks almost exclusively on Spotify.

 

They are not mainstream and their fans are not necessarily disposed to web culture.

 

I do not follow on Spotify. I listen.

 

They are currently on tour. If I am listening avidly to their music without following, I wonder how many more might be doing the same as a result of the tour.

 

I have now bought their whole discography, but thought that by still playing their music when logged on to Spotify it might benefit them even further.

 

Now I am concerned that it might have the opposite effect and feel compelled not to add their music as local files. I log off to listen.

 

Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

Rock Star 23
Rock Star 23

@2loraine

 

Have you tried to get in touch with Spotify Artists?

 

http://www.spotifyartists.com/contact-us/

 

I'm curious to know if they review their bannings.

osorniosRock Star 23
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Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

Rock Star 23
Rock Star 23

@saved

 

To play an artist from a Local File does not count as a 'play' for Spotify (which means they don't get paid either).

 

It counts only if you stream it, or if the offline track comes from Spotify's servers.

osorniosRock Star 23
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Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

saved
Roadie

@osornios

 

I believed that to be the case but thank you for the confirmation.

 

I should have explained that I only play local files if they are not playable on Spotify.

 

Although I had bought the music, I was still streaming it on Spotify purely as a way of raising that artist's number of plays and a small bonus payment. I know neither is worth much coming from just one person, but the intentions were good. :)

 

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