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Joanna Newsom: Spotify is a "villainous cabal of major labels"

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Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Taylor Swift can add Joanna Newsom to her squad…of Spotify critics. During a recent interview, Newsom called the music streaming service “the banana of the music industry.” If you know how the singer-songwriter feels about bananas, then you know this is an insult.

She told the Los Angeles Times how she walked out of grocery stores from the smell of over-ripening bananas. Spotify, to her, gives off a similar “fume” and “you can just smell that something’s wrong with it.”

“Spotify is like a villainous cabal of major labels,” she said. “The business is built from the ground up as a way to circumvent the idea of paying their artists. The major labels were not particularly happy with the fact that as the royalty money dwindled more and more, their portion of the percentage split agreed upon in their licensing agreement got smaller and smaller.”

Further breaking it down, she said, “So someone came up with a great idea that if they start a streaming company, they can make those percentages even smaller. Infinitesimal, because they can make their money from advertising and subscription, and they don’t have to pay their artists anything for that. So it’s set up in a way that they can just rob their artists, and most of their artists have no way to fight it because they’re contractually obligated to stay with the label for X amount of time and you can’t really opt out. It’s a garbage system.”

Newsom, whose latest album Divers drops on Oct. 23, said she’s on Pandora instead. Though she doesn’t make a lot of money from it, she understands “the mechanics of it.”

“If [Spotify] wasn’t such a cynical and musician-hating system, I would be all for it,” she said. “If there was some way they could divide the money they make from advertising and the money they make from subscriptions and actually give it to artists, I would have a completely different opinion about it.”

Swift pulled all her music from Spotify in 2014 for reasons similar to the ones Newsom discussed. Referring to the value of music in an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, she wrote, “It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is.”

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