John Harris

Journalist & Author

In big tech’s dystopia, cat videos earn millions while real artists beg for tips | John Harris

Instead of paying musicians properly, the likes of Spotify have set up ‘donation’ buttons – thus passing the buck to fans

Just over a year ago, the music streaming giant Spotify announced a new addition to its services: an innovation called Artist Fundraising Pick, which would allow people to send musicians the online equivalent of a tip. The move came just as controversy began to snowball about the often pitiful returns from streaming, something that reached a peak in April this year, when such big-name musicians as Paul McCartney, Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks signed a letter calling on the UK government to finally get to grips with the issue.

At around the same time, there was rising speculation about the Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek – whose net worth is put at £3.3bn – leading a consortium that wanted to buy Arsenal football club. In the context of that potentially vast deal, what Spotify had launched highlighted the tendency of big business to offer its detractors and complainants mere crumbs, but there it was: an acknowledgment that many musicians needed some extra financial help, coupled with an apparent attempt to shift the onus on to their fans.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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