Hi folks

Ok, just a quickie here, need to clear something up between songs..

Last week I tweeted

“On Spotify graciously deciding to charge its free listeners..are you going to pay the BANDS THAT MAKE THE BASTARD MUSIC IN THE FIRST PLACE!!”

then I followed with

“ahem; clears throat; thing is; some day we’d like to make more songs. and we used to do that with the money we made from.. selling songs”

Now, a journalist from the Glasgow Evening Times got in touch, but I said I’d rather not say any more on the subject. This was a sporadic outburst after all, much like a nervous tick or something; I didn’t want to dwell on it.

So, the Evening Times went ahead with their thing, and now it’s on the web. The article was pointed out to me and it only increased my annoyance; they have attributed to me thoughts and feelings that I patently don’t have. Therefore I shall attempt to put into black and white the situation somewhat, as George Harrison once said..

The Evening Times said

“The frontman of a group described as Scotland’s best band ever has hit out at the generation who no longer pay for music.

That’s me they’re talking about.

Ok, now my point, and probably my only important point: I’m certainly not against ‘the generation who no longer pay for music.’ That horse has bolted. And hey, I like that horse! It’s free and young and happy and doing its horsey thing.

What has had me conflicted is Spotify itself. Overnight, this thing appeared called Spotify, claiming it was a great idea, innovative, the saviour of the industry. From what I can gather, and no one has been able to tell me differently, it’s financed by a gathering of the top (ie. richest) people, from the top (ie. richest) record labels.

Overnight, the whole Belle And Sebastian back catalogue became available to stream, for anybody, for free, for good. We weren’t asked about it.

“How were you not asked?” I can imagine you would say. That’s exactly what I asked the record label. Their answer was not that informative. They mumbled something about a distribution company, that was under some umbrella; that it wasn’t up to them.

Can I just stress that Rough Trade is certainly not one of the aforementioned ‘richest’ record companies. I feel a bit bad for them. I’m gathering that they thought they had nothing to lose with the Spotify thing, that they had to try something new. (Kids, if there’s a less viable career choice than ‘independent recording artist’ at the minute, I would certainly say it was ‘independent record label.’)

Anyway, that’s enough of the angst. I’ve said it to the rest of the band, and I’ll say it again, “just because we’re in a band, it doesn’t make it a bloody pension plan”. We’ve had, and continue to have, a brilliant time making music and playing music and dreaming, and just about getting away with it. If it just got harder, then that’s because it should be hard. I think in the end it will make the music, the art, better.

I’m not even so much against Spotify. If they can get their model right, ie pay the bands something approaching appropriate amounts, then it will be all ok. I’m ready to throw my lot in with them; I mean, I use it now. And if I was 19 I would have used it too. (Would have used it to decide which vinyl/music to buy/see, as I’m sure lots of people still do)

It just seemed rich of them that they decided to charge everyone. They lured everyone in with ‘Our’ music (the royal ‘Our’), which they didn’t pay for, and now, probably because a shareholder somewhere is sitting in a Porsche, crying for a dividend, they’re going to charge money in our name. And I will eat my beloved black hat if we ever see a share.

Please don’t go to the trouble with long responses. I appreciate your comments after the initial tweet, but i need to get out of this office and into the springtime! So i may not be monitoring the situation very well.. Upwards and onwards!


  1. Neill "Bruiser" Beattie says:

    I’m talking about this in my dissertation just now, might quote you haha.

  2. Jeremy Weiland says:

    Yet another example of how intellectual property ends up enriching everybody but the actual creators. I think you have the right attitude towards this, Stuart.

  3. sasmitamurti says:

    one thing that I recognize from their article, that is u’re the frontman of the Scotland’s best band ever!!,and I agree with them about that..the rest, I don’t care, I think what u’ve written in ur twitter only just ur creative mumbles..

  4. Daniel Kyle says:

    Just a couple of things – Spotify don’t have shareholders, it’s a private company.

    And they give the bands a percentage of the money they receive from charging people – the more people they charge, the more they pay you, and that’s how the agreement works. They’re only starting to restrict the free service now as they are under pressure from record labels to do so.

    1. Stuart says:

      thanks daniel

      yes, of course, i was running away with myself talking about shareholders. i was summoning up a cartoon image. but it doesn’t make me feel any better about the handful of privateers who are profiteering from our music.

      let’s hope we see a trickle in the future, however, and that the bands do get a fair deal, whatever that ends up being.

  5. Lisa says:

    Short comment: if spotify costs money for everyone, isn’t it likely that more people will spend those money on buying real records instead? I hope so

  6. C says:

    Spotify has always charged you know, and the free service has been limited for months. If their curbing of the free side of the service gets more people used to actually PAYING for music then that can only be a good thing, in my opinion. I know far too many people who rarely buy music and only ever use Spotify.

    The paying the bands thing…hmm. It’s difficult. No-one seems to know how much a Spotify play is actually worth. I mean, is it worth less than radio play because each song isn’t being broadcast to thousands of people, or is it worth more because people can play the song any time they like, as if Spotify was their iTunes or something? I think it occupies an awkward place, which will become clearer with time.

    1. Simon says:

      It’s not hard to pay bands from listens on Spotify. They record who you’ve listened to and how many times (that’s how they do the recommendation stuff), they know what you’ve paid for the month and they know the costs of running their servers etc. It would be simple to distribute the money you pay for your months subscription to the people you listen to in that month, minus the overheads of running the service/company.

      What (I think…) happens is that the money spotify makes is distributed to record labels following some “market share” or other profile (a bit like how PRS works). This means that the bigger companies see more revenue from Spotify (which is probably why it’s still going…), and smaller ones get less *even if their catalogue is getting played*. What those companies do with the money is up to them, I guess, and the various contracts they’ll have with the artists they represent. I know of a record label removing its catalogue because the (small, indie) label weren’t getting enough income from it, while at the same time seeing their music played.

      1. Stuart says:

        ah, interesting! well i’m not going to chase them up, i’m sure the MU or someone will sort it out. (hint hint, Union! that is what you are for after all..)

        And a general point, it’s touching how many folk are writing to say they pay for downloads or cds. i thank you and salute you. but i’m not even bothered about people listening for free. you can’t control how people listen to music. we used to pass around tapes at school; never thought anything of it. it’s the same thing. and the ones we loved we probably bought and cherished later when we had some money. so the good stuff always makes it. which reminds me to get back and try and write a better song..

  7. Lisa Henderson says:

    Sorry Daniel, going to have to correct you there. Spotify sold 1/5 of its shares to the Major record companies BEFORE going private in 2009. It was part of the deal to get the rights to stream the music…..They didn’t care about paying the little labels, they just didn’t want to get sued by the big ones….


  8. Rachel says:

    You might want to link this to your actual Belle & Sebastian twitter. It will probably reach more people that way. I read a few tweets saying you were a bit of a whiny bastard for complaining in the Evening Times and it turns out it wasn’t even true. Be careful what you read.

  9. primroseliz says:

    Private companies *do* have shareholders, just not as many of them. If it’s a private company it’s set up on a for-profit basis – being a private company just means that members of the public can’t buy shares in it on the open market. What that means is that the shareholders are actually closer to the management (typically the same people). So you can go on picturing the guy in the Porsche if you like!

    Incidentally I thought this was a really thoughtful and useful blog post.

    1. Stuart says:

      thanks Liz

  10. johnny favourite says:

    this is quite good for showing the dispersal of revenue from spotify and others http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/how-much-do-music-artists-earn-online/

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