Indie Record Labels Would Support Spotify Boycotts By Their Artists

Indie Labels Would Back Artists Against Spotify
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Thom Yorke of Atoms For Peace performs on stage at The Roundhouse on July 25, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Baker/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Thom Yorke of Atoms For Peace performs on stage at The Roundhouse on July 25, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Baker/WireImage)

WASHINGTON -- In mid-July, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and his longtime producer and collaborator Nigel Godrich announced that they were pulling their songs from Spotify. They argued that the online streaming service may be good for its investors, but it was bad for artists' bottom lines. All the press attention and debate that followed have not caused a mass boycott, the company told HuffPost.

But in multiple interviews, owners and executives of indie recording labels across the country said they would support the decision of an individual artist who wanted to pull out of Spotify -- although few seemed to actively encourage it.

At least one more prominent artist told HuffPost he will pull out of Spotify. Eric Hilton, who is one half of the band Thievery Corporation and also runs ESL Music, said in an email that he will be joining Yorke.

"I've always spoken out about Spotify and today's streaming sites 100% negatively. Thievery Corporation intends to join [Yorke] and not participate with Spotify, which is especially dangerous to the livelihood of artists," Hilton wrote. "Thank you Thom Yorke for having the guts to stand up to the new techno-feudalistic gulag exploiting all artists."

At the time of publication, Thievery Corporation's recordings were still listed on Spotify.

Spotify did not agree to comment on the record for this story. Nor did any of the major labels that HuffPost contacted. A Spotify source said that Yorke's label, XL Recordings, had asked the company to pull the singer's songs off the site. XL Recordings refused to comment.

The indie labels were more forthcoming. Besides supporting the decisions of their artists, some also suggested that Spotify might actually be helpful to bands just starting out.

Laura Ballance, co-founder and owner of Merge Records, said she would let her artists pull out of Spotify. She noted that one of them, the singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel of American Music Club fame, had requested a temporary ban.

"We would let them refrain from having their music up there if that is what they prefer," Ballance explained via email. "The only artist we have had do that so far is Mark Eitzel. He had us keep his record off Spotify for the first three months after it came out."

But Eitzel and Hilton are music veterans. They remember what it was like to actually make a living off CDs and vinyl. Profits from Spotify may never equal profits from the old days of Tower Records. Indeed, expectations that Spotify cash could pay a band's rent are low. "It's not like we get a ton of money from Spotify anyway," said Todd Hyman, owner of Carpark Records, in discussing why he'd be willing to pull an artist off the streaming service.

Instead, labels and artists tend to see Spotify as just another tool to get their music noticed, similar to MTV in the '80s and early '90s, when it helped hip-hop and grunge go mainstream.

Chris Manak, who performs under the name Peanut Butter Wolf and founded the indie hip-hop and soul label Stones Throw Records, said he appreciates "the promo aspect" of Spotify.

"I barely think the good outweighs the bad," he wrote via email. "But don't really push my artists for or against it. Maybe I need to talk to Thom Yorke." Manak added that he would support his artists if they wanted to leave Spotify.

Caleb Braaten, the founder of indie label-of-the-moment Sacred Bones, agrees. "If a band wanted to be pulled from Spotify we would happily do so," he said. "Spotify for up-and-coming artists is more of a promotional platform than a money-making one ... As we know now Spotify is not a money-making platform for anyone besides Spotify."

Jasper Goggins, label manager for Mad Decent, noted that artists still need to get their music in front of consumers. And consumers are listening through Spotify.

"As a small independent label I feel it is our primary duty to expose our artists to a larger audience and the best way to do that is to get their music in front of active consumers," he explained in an email. "By removing music from Spotify, you're basically cutting off your nose to spite your face. Of course I would love it if the royalties were higher, but we also have the majority of our music on Soundcloud and that is the complete opposite model. We pay Soundcloud for the bandwidth!"

Go To Homepage

Before You Go

#9 - France

Top 9 Countries For Unauthorized Music Downloads

Popular in the Community