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Century Media pulls catalogue from Spotify

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Century Media has pulled its catalogue from Spotify.

Yesterday it issued this statement.

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Century Media and its associated labels “InsideOutMusic”, “Superballmusic”, “Ain’t no Grave Records”, “Hollywood Waste” and “People Like You” have decided to pull their repertoire from Spotify in an attempt to protect the interests of their artists.

While everyone at the label group believes in the ever changing possibilities of new technology and new ways of bringing music to the fans, Century Media is also of the opinion that Spotify in its present shape and form isn’t the way forward. The income streams to the artists are affected massively and therefore that accelerates the downward spiral, which eventually will lead to artists not being able to record music the way it should be recorded. Ultimately, in some cases, it will completely kill a lot of smaller bands that are already struggling to make ends meet.

At the same time Century Media also believes that Spotify is a great tool to discover new music and is in the process of reintroducing their bands to Spotify by way of putting up samplers of the artists. This way, fans can still discover the great music released by the label.

Physical sales are dropping drastically in all countries where Spotify is active. Artists are depending on their income from selling music and it is our job to support them to do so. Since the artists need to sell their music to continue their creativity, Spotify is a problem for them. This is about survival, nothing less and it is time that fans and consumers realize that for artists it is essential to sell music to keep their heads above water.

Obviously it is ultimately up to the music fan and consumer, how they access their music, whether it is buying, streaming or stealing. There needs to be awareness though, that how you will consume your music has direct consequences for the artists, who we are all trying to support.

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For the moment, let’s disregard the fact that Century Media isn’t a hot name ’round these parts, and that the label of Triptykon and Napalm Death has a sublabel of Christian hardcore punk (Ain’t No Grave).

What’s going on is that a prominent independent label is withdrawing from a music platform that’s taken Europe by storm and is now sweeping the US.

That might seem like commercial suicide. But even cursory research reveals that behind the marketing-speak (it’s disingenuous for a label this size to cite protecting the interests of its artists – note how there’s no mention of protecting its own interests) might lie legitimate concerns. Sources indicate royalty rates of millifractions of cents (see here and here), with over 1000 streams required to reach $1 in royalties.

Now, unless you work for Century Media and/or its distributor EMI, you don’t know the terms of the deal Century Media/EMI worked out with Spotify. But evidently over one million plays of “Poker Face” for Lady Gaga earned her $167. I’m sure that Century Media has less negotiating power than Lady Gaga when it comes to Spotify royalties. So at these rates, no one makes any money except for Spotify.

Spotify looks great for the consumer. It’s cheap and convenient. And since people these days have increasingly limited resources, they’ll gravitate towards what’s cheapest and most convenient. But this is another case of the tech industry holding the music industry in the palm of its hand (see iTunes). Will it also hold music consumers in the palm of its hand? Will this turn into a situation like gasoline, where the only sources are multinational corporations? Is Spotify the Walmart of streaming music – good for consumers and corporation, bad for everyone else?

I kind of don’t care at the moment, since I don’t need Spotify. No one does. It’s a luxury. But I might need Spotify in the future, and it might come at a cost to others – and, ironically, Century Media is loudly acknowledging that. Labels, traditional frenemies of artists, are complaining that someone else is screwing them (again, see iTunes). Maybe it’s karmic retribution; maybe it’s just another example of money not going where it should. I just want to support bands. (I like some labels, but, really, they’re just financiers and promotional companies.) Spotify is just the newest middleman between me and the band. The time-honored system of seeing a band live and paying it directly for merch – assuming a label doesn’t have its fingers in that pie with a 360 deal – seems more appealing than ever. Caveat emptor.

— Cosmo Lee

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