On the first Friday of every month, the music distribution site Bandcamp waives its personal cut of music purchases, so 100% of the profits (minus credit card processing fees) go to the artist. That's because Bandcamp is a good company. If you want to participate in Bandcamp Fridays—thus ensuring that more money actually goes to the artists you listen to, rather than the streaming company—here's an easy way to convert your Spotify playlists to Bandcamp purchases.
Meanwhile: I've seen a lot of people on social media sharing their "Spotify Wrapped" playlists—the company's algorithmic determination of your personality this year, determined by a data analysis of your listening habits.
My personal Wrapped was all kinds of weird. I use Spotify mostly for music discovery; but it's also hooked up to my Alexa, which my wife uses for music and podcast listening, and we also entertain our 6-month-old with it. So, in true data fashion, Spotify's slick encapsulation of my whole authentic self was lacking, to say the least.
But I also sell music over Spotify (and other online stores). And Spotify provides a similar "Wrapped" feature for artists. And that's when I noticed things weren't adding up.
Here's how "Artist Wrapped" looked for my band:
This is, supposedly, our most popular new release this year (more on that in a bit). But here's what Spotify's Artist Dashboard tells me:
However, according to my distro service, DistroKid, "My Life As A Weapon" was played 408 times through the end of September. Spotify doesn't send all their info to DistroKid right away, of course; but according to currently available Spotify data, "My Life As A Weapon" was played 10 times in November. That brings us to 418 plays. It's possible that song had 24 plays in October—but that still wouldn't account for the 13 play difference between Spotify's data reporting, and, uhhh, Spotify's data reporting.
This is a pretty minor discrepancy, of course. And it is Spotify, so I'm only being paid an average of $0.049 per song anyway. Meaning Spotify might be ripping me off by a whopping $0.63 or so.
But here's where it gets weirder: despite what Spotify says, "My Life As A Weapon" was not our most popular song on Spotify this year. According to Spotify, it was "Every Girl Is An Apple."
Maybe I'm overthinking this, and it's all because, well, my indie rock band is tragically unsuccessful. Okay, fair. So let's take a look at some slightly more successful music: my solo performance of the classic IRA rebel song, "Come Out, Ye Black & Tans," mashed up with "Fuck The Police" by NWA ('cause let's be real, they're basically the same song).
Here's how it did, according to Spotify Wrapped:
Yet, according to Spotify's Artist Dashboard for the 3 songs I released this year:
Now we're looking at a 500 play difference.
Meanwhile, according to my distro service, this song was only played…3318 by the end of September? Plus another 450 in November? Which is still not 4400, nor is it 3936. To top it off, I only made an average of $0.026 per stream, despite having 10x as many plays as "My Life As A Weapon," which paid me more than twice as much per stream. Again, according to Spotify's data, the ears of people in Ireland Austria, Great Britain—who listened to "Come Out, Ye Black and Tans (Fuck The Police)" at a much higher rate—are worth inherently less money than the ears of American listeners.
Either way: if Spotify's data is more accurate than Spotify's data, that's still about a $13 difference.
(If you're trying to play along at home, you may be thinking: "Wait, maybe this is because of licensing?" But "Come Out, Ye Black and Tans" is public domain; and while I clearly riff on the lyrics of "Fuck The Police," they are changed in a way that is undeniably fair use transformative. Therefore, intellectual property concerns should not, as far as I can tell, factor into the discrepancies here.)
Now, I'm sure that all of these hiccups can be explained away by some passage in the dense Spotify legalese that I pay $35 a year plus $1 per song to Distrokid for them to read and interpret on my behalf. But that lack of transparency is precisely what Spotify is counting on to makes its money. $13.63 isn't a huge amount of money; but when you're dealing in such small fractions and still skimming money off the top in opaque ways, well, it's still a gross business practice.
So anyway. Transfer your Spotify playlists to Bandcamp. Thanks.
Buy your Spotify playlists on Bandcamp with this simple tool [Jordan Darville / Fader]
The anti-Spotify: How online music company Bandcamp became the toast of the COVID age [Randall Roberts / LA Times]