- Spotify steals from artists, a Spotify exclusive: More Chokepoint Capitalism stunt-publishing.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2007, 2012, 2017
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Spotify steals from artists, a Spotify exclusive (permalink)
In our next book, Chokepoint Capitalism, Rebecca Giblin and I set out to shatter the false binary that creative workers can only choose between rooting for Big Tech or Big Content, as if one flavor of monopolist will be better for us than the other. No company epitomizes the hopelessness of this approach more than Spotify.
You've probably heard about the pathetic sums that creators earn from the Spotify streaming, often blamed on the tech industry's unwillingness to pay creators what they're worth. Maybe you've also heard the rebuttal – that Spotify pays plenty to entertainment companies, but they intercept this money before it can get into creators' pockets.
That right there is the false binary – either Spotify is cheap, or the Big Three record labels are greedy. But what if – and hear me out here – Spotify is cheap and the Big Three are greedy? What if Spotify and the labels are actually colluding to rip off the "talent"? What if neither kind of monopolist is good for artists, and no matter how much we love them, they'll never truly love us back?
That's the thesis of Chapter 5 of Chokepoint Capitalism, where we get into eye-watering detail on how Spotify and the Big Three work together to transfer value from creative workers to their own shareholders. We explain how the labels took ownership stakes in Spotify and then conspired to suppress creative wages so the company would seem more profitable in the runup to Spotify's IPO, which made billions for the labels. We show how the labels and Spotify colluded to ensure that billions more in royalty payments were "unattributed" and thus not owed to any specific artist. We document how the payment system that Spotify and the labels cooked up does not even reward artists on the basis of how often their work is streamed – and how that deal was rammed down the throats of every indie label through the "most favored nation" status that Spotify guaranteed the Big Three.
It's a hell of a tale, a breakdown of scams like the sleazy accounting tricks used to halve the royalty rates that artists got when Spotify IPOed, and it even has a hero: Taylor Swift, who used her negotiating power to demand Universal Music give a better deal to everyone on its label.
But Taylor Swift alone can't save us (though some of her fans might take a different view!). Her act of solidarity is no structural fix – no more than, say, Joe Rogan's $100,000,000 Spotify payday is.
Rogan's eye-popping deal has precious little to do with everyday creators' livings – he's like the guy that gets to win a giant teddy bear at the carnival midway game in the morning and then totes it around conspicuously for the rest of the day, luring other suckers to try their luck.
We wrote this book to discuss how every creative worker can get a better deal, with half the book given over to detailed, shovel-ready proposals for local, state and national laws, regulations, business opportunities, new technologies and other ways to smash open those chokepoints.
Once the book comes out on Sept 27, you'll be able to read all of Chapter 5, and its companion, Chapter 6 ("Why Spotify Wants You To Rely On Playlists") (spoiler: because it lets them lock in listeners, unlike albums, which are the same everywhere, and it lets them rip off artists by demanding payola).
You'll also be able to listen to the audio edition of those chapters, of course, though you won't be able to get it on Audible, Amazon's monopoly audiobook store. The only part of the book available on Audible is Chapter 13, "Transparency Rights," an "Audible Exclusive" that explains in similar detail how Audible steals from creators and locks in listeners:
However, if you're a Spotify user, you can listen to the audio edition of Chapter 5 today, because it is a Spotify Exclusive – and, as with our Audible exclusive, it's the only part of the audiobook you can get on Spotify (the part of the book that explains what a titanic ripoff Spotify is for artists):
(Go ahead, give it a listen! – Stefan Rudnicki does an incredible job with the narration).
As our Spotify chapter shows, avoiding the chokepoints in chokepoint capitalism is really, really hard – and every one of those chokepoints exists to pick artists' pockets. That's why we're Kickstarting the audio edition, in a crowdfunder that's now broken the $100,000 mark. You've still got a few days left to back it and join our supporters, who've pre-ordered hundreds of print books, and thousands of ebooks and audibooks, as well as donating hundreds of copies to libraries:
You can also meet us in person; we're going on the road with the book, starting next Friday, with an event in Toronto at Type Books in the Junction. From there, we move on to New York, LA, San Francisco, and beyond:
Hey look at this (permalink)
- Transacting in Person with Strangers from the Internet https://krebsonsecurity.com/2022/09/transacting-in-person-with-strangers-from-the-internet/ (h/t Slashdot)
Atkinson Hyperlegible Font https://brailleinstitute.org/freefont (h/t Trivium)
A Note on "Industrial Policy” https://braddelong.substack.com/p/a-note-on-industrial-policy-and (h/t Naked Capitalism)
This day in history (permalink)
#15yrsago Voice-stress ice-cream dispenser increases portions for the miserable https://web.archive.org/web/20071012055819/https://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/009721.php
#15yrsago US hedge-funds wax fat by investing in Chinese surveillance https://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/business/worldbusiness/11security.html
#15yrsago Canadian gov’t convenes secret net-tapping inquiry https://web.archive.org/web/20071011094438/https://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/2228/125/
#10yrsago Magic: The Gathering is Turing complete https://www.toothycat.net/~hologram/Turing/HowItWorks.html
#10yrsago David Byrne’s How Music Works https://memex.craphound.com/2012/09/12/david-byrnes-how-music-works/
#5yrsago Deposit “tips” that are actually fake money with Bible verses in the church collection plate https://imgur.com/gallery/c4BrU
#5yrrsago The Donotpay bot will help you sue Equifax in small claims court https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/11/16290730/equifax-chatbots-ai-joshua-browder-security-breach
#5yrsago Chinese government sources tell the WSJ they’re about to shut down all domestic Bitcoin exchanges https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/11/16288898/china-shutdown-rumored-bitcoin-exchanges-crackdown
#5yrsago RIP, Imagineer X Atencio https://gizmodo.com/x-antencio-disney-animator-and-co-writer-of-the-pirate-1803776129
#5yrsago Blueborne is a newly revealed Bluetooth attack that allows wireless penetration of billions of devices https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/09/bluetooth-bugs-open-billions-of-devices-to-attacks-no-clicking-required/
#5yrsago Red Cross “didn’t show up” at Florida shelters during Irma https://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/news/2017/09/12/red-cross-didnt-show-up-hurricane-shelters-says-miami-dade-schools-chief/656772001/
#5yrsago There’s an 820-foot-long fatberg clogging an east London sewer https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/london-sewer-workers-fighting-intense-sewer-war-against-820-foot-fatberg/
Today's top sources:
- The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Friday's progress: 502 words (37878 words total)
The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. Friday's progress: 524 words (34296 words total)
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE
A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/
- Canadians Connected (Ottawa), Sept 15
Chokepoint Capitalism event, Type Books Junction (Toronto), Sept 19, 7PM
Unfinished Live (NYC), Sept 21-24
Chokepoint Capitalism event, SFPL (San Francisco), Sept 25
Chokepoint Capitalism event, Book Soup (LA), Sept 27
World Ethical Data Forum, Oct 26-28
Arthur C Clarke Award (DC), Nov 16
- Launch for Motherboard's Terraform anthology
Crypto and the Left (The Blockchain Socialist)
The Wondrous World of the Early Internet & How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Current Affairs podcast) https://www.patreon.com/posts/cory-doctorow-on-68463645
- "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022
Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023
This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.
Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.
How to get Pluralistic:
Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Medium (no ads, paywalled):
(Latest Medium column: "Sound Money: The best money is social, not personal" https://doctorow.medium.com/sound-money-28792205f564)
Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla