Spotify cuts royalties for non-music content

Spotify has decided to slash royalties for non-music content such as rain sounds, white noise, and other ambient tracks


Because of Spotify's new revenue system, "functional noises" like the sound of rain will make a lot less than regular music files.

Spotify wrote on its blog on Tuesday that it would be valuing streams of functional noise recordings at a "fraction of the value" of music track streams and raising the minimum track length for functional noise recordings to two minutes. This is to stop "bad actors" from using the genre to fraudulently make money.

Therefore, a sound file with 30 seconds of white noise is worth the same as an artist's original music track. This has created a "revenue opportunity for noise uploaders well beyond their contribution to listeners," as Spotify puts it, and has made the music business very angry.

Until now, people who make useful sounds have been able to cheat Spotify's streaming system to make as much money as possible with little work. Some streaming royalties are based on how many times a track is played, and white noise is often listened to for hours at a time. To increase streaming numbers and royalties, Spotify says creators are cutting sounds down to as little as 30 seconds (the platform's current minimum track length) and looping playlists so that the same clip is played repeatedly.

Spotify didn't say how much the streams would lose value, but Billboard said that useful tracks would now be worth only one-fifth as much as music tracks.

Sounds from nature, white noise, sound effects, and quiet records are all in the useful genre.

"It can't be that an Ed Sheeran stream is worth the same as a stream of rain falling on the roof," Warner Music Group CEO Robert Kync said in a May results call. Other music executives agreed with him.

"Of course, white noise is not the same as 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' but it is paid the same right now," said Marina Guz, chief marketing officer at Endel, a functional music company powered by AI that works with Universal Music Group.

Guz said that companies and artists are putting more and more pressure on Spotify to change how it tells the difference between music and useful noise.

"People have been talking about the value of music all year, like how paying for an artist who spent a year in the studio making an album with many different instruments and people is different from paying for someone who just plays white noise."

The platform said on Tuesday that it will start charging labels and producers by track when "flagrant" false streaming is suspected. This is another way that the company is trying to stop bad behaviour. Increasing the number of streams in a fake way, like with bots, is called artificial streaming. The company is also changing its copyright method so that it will only pay for tracks that get more than 1000 plays.

Spotify has also been criticised for white noise podcasts. In 2023, Bloomberg reported that podcasts with only background noise were responsible for three million daily listening hours and were being boosted by Spotify's algorithm, which cost the company $38 million in lost annual profits. Bloomberg found in 2022 that people who make these kinds of shows could make as much as $18,000 a month from ads.


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Navin Lamsal


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