Billy Bragg Continues Discussion About Spotify and Music Key

Lindsay Hood

By Lindsay Hood

on 11.19.14 in News

Yesterday, Billy Bragg wrote a missive to Taylor Swift about her decision to leave Spotify. Apparently, Bragg had an early invite to YouTube’s new streaming service Music Key and he claims to have spotted Swift’s catalogue. Swift’s camp was quick to fire back that she has no affiliation with the service as of yet, although articles in Wired and The International Business Times said different.

Meanwhile, Esquire jumped into the fray and pointed out that Bragg neglected to mention he was a current employee of Spotify; he’s had a monthly “radio show” with the service since February of this year.

Bragg quickly drafted another response, outlining not only his connections to Spotify, but what he sees as the key difference between Spotify and the new Music Key; Spotify’s royalty system is more transparent for the artists, while Music Key is attached to Google’s nondisclosure agreements.

Read Bragg’s statement, originally posted on his Facebook page, in full below:

Since I posted my criticism of Taylor Swift’s decision to boycott Spotify yesterday, attention has been drawn to my connections with the Swedish streaming service. For the record, I’m not employed by Spotify, nor am I a spokesman for them.

I do make a monthly ‘talking playlist’ for which I record links on my home computer, which are then sent to Spotify. My reasons for doing this are twofold:

Firstly, when my record label asked me to compile playlists for Spotify as part of the promo for my last album, I thought it would be more interesting to talk about why I like the tunes I chose and give some context to them. One of my complaints about Spotify is that they give no information with the tracks. Who wrote the song? Who produced it? Where and when was it recorded? This is the stuff you used to be able to discern from the sleeve or the label of a physical recording.

I’d been trying to work out how to run a digital radio station from my personal website for a while, something that allowed me to recommend music I was listening to, and this seemed like an ideal way to do it. I suggested this to my label and they put the idea to Spotify who green lighted it. I compile a talking playlist once a month, but I get no fee for doing this from Spotify or anyone else.

Secondly, whether we like it or not, music streaming is becoming increasingly popular. It seems to be the way that people want to listen to music and, although there is controversy about the per stream royalty rates that artists receive from their record companies, the streaming services are at least paying royalties.

As artists, rather than resist them, I believe it is in our long-term interest to engage with the streaming services – which is what I am trying to do with my talking playlist. This approach has borne some fruit with Spotify – their royalty system is relatively transparent. They will let an artist see how many plays they have had and show them how much they have paid to their record company for those plays. The artist can then look at how much they have received from their label and do the math.
Compare this to the deal that the independent labels have just signed with You Tube Music Key – except you can’t, because all deals and negotiations with Google are covered by non-disclosure agreements. We won’t know how many plays we’ve had on Music Key, nor how much Google paid our labels for that use – we’ll just have to take whatever we receive and be thankful.

I believe artists deserve better treatment than that. That’s why I often find myself defending Spotify – for all their faults, they have set the bar high in terms of transparency and we should be demanding the same from other streaming services.