Joanna Newsom Calls Out Spotify's "Cynical and Musician-Hating System"

Joanna Newsom Calls Out Spotify's "Cynical and Musician-Hating System"
Chamber pop master Joanna Newsom's much-anticipated Divers LP lands next Friday (October 23) through Drag City, but listeners won't be jumping into those waters via most streaming services. There's a reason for that, as an interview with the musician reveals that she believes companies like Spotify are part of a "cynical and musician-hating system."

A Los Angeles Times feature has the singer-songwriter sounding off on Spotify in particular, though her back catalogue is likewise not available on similar services like Apple Music and TIDAL. It is, however, up on Pandora.

"Spotify is the banana of the music industry," she said, adding of the company's practices, "It just gives off a fume. You can just smell that something's wrong with it."

Her general complaint is the distribution of payments via streaming models, which come across as unbalanced, and definitely not in the artist's favour. She likens Spotify to "a villainous cabal of major labels."

She elaborated:

The business is built from the ground up as a way to circumvent the idea of paying their artists. The major labels were not particularly happy with the fact that as the royalty money dwindled more and more, their portion of the percentage split agreed upon in their licensing agreement got smaller and smaller.

So someone came up with a great idea that if they start a streaming company, they can make those percentages even smaller. Infinitesimal, because they can make their money from advertising and subscription, and they don't have to pay their artists anything for that. So it's set up in a way that they can just rob their artists, and most of their artists have no way to fight it because they're contractually obligated to stay with the label for x amount of time and you can't really opt out. It's a garbage system.


As such, she has beef with how the service pays the artists it's profiting off of. She does note the genius of making so much music available to the masses at a low cost and accepts the industry shift, but explains that it's not so sweet if you're not getting paid for your work.

"If there was some way they could divide the money they make from advertising and the money they make from subscriptions and actually give it to artists, I would have a completely different opinion about it."

Newsom does, however, explain that she and Drag City are involved in a partnership with Pandora, despite not making much money off the deal. She also seems to somewhat back the artist-run TIDAL service, though she hasn't explored that streaming option too much yet.

"I know it was kind of roundly made fun of because of the way in which it was unveiled to the world, but from what I gather they were trying to address the issues that make Spotify so very evil. I don't know if they successfully did it. I should look into it."

Newsom recently revealed tour dates behind Divers. You can look at the tour schedule, which hits Toronto, over here.