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Spotify is Teeming with OPM! But are artists getting compensated?

November 26, 2011 12:29pm


As I recently wrote here, I signed up for Spotify, the cloud-based streaming music service with a bazillion of music tracks in its servers. While still not available to users in the Philippines, I was able to sign up using a US-based IP address. While there is a free service available for users in countries where Spotify is officially supported (like its country of origin Sweden, the UK, and the US), the paid version allows you to use the service wherever you travel – meaning countries outside the officially supported territories. So I signed up for the paid version.


I justified the expense by thinking, with all that music available, I may never buy a CD again. And I was right, the selection is staggering, a music junkie’s dream come true.

Evidently a lot of my local social networking friends in the PH are on Spotify too, so it looks like there is already quite a community of Spotify users in this neck of the woods.

Now here’s the ironic kicker. Though still unavailable to Philippine users, it turns out that Spotify has a massive collection of OPM in its servers. I would even venture to state that this is probably the biggest collection of Philippine music assembled online.

On Spotify, you can search for a track by Track name, Artist, or Album title. These fields are all cross references so if you you search for a track and a song comes up, you can list all the songs in the album where that track appeared – or list all the albums of that artist.

My search for OPM started with an innocent search query for “Himig Natin” – the seminal pinoy rock anthem by Juan de la Cruz. Lo and behold, a long list of performances appeared, both by the original artists, and cover versions. I even uncovered a jazz instrumental arrangement by saxophonist Tots Tolentino.

Curiousity piqued, I searched for the usual suspects, typing in names like “Gary Valenciano” and “Sharon Cuneta”. Spotify quickly returned detailed listings of apparently ever album they ever recorded, or guested in. A search query for “Eraserheads” turned up the complete Eheads catalog from Sony Music’s vaults. Well complete except for the final studio album “Carbon Stereoxide”. But the studio albums, live albums, and anthologies were all represented.

And so it went, testing Spotify’s search engine, I began to uncover even the most obscure Philippine artists.

Looking for Yoyoy Villame tracks for your playlist? He’s there. Pinoy 70’s disco via VST and Company, Hagibis, and Boyfriends? (yes, it was a very strange decade). They’re there. Freddie Aguilar? Side A? Up Dharma Down? Slapshock? Bamboo? Sinosikat? Radioactive Sago Project? Joey Albert? Kundimans? Ilocano songs? Duets of Vilma Santos with Edgar Mortiz, and even Guy & Pip? The late great Eddie Peregrina? Yup, all there.

I even discovered artists I never heard before. Searching for folksingers “Freddie Aguilar” and “Florante” also turned up “Florante Aguilar” – who is apparently a talented classical guitarist with instrumental recordings of kundimans and haranas.

(There are some notable omissions – no Cynthia Alexander, Joey Ayala, The Jerks, Ethnic Faces, and other cult favorites.)

What appears to have happened is that Spotify has struck deals with all the Philippine labels -from the complete Vicor catalog (one of the largest collections of OPM ever assembled), to Viva Records, Universal Records, Sony Music Philippines, Warner Music, Octoarts, and even indie labels (how else would Terno Recording’s Up Dharma Down end up on Spotify?).

This is all great for the Philippine music fan. Right now, overseas Filipinos must be having a ball. In the US, where Spotify can be listened to on your PC in a free ad-supported version, the chances of a user ever buying a CD again from the corner Filipino store has just dropped to nil. Because (almost) everything you would want to listen to is in Spotify.

On a Spotify playlist sharing community called sharemyplaylists.com, I was able to quickly assemble a grab bag playlist of Pinoy Jazz (Jazz by Philippine musicians) material called “Pinoy Jazz Tasty Bits” to share with other users . You can check this out at http://http://sharemyplaylists.com/pinoyjazz-tasty-bits . That’s about four hours worth of jazz or jazz-related pinoy music.

What about the Philippine music artist or composer? Are they benefiting from being on Spotify? Here’s where it gets a bit hazy.


Traditionally an artist or composer will get compensation from royalties based on units sold. This is a teeny tiny percentage, but if the album sells in large quantities the royalties could add up. At the height of OPM’s heyday, a platinum album was an album that sold 40,000 units (this has since been reduced to 20,000 units) , and a diamond album sold 200,000 units. The record is held by Jose Mari Chan, who sold 800,000 units (cassettes, CDs) of a single album.

In another life I passed myself off as a pop composer and I remember getting royalty statements from the record company - the amounts of course, were completely forgettable.

How does the royalty system apply to a online music service like Rhapsody or Spotify? Is this based on the number of times a track has been played? And considering that labels like Vicor have made direct deals with Spotify (tell-tale clue, some album cover graphics uploaded bear the stamp “Vicor Library File”) are the artists and composers getting their just share? That would be an interesting story for a good investigative journalist (not myself!) to follow up.

Most of the time, Jim Ayson is a corporate slave at a leading telecommunications firm. But as a long-time chronicler of all things tech, Jim continues to cover areas that interest him such as mobile technology, social media, internet culture, music, film, and of course the mobile telco biz. You can read his thoughts over at jimayson.wordpress.com
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