When Spotify started, users were led to believe that streaming services would kill piracy, yet latest studies suggest they actually boost it.
During March, we witnessed Facebook being blamed for handing data to Cambridge Analytica without the user’s agreement. What Cambridge Analytica did with this data is another rabbit hole to go down. Facebook, just like numerous other online services, is a free platform to use, except you give them almost all your personal information. This lets you use the service in a carefree manner – until a scandal comes to light. Streaming services differ little from that; again you give away lots of personal information, however it isn’t free. On the contrary, you pay a subscription going – well, where? I’ll tell you; anywhere it wants.
Earlier this year Spotify was sued for £1.18bn from Wixen, a royalty collector company, for not paying the royalties it should have to the artists. The lawsuit included more than 10,000 songs that had been hosted by the platform without having the full rights to do so.
In the past week, Tidal was accused for inflating Kanye’s and Beyoncé’s numbers according to a report from Dagens Næringsliv. They discovered this from a hard drive containing Tidal’s raw streaming data, which was analysed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In short, Tidal was blamed for using user profiles to stream the desired songs at times that the users were not aware of. When users that seemed to have been listening to Kanye and Beyoncé on a daily basis were asked about their activity, they denied they had been listening to them at all. And just today (May 16) a new report was published by Music Business Worldwide, that blames Tidal for not paying labels according to the contracts signed.
When the internet was in its earlier days, music piracy through LimeWire or Utorrents was common. People would illegally download music and enjoy it without giving a penny to the artists that deserved it. Things had to change. Nowadays it’s not hard to track illegal downloading of music, and fans are more sensitive when it comes to supporting artists. For example, instead of piracy, we have streaming. Yet streaming services are failing to support the people that support them. Streaming services never report back to users how subscription revenue is being distributed.
And although we as users are happy to support our favourite artists through streaming services, it looks like these services are not (equally) willing or correctly set up to support the artists. Instead, they stream music without the artist’s permission. Spotify is a great example of that.
I find it mind-boggling that in an era where you have tools to prevent piracy, you have services that stream any kind of music off and online at any given time to anybody that has access on the internet and we are failing to provide the transparency needed so both artists and users are protected on these platforms and feel motivated to use them. When Spotify started, users were led to believe that streaming services would kill piracy, yet latest studies suggest they actually boost it.
It is time the dialogue regarding transparency over subscriptions on streaming services started. I really do not understand why artists are able to see who is listening to them and when, yet users do not have a clue on how many bits their subscription is being broken down to, and where it is being distributed. It is time that streaming services start reporting to the people they are taking the money from, not just to whom they’re giving the money too. Tools like Blockchain technology have been created to provide a more transparent means of transactions. This needs to be implemented on streaming services for users to have a better understanding of what and who they are paying their money to. We most certainly do not lack technology to make streaming services more transparent.