We’re officially a few days into December and you know what that means: it’s the time of year where everyone on your social media feed starts sharing their end-of-year wrap-ups. I’m talking about your Instagram Top 9, your Facebook Year in Review, and, of course, your Spotify Wrapped.
I personally love seeing all of my friends post their Spotify Wrapped to their feeds and stories, especially this year. It brings me joy to see what artists and songs have been getting the people I care about through the nightmare that is 2020.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a few people posting that “yeah, your Spotify Wrapped is great and all, but Spotify is evil and if you really cared about supporting artists, you’d only buy their music directly from their or small local shops.”
I understand where this argument is coming from. Spotify and other streaming services are notoriously not great at paying artists a reasonable percentage of the profits from their streams. I agree with arguments that artists should be getting much higher payouts per stream than they currently are and I understand the desire of some people to boycott streaming services altogether because of this issue.
However, I also think it’s incredibly classist to make a blanket statement that everyone needs to boycott Spotify and that if we want to listen to an artist’s music, we need to buy their album.
If you don’t mind listening to ads, Spotify is free. If you want to pay for a Premium subscription, it’s all of $10/month. So let’s say that it also costs $10 to buy a new album (it almost never does, but we’ll say it does for the sake of argument). Therefore, if all you can afford to spend on music each month is $10, you can either buy one album or you can pay for a Spotify subscription and have access to an almost unlimited number of albums by an almost unlimited number of artists.
For those of us who really can only afford to spend $10 on music every month, do you really think it’s reasonable to insist we use it to buy only one album when services like Spotify exist?
If that was the case, I would have increased my music library by only 12 albums this year. Instead, thanks to Spotify, I discovered 562 new artists for a total of 996 different artists listened to altogether. I highly doubt I would have had anywhere near that much variety without Spotify in my life.
Obviously, it would be ideal if everyone could fully support their favorite small artists by buying their music directly from them every single time. It’s just not realistic, though, and suggesting that it is shows an incredible amount of privilege.
The fact of the matter is that streaming services are here to say. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s Mid-Year 2020 Revenue Report, streaming services currently account for about 85% of the music market. The popularity of streaming services is only going to continue to grow and instead of shaming people who utilize them, why don’t we invest that same energy into lobbying for change at the corporate level? If you have a problem with the way Spotify and others pay artists, take it up with Spotify, not with consumers.
Streaming services are legal, affordable, and help make music far more accessible. If you can afford to opt out of them, then by all means, do! But please, enough with the Spotify-shaming already.
Oh, and of course, here’s my Spotify Wrapped: