Note from BBT: Have you ever wondered what’s going on when certain good things begin to happen on a regular basis? Like, ‘was’sup wit’ dat?’. It might sound strange because, why would anyone think that something positive happening is something strange? I mean, for years, decades, black Brazilians have complained about being ignored and made to look as if they don’t even exist and suddenly campaigns and exposure are giving them the exposure they always desired. Ok, hold it. It would be wrong for me to say ‘suddenly’ because the struggle for the visibility of Afro-Brazilians has been a battle that has been going on for a long. No matter what era or date you consider as the beginning of this struggle, it’s the truth.
So, really, what’s the deal?
We’ve seen black Brazilian artists being recognized by Black Entertainment Television. More black Brazilians are being featured on the same magazine covers from which they were mostly excluded just a decade ago. Afro-Brazilian filmmakers, even still being for the most part ignored in Brazil are earning international recognition. The image of black Brazilians is increasing in the country’s advertising industry and international music platforms such as Spotify are promoting black Brazilian music artists around the world.
Again, before anyone accuses me of throwing any sort of ‘haterade’ or shade at anyone’s success, this little blog has been on the front line exposing this issue for almost a decade now so when I say this is great news, I’ll be the first to say that it’s been a long time coming for some of these talented people. This is far from saying that the struggle is over. Too many issues here to name that need to be improved but I still have to recognize the advances.
As a fan of Brazilian music, I have always maintained that there is a lot of great music in Brazil, just as there is music that doesn’t necessarily appeal to me even though it may have a significant fan base. but whether I like something or not shouldn’t really matter. I have the free choice to like, dislike, listen, purchase or not nearly any type of music. The issue should be about people being exposed to the music and choosing what genres they like or not.
This is the reason that, on the outside, it seems like something positive to see an initiative such as that of the Spotify music platform helping to expose Brazilian artists around the world. After all, after having been a fan of it for two decades now, I believe Brazilian music could blow up globally it is had more exposure. The key word here is seems.
I first heard about Spotify back in 2017 when I started working for a company on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo. After working there for a few weeks, I noted all of the workers wore headphones at their desks and just zoned out as they worked. I would later come to learn that almost all of the employees were tuned in to the Spotify website listening to their favorite songs. The platform didn’t appeal to me so I never got into it.
Fast forward four years and some comments made by famed R&B singer Anita Baker caught my attention. Ever since I began reading the music publication Billboard magazine back in the 80s, as well as various music biographies and watching documentaries about numerous artists in the industry, I knew about the corrupt and scandalous nature of the music business. With everything I already knew, I don’t know why I would think a platform like Spotify would be any different.
According to Baker, streaming rates for the year 2020 were ‘’$0.003 – $0.005, [which is] 1/3 – 1/2 A PENNY per stream for artists’’. Read that again. One-third to one-half of one penny per stream. Maybe some people would conclude that Baker had to have been exaggerating about that until you see the headline that reads ‘’Nearly 20,000 artists sign petition for Spotify to pay its musicians a liveable wage’’. According to that article, Spotify was paying about $0.00437 per stream. Back in 2019, it was reported that a music artist would have to reach 380,000 streams per month on the music platform just to earn a salary equivalent to a minimum wage in Australia.
With this information, we can clearly see that an artist would have to have tens of millions of streams to be able to see the benefit of having their music on the platform. Take for example a recent story that Brazilian singer IZA had recently reached 100 million streams of one of her songs. Under Spotify’s current royalty rates, IZA would have made about $437,000 out of the deal. Maybe some of you might look and say that’s a nice chunk of change but I’m not impressed.
It’s well known that music artists generally average about 15 percent of retail prices of their albums and CDs that have been sold. Let’s do the math here. If IZA were to receive 15 cents per stream, that would come out to about $15 million. But perhaps a better comparison of royalties would be between streaming and radio. Typically, large radio stations pay 12 cents every time a song is played on the radio with six cents going to the songwriters and six cents to the publisher.
