Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s plan to become financially independent seems to be going pretty well so far. The former royal couple has a major deal with Netflix, and in December 2020, they signed a podcast deal with Spotify. But not everyone is happy with the $25 million arrangement.
In April 2021, the U.K.-based Musicians’ Union signed an open letter addressed to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, asking the government to “put the value of music back where it belongs — in the hands of music makers,” per NME. The letter, signed by big-name musicians including Chris Martin and Paul McCartney, urged the government to ensure that artists are paid fairly when their music is streamed on sites like Spotify.
And while not all of the artists in question called out Meghan and Harry’s Spotify deal in particular, some artists have a bone to pick with the streaming platform and its multimillion-dollar deal with the former royals. Here’s what to know about the controversy.
Some musicians aren't happy Spotify is paying Meghan and Harry millions
Harrison Rhys, a 15-year-old musician based in the U.K., told the Daily Star that Spotify’s multimillion-dollar deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is an “unethical kick in the teeth.” While the musician agreed that Meghan and Harry are “doing a lot of good,” he wasn’t happy with their massive payout, when most artists “are only being paid £0.0038 per stream” by the streaming service.
“What Spotify pays artists is ridiculous — it’s way too low, no money is made,” another U.K. artist, Simon Fielder, who goes by the stage name Uncle Greedy, told the Daily Star. “I don’t get paid from Spotify, it’s never broken even from the money I used to put songs on Spotify,” U.K.-based singer-songwriter Callum Gardner said to the newspaper.
Other industry professionals and fans criticized Meghan and Harry, too. “Let’s take $25M to talk about being woke, money that could go to deserving artists,” tweeted SiriusXM host Shaun Proulx. “Harry & Meghan’s $25 million Spotify deal is proof positive that when it comes to the music industry, the biggest victims are professional musicians. Where is their Spotify deal?,” another person tweeted.
Spotify's artist payments have been criticized in the past
The latest controversy isn’t the first time artists have criticized streaming services. In 2014, Taylor Swift removed her first four albums from Spotify, per The Verge. At the time, Swift wrote a Wall Street Journal essay about why artists should be paid fairly for their work. Her albums reappeared on Spotify in 2017, but not before she called on the industry to think critically about its practices.
Still, Spotify’s payouts have been lucrative for a select number of artists. In June 2017, Forbes reported that The Weeknd had earned $92 million over a one-year period, some of which included the earnings from his Spotify streams. But for artists who don’t have millions of annual streams, it’s much harder to generate sustainable income from the platform. When you’re making less than a penny every time your song is streamed, it’s understandable why some artists aren’t happy to see the former royals ink a $25 million deal.
Meghan and Harry’s deal is indicative of larger trouble with Spotify and the streaming economy, and it doesn’t look like things will be resolved anytime soon.
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