Spotify Wants Artists To Sacrifice Royalties For Algorithm Boosts, And Everyone Is Furious

It comes a week after musicians launched a massive campaign for the streaming giant to end artist exploitation.

Spotify announce new royalty sacrifice system for algorithmic recommendation, and artists are angry

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Spotify has announced a new “experiment” where artists and labels can sacrifice some of their streaming royalties to ensure music is recommended by their algorithm, in a move which has been widely criticised by musicians.

The streaming service announced the trial program via a press release (as reported by The Fader), promoting it as a way for artists to ensure they reach new audiences. Rather than a traditional payola system, Spotify will lower their streaming royalty rate for the songs put forward, to allow it to be “accessible to artists at any stage of their careers”.

This won’t affect editorial playlists, but merely algorithm-generated recommendations via the ‘radio’ and ‘autoplay’ function, though Spotify say they may expand it out later if the ‘experiment’ proves successful.

“In this new experiment, artists and labels can identify music that’s a priority for them, and our system will add that signal to the algorithm that determines personalized listening sessions,” they write.

“To ensure the tool is accessible to artists at any stage of their careers, it won’t require any upfront budget. Instead, labels or rights holders agree to be paid a promotional recording royalty rate for streams in personalized listening sessions where we provided this service. If the songs resonate with listeners, we’ll keep trying them in similar sessions. If the songs don’t perform well, they’ll quickly be pulled back.”

“Listener satisfaction is our priority — we won’t guarantee placement to labels or artists, and we only ever recommend music we think listeners will want to hear.”

The announcement comes exactly a week after a union of musicians launched the ‘Justice  At Spotify’ campaign, which demands the Swedish company — the world’s biggest streaming service —  increase its royalty rate to at least 1 cent a stream, among other overhauls.

“Many claim that such wages are not compatible with Spotify’s current economic system,” they wrote. “Our demand is that this model be adjusted so that artists can be paid fairly. If Spotify’s model can’t pay artists fairly, it shouldn’t exist.”

Justice At Spotify’s petition has been signed by more than 15,000 musicians and industry workers, including King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Empress Of, Zola Jesus, Amber Coffman, Thurston Moore, Frankie Cosmos, Jay Som and Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto.

Spotify’s new announcement has only further angered musicians, who are pointing out that this is simply another way to underpay and exploit artists who want to reach new audiences. The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, who are behind the Justice At Spotify campaign, have called it “payola” and are demanding an end to these practices.

Find some responses below.