The Playlist

A new series has landed at Netflix. It’s called The Playlist.

A series of six episodes about the beginning and development of Spotify. Each part taken from a different perspective; it starts with The Vision; Daniel Ek taking on the challenge of solving the music industry’s piracy issues. It moves through the themes of The Industry, The Law, The Coder, The Partner and finally, The Artist.

Having been around before all of this happened and remembering the so called ‘Good old days’ with music labels offering very one-sided deals to impoverished artists, it all seemed like a good idea to shake the cage and give the record companies and publishers a run for their money. What didn’t seem good was the creation of Pirate Bay and other copyright infringement sites that offered music for free.

Meanwhile in yet another universe, Steve Jobs and Apple having created the I Pod approached the record companies for them to make their music available. Hence the birth of iTunes and death of the Album.

So, along came Daniel Ek with this new idea of giving access to all the music previously available illegally, allowing streaming for subscriptions.

Not far behind the lumbering and powerless record companies agreed to give access to their catalogues taking vast percentages in excess of 70% of the revenue made by Spotify. But so far, no real deal being brokered for the creative copyright holders as in songwriters, singers and artists.

Ok, screeching of brakes, I know this is all fairly simplistic and I’m missing out quite a bit of the process but you get the idea.

One of the most poignant moments in The Playlist happened in the last episode, called The Artist. Daniel Ek and his wife pouring over detailed plans to tear down their existing colonial mansion to build a new vast private empire costing eye watering amounts while the artist, the featured singer and songwriter, was discussing how she couldn’t afford to buy an I phone for her daughter and then leaving to play her nightly slot in a restaurant for meagre tips.

I know this is all abridged and a very small potted history of events. Each element could be expanded into something greater and more detailed.

But what is more important is where we are now.

Daniel Ek, a multi billionaire with more wealth than anyone can physically spend in several life times.

Record companies and publishers mercilessly taking well over 70% of all streaming revenue.

Thousands of composers, singers and songwriters unable to live on their skills and produce because the money isn’t being passed on. And when it does the amounts are paltry.

Spotify currently pays between $0.003 and $0.005 per stream. That means it would take 250 plays for a song to make $1. (around 82 pence)

For major labels, artists typically only receive about 16% of the royalty payments from streaming services. (That means 84% is kept by the majors)

.It’s interesting to know that the boys that started The Pirate Bay were charged with copyright infringement and in April 2009 were sentenced to one year in prison and the payment of a fine of 30 million kronor ($3.6 million).

It’s pity that the record companies and publishers have got away with equally blatant theft and deception leaving the creatives to beg borrow or steal their way through this rather odd business we call ‘Music’.

Check out The Playlist. It’ll entertain and horrify.

And additional revue from The Guardian