Iza’s song ‘’Pesadão’’ which reached the 100 million stream mark was co-written by IZA, Marcelo Falcão and Pablo Bispo, which would mean that each would receive 2 cents per play. Not even considering if IZA is collecting any publishing royalties, under this payment system, she would stand to receive $2 million for the song, more than four times what Spotify is paying.
I think we can clearly see why it is that Spotify has a vested interest in promoting more music on its platform. Basically, it pays artists slave wages. So, in the end although it may sound great that black Brazilian artists are being given more exposure to get their music to potentially billions more fans around the world, you have to wonder if the deal is all its cracked up to be. Just reporting the facts as I see them…Don’t call me the hater…I mean, a little less than half of a penny per stream is better than nothing, right?
Spotify launches campaign to encourage appreciation of black culture in Brazil
By Marina Semensato
Ludmilla, Djonga, Mc Dricka and L7NNON participate in the “Abra Seus Ouvidos” campaign with touching testimonials
On September 7th, Spotify announced its newest campaign, called Abra Seus Ouvidos, meaning Open Your Ears. The project aims to boost the growth of black artists by valuing their work and recognizing the importance of black culture to music.
Spotify is using the power of its platform to support black creators, amplify their voices, and accelerate meaningful conversations. That’s why it is extending an invitation to users: listen to what black voices have to say. For this, the streaming service has gathered testimonials from great artists such as Ludmilla, Djonga, MC Dricka, and L7NNON, who talk about the extent of racism in the construction of the cultural industry.
Listening to the voice of black people changes the objective reality. The first thing that changes is in the pocket of whoever is being listened to. And subjectively, it changes for those who are listening.” That’s what Djonga, one of the biggest rappers in Brazil today, says. He also talks about the importance of identification, and especially class consciousness, that the music of black artists can awaken. “If that person is black, he or she will identify and talk about the fact that there is someone else like that. And if this person is not black, maybe he/she will start to understand a little bit the issues that should be understood for the world to be a little bit different.
Based on the personal experiences of the guests, the campaign asks: “You hear me. But do you listen to me? This is the main theme of the campaign’s official film, which features the voice of singer Ludmilla, reciting a poem by Kimani, the slam poet from Grajaú.
As part of the campaign, Spotify is also launching the “Open Your Ears” playlist – which will feature exclusive videos and audios from guest artists sharing their own perspectives and experiences on what it’s like to be a black artist. As well as revealing which other artists have influenced the art and work produced by them to date.
“If I were to do a tribute, I would do it for Rihanna and Beyoncé. They made me break a lot of barriers. Before I couldn’t accept myself.” So says MC Dricka. The author of the hit ”Como Se Tá Tá Maravilhosa” adds: “Through them, I could see that, because they are black, black women, beautiful, and I said that I could also be like that. Three queens, right?’’
Spotify makes donation to Vale do Dendê
Spotify has also announced an unprecedented donation of 3.5 million reais to the social organization Vale do Dendê, a social impact accelerator and innovation center created in Salvador, a city with the largest black population outside Africa. The resources will be used to invest in small music producers and podcast creators, with an impact on more than 500 professionals in the network of these production companies. Vale do Dendê currently has 150 accelerated companies and has already indirectly impacted more than 800 businesses with its programs.
“We are very happy with this donation and hope that with these resources we can accelerate even more the audio ecosystem in Salvador. We want artists and creators to gain more and more space, taking innovation and creativity beyond local borders. The culture of Bahia needs to be disseminated to the world and there is nothing better than counting on the strength of Spotify”, says Paulo Rogério Nunes, co-founder of Vale do Dendê.
The choice of Salvador is also directly related to the cultural effervescence of the region. The state of Bahia has been recognized, since 2016 by UNESCO, as the capital of music and the birthplace of important cultural movements, such as Tropicália, Samba, the blocos afro, Axé Music, more recently styles like Pagodão and other strands of contemporary Bahian music. The area is also known for the large number of writers, influencers, and producers of digital content in the areas of fashion, Afro culture, and entertainment.