This Spotify x Arsenal Situation Is A Cultural Obscenity

This Spotify x Arsenal Situation Is A Cultural Obscenity

Daniel Ek’s takeover bid is simply tone deaf…

For a music company, Spotify can be appallingly tone deaf.

The tech giant have just about mastered public relations, transforming the ongoing narrative of a streaming company mired in debt into the story of a genuine powerhouse. The truth is, however, that someone has to pay for their success, and those people are musicians on the ground. 

In the same week as 150 songwriters – ranging from Sir Paul McCartney, knight of the realm, to Stevie Nicks, goddess of the universe – sign an open letter decrying the false, misleading, and flat out unfair streaming environment, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has sounded out moves to buy Arsenal Football Club.

The move comes as the Kroenke family come under increased pressure following the collapse of the Super League, a pan-European tournament which sought the membership of six ‘top’ English clubs.

Tweeting over the weekend, Daniel Ek said he had been an Arsenal fan for “as long as I can remember” and confirmed he would be “happy to throw my hat in the ring” if KSE were to look to sell the club.

Now, numerous outlets are reporting that the move has begun to take shape. The Guardian understands that Spotify CEO Daniel Ek could be joined by Arsenal greats Thierry Henry, Dennis Berkamp, and Patrick Viera in a bid for ownership, with the Kroekne family seemingly wanting around £2 billion for any potential exchange.

It’s a truly extraordinary turn of events. The collapse of the Super League illuminated the stark divorce between fans – who are the moral custodians of any football clubs – and the owners, and the manner in which big, Sky television propelled money can turn this gap into a chasm.

At the time, football pundit Gary Neville – a Manchester United great – labelled the Super League move as the “attempted murder of English football” and called for government legislation to stop it happening. Calling the leaders of the breakaway move “imposters” he said those behind the venture now had “an army against them” that would include senior politicians.

It’s these politicians, incidentally, who have sat listening to powerful testimony from the likes of elbow’s Guy Garvey and Mercury nominated artist Nadine Shah over the past 18 months. A government select committee has heard damning indictment of the way musicians are treated, and the lack of value placed on their work. Thanks in part to activists such as the #BrokenRecord campaign, the often opaque financial statements behind streaming have been rendered in clear daylight, and it’s an ugly picture indeed.

To witness these two polarising issues come into orbit of one another is a breathtaking thing. Nothing less than a cultural obscenity, it illustrates how unbelievably tone deaf Spotify, and Daniel Ek in particular, remain over public feeling on this issue. It also brings into sharp relief two worlds that are financially broken. Arsenal match tickets are the most expensive in the country, with the hub of what was once a working class sport now charging almost £100 for a single ticket.

Tim Burgess was one of the first to express his disgust, commenting: “So many artists forced to take second jobs, give up flats because they can’t pay their rent all while getting decent plays on Spotify – yet the owner has enough to bid on a Premier League team. It doesn’t seem ethical to me.”

As some have pointed out online, an artist on a standard deal would need 100,000 plays simply to afford a ticket to a category A match at Arsenal. Given that the Emirates stadium holds just over 60,000 fans, that means most in attendance would have to stream the artist’s song twice (or hope the algorithm does it for them).

Football is about fair play, it’s about a level playing field. In making a bid for Arsenal ownership, Daniel Ek clearly illustrates that the music game is a pitch slanted in his direction.

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