Demonstrations have been held outside Spotify offices worldwide, as musicians demand increased royalties and transparency from the streaming platform.

Earlier this week (15th), artists and other workers in the music industry, organized by The United Musicians and Allied Workers Union UMAW, participated in demonstrations at Spotify offices across the globe. It follows the launch of the Justice at Spotify campaign in October last year, demanding that Spotify raise its streaming average for artist payments, as well as making other changes to the streaming platform’s business model.

The demonstrations took place in Europe, as well as in Asia, Australia, Europe, the U.S., and Central and South America, with the UMAW also stating that “the entire live music ecosystem in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic” and that artists and music industry workers are “more reliant on streaming income than ever”.

The Swedish streaming giant has grown into one of the world’s biggest streaming platforms, touching a $50 billion market valuation in June last year. Justice At Spotify’s first campaign featured the slogan “Penny Per Stream Please”, calling on the platform to increase royalty payments to at least one cent per stream, as well as to adopt a user-centric payment model, and show transparency in their practices by making all closed-door contracts public. 

In November, Spotify announced a controversial new format for artists, offering musicians and labels the chance to influence its recommendation algorithm in exchange for a ‘promotional royalty rate’. That means, Spotify will let you push a track to relevant listeners via Autoplay – the music that comes on once you’ve finished listening to a song, EP or album – and Spotify Radio – the feature that allows listeners to start a ‘station’ based on a track or artist. Reducing their royalty rates further in exchange for promotion – even if the amount is fractions of a penny – will likely rile critics further, and also weighs much heavier in favour of those who can afford to take the hit, namely major labels and huge global artists. 

Earlier this year, it was announced that Spotify had been granted the patent “Identification of taste attributes from an audio signal”, after originally filing in 2018. According to the patent, the technology will be used as a “method for processing a provided audio signal that includes speech content and background noise” and then “identifying playable content, based on the processed audio signal content.”