Spotify has quickly become the #1 way people listen to music, even beating out iTunes, which ruled for years. But it can be frustrating to search for your favorite artists and not find them. So why are some bands not on Spotify?
Here is what I discovered:
Some bands and artists choose not to promote their music on Spotify due to the relatively low royalties paid. But some artists such as Taylor Swift and Pearl Jam, who once avoided Spotify, have come around and added their catalogs due to the overwhelming popularity of Spotify among fans.
Song composers and singers have a larger share in a song’s creation. And the common perception is that they deserve to be the major profit beneficiaries of any album’s sales. But Spotify does not directly pay its artists.
Many users raised several queries on how the artists receive the money if they are not paid directly by Spotify.
The digital portal had to launch a website- Loud & Clear, to answer all the user’s questions.
From this website, I found that Spotify is primarily a music streaming service that generates revenue for rights holders, NOT artists.
Now in some cases, they are one and the same.
But for big artists on big labels, the record company gets the cut and then divides it up, and if the artist uses other people’s songs, they may not end up with a lot.
The money paid to artists earned from Spotify depends on the contract between the artist and the record label after splitting all royalties between recording companies and publishers.
This is one of the reasons some bands shun Spotify.
“Of course, one of the chapters that received the most publicity was the battle with artists like Bob Dylan and Taylor Swift.” pic.twitter.com/DdWKElLMYS
— Taylivia Team (@TayliviaTeam) June 15, 2021
Which artists are not on Spotify?
The biggest musical artist that is not on Spotify is Garth Brooks. But many bands that previously shunned Spotify have eventually come on board, such as Taylor Swift, The Beatles, and Pearl Jam. However, many smaller bands have chosen not to participate with Spotify.
Spotify may rule the minds of some music enthusiasts all over the world. But, there are still music influencers who choose to avoid getting enlisted on Spotify for various reasons.
Here are the most notable artists you won’t find on Spotify:
- The Displacements
- Moi Dix Mois
- The Frustrators
- Southern All Stars
- The Influents
- Rapeman – Two Nuns and a Pack Mule (Album)
- Blood On the Dance Floor
- Slash (Guns N’ Roses) on Rocco DeLuca (Song)
- Malice Mizer
Here is Spotify’s reply to why some artists are missing from the streaming list:
“We want all the world’s music and are working hard on making this happen for you. However, sometimes artists and labels can’t reach a standard agreement or change in music ownership resulting in non-inclusion on Spotify.”
Union of Musicians and Allied Workers today outside Spotify’s 4 World Trade Center office: “If Spotify’s model can’t pay artists fairly, it shouldn’t exist.” pic.twitter.com/NkoGm0lxLF
— liz pelly (@lizpelly) March 15, 2021
Does Spotify not pay artists?
Spotify does not directly pay artists or songwriters. For big bands on record labels, they pay 2/3rd of every dollar to the label or whoever owns the rights to the songs (which may or may not be the artist). The artists get paid as per their agreement with their chosen rights holders.
In a recent video, “How the money flows?“, Spotify explained that the money paid to artists does not directly land in artists’ accounts.
Instead, Spotify pays a 2/3rd of the earned profit to the record label companies, distributors, aggregators, or collecting societies. And keeps 1/3rd of the subscription fees.
Spotify has separate agreements with individual record labels. Similarly, every artist has a different agreement with their selected rights holders.
The amount gets collected in their royalty pool from premium tier subscribers and advertisers on the free tier. Spotify divides this money into two buckets: Recording and Publishing.
Recording refers to who is playing the music you hear, whereas publishing refers to who wrote the song. In many cases, those are one and the same, but not always.
While the recording payout is generally 75 to 80%, the publishing payout is around 20-25%.
Spotify also suggested in the Loud & Clear video that there is no uniformity in the payment system as each different music label has a separate agreement with the artists. The matter of dividing the money becomes their business as soon as it leaves Spotify.
Spotify does not control how much money an artist is paid after that.
