Saturday, August 3, 2013

Well, Spotify, this is embarrassing.

Oops. For a musician to earn minimum wage from Spotify,
they need 130,745 plays per day.
(Reminder: I do not know Chely Wright personally or know anyone who knows her personally. The musings in this blog are mine only and represent no one else. I promise.)

NOTE: Since posting this piece, my opinion has evolved. I no longer agree with what I wrote in the following paragraphs. Spotify, I now understand, is a market-driven and very popular resource. I regret that I so strongly stated a very embryonic and uninformed opinion. But, oh well, you'll have that with humans, I suppose. Onward and upward.

I have two childhood friends who took a spin in the world of fame and celebrity.

They both ended up hating it and walking away when they could, turning their backs on potential fortunes for themselves and their loved ones. I'm not going to tell you their names; I don't think you would remember them anyway. One had her 15 minutes in the Contemporary Christian Music world, and the other had a following on those "decorate my house" shows on cable. Both had fan clubs, fan mail, and creepy fans who showed up unannounced at their homes.

As previously stated, they hated it. Understandably.

Perhaps because of my connection with these two friends, I tend to see "celebrities" as vulnerable, usually unhappy, and forced to endure immense pressure.

The songwriter friend told me stories of being yelled at in the studio, humiliated and insulted by mercurial music producers wanting instant and constant perfection. When she tried to back out of the recording contract, she was threatened with a staggering lawsuit. She fulfilled her contract and never, ever went back. Her CD's are still available for purchase, but she is not.

The friend who was on TV had an ability to make viewers feel a personal connection with her; consequently she received heartbreaking fan mail from lonely and needy people. The producers of these shows began manipulating the content of the shows in order to capitalize on this artificial "connection." When my friend suggested this was a cruel way to treat people, they laughed. They offered her a lot of money to expand her influence, but when her contract was fulfilled she was out of there.

Yesterday, Chely Wright tweeted this: "@GoogleFacts: A musician would need to get 130,745 plays per day on Spotify just to earn minimum wage." This gave me pause--I had no idea that's how it works. I just listen and enjoy, while unknowingly supporting an industry that takes profits from those who create the product. I don't get it--are artists not worthy of decent wages in return for their efforts? Do we expect them to work pro bono?

My shame and dismay reminded me how I felt when I learned that my clothes were made by children in Bangladesh, working fourteen hour days.

I am repentant; artists are worthy of fair wages, particularly when they produce work in environments such as my friends described.

People need to know about this. Maybe they already do, and I've been out of the loop. Either way, I won't listen to Spotify again until this changes.