Exposure but little cash from Spotify

Even Lars Ulrich is onboard.

“I love Spotify,” the Metallica drummer recently said of the music streaming service in an interview with NME TV, strong words coming from a dude who became the totem of perceived music industry greed and behind-the-times stodginess after campaigning against Napster a decade ago.

As Ulrich’s take suggests, Spotify has become a game-changer for music fans and bands alike in recent years, allowing access to a massive reservoir of tunes for a nominal monthly fee for premium subscribers.

I can’t imagine life without it.

Although Spotify has found much favor among music consumers, how has it affected Vegas acts, many of which have made their catalogs available on the site?

One benefit, at least in theory, is exposure — Spotify boasts an audience of some 24 million users worldwide. More importantly, it’s open to just about anyone, so indie artists and labels and even unsigned acts can get their music out there.

“With terrestrial radio being so limited now, most of our artists make the majority of their money from touring and merchandise sales,” says Allan Carter, founder of the Vegas-based SquidHat Records. “For us, Spotify broadens our reach and is an inexpensive way to get the music to new listeners.”

Spotify works best, though, when you already know what you’re looking for.

“There’s an entire group of people, particularly high school kids, who, when they hear about a band, will instantly go to Spotify first to look them up,” says Jeremy Brenton, drummer for doom metallers Demon Lung. “YouTube is probably still number one in this regard, but Spotify is becoming a close second. And I think it’s because they truly want to support the artist and feel that Spotify is better because it does pay the artist. They probably just don’t know how little.”

And there’s the rub.

Carter shared with us a royalty report from a recent billing period for Spotify streams from SquidHat acts. The label’s roster had 331 plays and earned $9.91 in revenue, a mere 0.0299 cents per play. The royalties were for four bands, so each made about three bucks.

So no one’s paying their rent with their Spotify earnings — or even their daily Starbucks habit — anytime soon.

“There is potential there,” says musician-composer Frank Klepacki, who performs in Home Cookin’ and The Bitters besides numerous other projects of his own, “because if this is the model that ultimately takes over purchasing, then constant streaming royalties could outdo purchases in the end, even if it takes a while to get it there.”

Until then, getting heard will have to trump getting paid.

“At the end of the day,” Klepacki says, “any and all exposure on any music platform is beneficial to artists.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at 702-383-0476.

Find more on Las Vegas’ music scene at bestoflasvegas.com.