June 17, 2024

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek recently found himself in hot water while musing about the shelf life of content.

In a tweet, Ek wrote that because the cost of creating content was “close to zero,” people were sharing a lot of it — most of which would become obsolete quickly.

He wondered what modern works would remain relevant over time, akin to those of Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius.

Fun thought experiment…

… but numerous musicians immediately latched on to that “zero” thing.

While it’s true anyone can point their phone camera at their face and make something for TikTok, creators who produce professional-quality music, podcasts, and videos often spend big bucks on education, instruments, gear, software, and more — not to mention time, effort, and compensating any collaborators.

Ek eventually walked back his comments, reiterating that the decreasing cost of equipment had resulted in an “unprecedented explosion” in content of all kinds, not just music.

At the same time…

… creators are worried about a lot: TikTok being banned, getting ripped off or replaced by AI, and — key here — insufficient compensation.

  • One report found that only 4% are crossing $100k a year; another found that 51% make less than $500/month, or less than $6k annually.

Streaming platforms may have made it easier for creators to reach audiences, but it hasn’t proven more lucrative compared to traditional media. Spotify, in particular, has consistently been criticized for paltry payouts to artists, despite rising revenue.

These disparities were a key part of the Hollywood strikes, and in March, US lawmakers introduced a bill that would require streamers to pay at least one cent per stream via a fund that operates similar to radio royalties.

Which is why Daniel Ek was perhaps one of the worst people to step in it like he did here — even if he really just wanted to talk about Roman philosophers.

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