Spotify CEO To Artists: “You Can’t Record Music Once Every Three To Four Years And Think That’s Going To Be Enough”

Daniel Ek suggests the secret to success is not higher Spotify payout rates, but more output from musicians

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, photo via Bloomberg

    In many ways, Spotify and other similar streaming services have been a godsend for music lovers who want to access anything and everything at a moment’s notice. However, since its launch in the late 2000s, Spotify has also earned a shady reputation due to its meager streaming payout rates for artists. According to a recent report, a mid-sized indie label earned just $0.00348 per stream. Many major acts have slammed the Swedish company for failing to properly support musicians, including Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, who once likened Spotify to “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.”

    In a turn of events that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s even vaguely familiar with the music industry, Spotify doesn’t think it’s doing anything wrong. In fact, the streaming company believes it’s the artists who aren’t doing enough to help themselves. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek stated as much in a wild new interview with MusicAlly, in which he said musicians should be recording and releasing music nonstop in order to make ends meet.

    To start off the discussion, Ek said that although musicians don’t often publicly praise Spotify, the data suggests they’re actually satisfied with the payout rates. “In private they have done that [praised Spotify] many times, but in public they have no incentive to do it,” he remarked. “But unequivocally, from the data, there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself.”


    Ek’s core argument “in defense of Spotify” came during a later conversation about artists past and present. According to him, artists that have survived in the past may not be as fortunate in today’s world, which rewards fast-paced, 24/7 work cycles.

    “There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough,” said Ek.

    “The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans,” he continued. “It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans.”


    Ek, who as of 2020 is reportedly worth $4 billion dollars, concluded by saying, “I feel, really, that the ones that aren’t doing well in streaming are predominantly people who want to release music the way it used to be released.”

    Saying that artists should constantly be releasing new material just to get by is an elitist and out-of-touch statement, and one that dehumanizes artists and their work. It’s also one that could potentially have dangerous ramifications not unlike those experienced in the concert industry. Since music’s gone digital, artists have had to increasingly rely almost entirely on touring to survive, resulting in exhausting, jam-packed concert schedules that often threaten both their physical and mental health. Per Ek’s flawed logic, artists would need to adopt a similar recording ethic if they want to be successful.

    Naturally, Ek’s comments have not been well received by musicians. On Twitter, David Crosby called Ek “an obnoxious greedy little shit.” Mike Mills of R.E.M. replied similarly, telling Ed to “go fuck yourself.”


    Editor’s Note: We’re currently offering an exclusive 60-day free trial to TIDAL Hi-FI. Beyond the platform’s high-fidelity audio offerings, TIDAL also reportedly offers greatest royalties to artists.