Black Collar Workers



Jens Ryland Borknagar

Before we get started here, let’s set the record straight: MetalSucks is not receiving any compensation — advertising or otherwise — from Spotify or any affiliated third parties hired by Spotify (marketers, publicists, etc). I, Vince Neilstein, independent of any other writers for MetalSucks, have been writing about Spotify over the past few months — and especially the past week — for the same reason I write multiple posts about a new band I really like, namely that I think it’s awesome and I want to spread the word.

Now that the dust has settled from Century Media’s decision to withdraw from Spotify, we’re starting to hear a few artists voice their opinions on the metal label’s decision to abstain from the future. Last week Lazarus A.D.’s Jeff Paulick revealed he accepts that record sales won’t be a major money-maker for him and supports Spotify as a tool for spreading awareness about his band’s music. Today it’s Jens Ryland of Borknagar, a band on Century Media, sounding off in his own blog (actually published last week).

Ryland’s blog is a mixed bag that’s more of a stream of consciousness exploring both sides of the argument than a definitive statement; in the end it feels a bit scattered. On one hand he acknowledges the death of physical media (and perhaps therefore any kind of ownership, although he doesn’t explicitly state it) while on the other hand he calls Spotify’s payout model unfair (but without coming up with his own specific solution). He delights in exposing the big secret that MetalSucks makes money on ads (duh!) driven by the content we create, but decries Spotify for making money on music other people create; I don’t see how the latter is any different from traditional record stores, or any retail outlet selling anything, for that matter.

But there is one argument Ryland gets 100% right: there needs to be accounting transparency offered by Spotify, and it needs to happen NOW. Spotify is paying lower rates than other streaming services like Rhapsody and MOG; where’s the rest of the money going? — Server costs? Salaries? Licenses? — how much ad revenue do they make? how much profit is the company taking? Answers to all of these questions are required for us to be able to determine whether Spotify’s payout model is fair or not, because the company obviously can’t be expected to pay out money they aren’t earning. From where I sit Spotify can’t be making much money on a service most people are using for free, but I don’t have access to Spotify’s books so I can’t say for certain.

I don’t agree with all of Ryland’s points, but I encourage you to read his blog post. We need a more open dialogue within the metal community of artists, the very people Spotify and services like it supposedly affect the most.


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