As per Spotify founder Daniel Ek, Spotify’s payment system may be complex, but it aims to help artists find success through streaming.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) November 19, 2014
Why are some artists’ songs not on Spotify?
When an artist that is on Spotify has some songs or albums not listed, it is usually because their current record label was unable to reach a financial agreement with the previous label that had originally released those songs.
For example, I love the band, Redd Kross.
And while they are on Spotify, my favorite album, Show World is not on Spotify. Their most recent albums have all been on the indie label Merge Records. But Show World was on Mercury. Luckily, my 2nd favorite album of theirs, Phaseshifter, was just released on Spotify.
It was on the (seemingly now defunct) label This Way Up Records.
Merge was either unwilling to pay those labels for the rights, or the old labels were not willing to give up the rights. And when an artist leaves a label, the old label loses the incentive to push the music they released.
Some users on the Spotify Community platform suggested that the reason behind some songs not being available on Spotify could be due to copyright issues and their current owner’s song distribution policies.
I probed further and found a user’s comment:
Due to problems of right owners, or a wish of the artist or the record label, some albums are not available, some have just a few songs available, or partially available in some countries.
Why are there unplayable songs on spotify and why would you want the option to see them pic.twitter.com/97sl2DyfD4
— Emma Campbell 🌼 (@PotassiYUM) December 1, 2017
Why are some songs unplayable on Spotify?
Some songs are unplayable on Spotify due to ownership issues or unavailability in certain countries. For example, a record label for a band may have the right to sell the music in the UK but not in the US. Thus, listeners in the UK can access the songs, but US listeners will find those songs grayed out.
The best option to fix this is to buy the album and add them to the local Spotify library.
But to do that, you have to have a Spotify Premium membership, and you have to do it on the desktop application, not mobile.
Some artists might make their songs unavailable on Spotify for issues like copyright or a change in available countries. It depends on the artist to make the songs available again, even if they revoke the rights.
For example, a Spotify user explained:
The Matriarch album isn’t available in Canada, and only three songs are available in other countries covered by Spotify.
Another user on the same thread added:
Once a song has copyright exchange ownership, it’s now business between Spotify and the new owner.
As stated before, if Spotify can’t reach an agreement with the new owner of the copyright of the songs, then Spotify has to remove it from the app; otherwise, Spotify would be violating copyright regulations.
Spotify does not control which songs will be unplayable and playable.
If the listener cannot listen to their purchased music, the best solution is to either listen to them through YouTube or buy the album and then add it to their Spotify local library.
Spotify pays huge fees to record labels — but its new deal with Universal means it will earn some of that money back by charging the labels for advertising and marketing https://t.co/arxG40GklL pic.twitter.com/jIiVVE4kQT
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) July 22, 2020
Do record labels decide what bands to add to Spotify?
Record labels do decide which of their artists to add to Spotify based on the terms of the contract they have with that artist. For example, Garth Brooks, who is not on Spotify, obviously had it in his contract with Capitol Records that he did not want his music distributed that way.
Of course, for small bands without a label, the bands themselves decide.
For example, I have 2 of my own former bands that are on Spotify. And it was fairly easy. I just signed up with one of the many distributors that work with Spotify (and all the other streaming options like iTunes, Apple Music, etc.)
But, if you want to get your music on Spotify, I recommend you check out RouteNote. RouteNote currently distributes to Spotify free of charge, while other distributors like Record Union have standard distribution fees.
One more thing to note here is that putting your music onto Spotify does not mean any success. You should first build up a good fan base and marketing strategy in your pocket to earn serious money.
Spotify is known to contribute more than 50% share in the healthier growth of the streaming music industry. But still, some key players have remained off the board given to Spotify’s complex payment systems.
But over time, almost all of the stubborn artists, except Garth Brooks, have come around due to Spotify’s soaring popularity.
The platform suggests that it does not directly pay the artists but functions as a revenue generator for rights holders, typically recording companies and publishers.
This is the primary reason why some bands are not on Spotify.