Alice in Chains: 'Spotify and Pandora Are a F--king Ripoff for Musicians'

"You get 10 million plays of your song, and you get a check for 111 dollars," says drummer Sean Kinney.

Ultimate Guitar

Following Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's Spotify outburst, Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney became another prominent musician who took a strong stance against streaming services.

Chatting with 96.5 the Fox, Sean also reminisced the old days when music seemed more valuable to him. Asked if he thinks that any of the new acts will become as successful as AiC, the drummer replied:

"I'd hope so, but I think it's gonna be really hard, because everybody wants it now and they don't have to do anything to get music. So it's kind of devalued music. You don't go and get it, then wait for it to bring it home. And you don't listen to albums. As many people don't listen to albums in their entirety; they cherry-pick stuff.

"You know, when you don't put anything into getting something, then it doesn't have much of a value ... On a bigger scale, it is what it is, but it's just sad, because music is so important to so many people and such a huge part of the world and how we connect and what brings together. And when you put a value of zero on that, I'm more afraid of what the future will be of that. Now you've devalued such an important art form and part of everybody's life.

"So I would hope that people would stick with bands, but when you put nothing into going to support a band, they can't financially continue to be supported, because they're not being supported financially; it costs money to go places and make music."

Further sharing his fears regarding the future of rock, Kinney noted, "My fear is, like, when big rock bands that can still go to an arena and play that show - Metallica and stuff like that - decide to not do it anymore, who will take their place? Is there anybody that can? Right now I'm not feeling super positive that anybody can. And that could go missing for generations of people. That whole experience can be lost. It's like the experience of listening to an entire album. It's an experience. And now how you experience music is being reshaped and hopefully something will shake up."

Prompted to comment on how fans prefer streaming individual songs rather than albums, Sean replied (via Blabbermouth), "You have these Spotifys and Pandoras where you get access to almost every piece of recorded music on the planet. And then that's great for the consumer. But for every person who's ever recorded music, it's a f--king ripoff. Because, I think, I hear people are starting to post their [royalty] checks [online for having their music streamed]. You get 10 million plays of your song, and you get a check for 111 dollars."

57 comments sorted by best / new / date

    It's good and bad. I'm old enough that I remember the only way to find new music was to take a chance and spend your money at the record store, and hope you like what you bought. Sometimes it paid off, sometimes not. It's nice to be exposed to so much music through streaming services. There are a ton of bands I listen to now that I would have never known existed without streaming services. I see both sides, but I'm not sure what the answer is for the musicians. I guess get a reputation far being a badass live act and make your money touring and merch. I LOVE watching live music. If you want my money, that's the way to get it.
    I agree there's quite a few bands I got into because of related songs on youtube and the like. However I see his point with the way the music industry is at the moment I doubt bands really want to be touring 300 days a year to pay for a house they're barely in. Also cherry picking stuff means you don't know an artists full creative value (for better or worse) so their work is devalued. It's like reading a chapter of a book and not reading the rest. You don't get the full experience I wouldn't know how to fix it so everyone is happy but with the way it is at the moment the music industry is going down a dead end at high speed.
    Epi g-310
    That's the advantage of Spotify though, you CAN listen to whole albums, and even whole discographies. I haven't used Pandora since Spotify came out.
    It's not devalued, it's just accessible. Now more music means more to me. Value can be attributed in more than just monetary terms. Music is for everyone now. I work 50 hours a week and don't bitch and moan, so you might have to work a bit more? Good.
    Very late comment, but either way. I pay for Spotify, but in all honesty, being born in 83, i think i know what he means. It's like back in the day you had very little money (most people) to buy tons of albums, so you kinda sticked to what you owned or to the few mp3's you downloaded, and you got to really appreciate the whole spectrum of the bands music. Even before torrents and streaming, when i had lots of money some years ago i'd go and buy lots of albums and not listen to their entirity. All in all i think one way for people to value music is to pay for it always. Unless you're really poor and can't afford nothing, then you'll probably value it anyway, but if you can afford, try not to download and just listen to what you pay for. You'll become more intimate with it.
    I don't know what record stores you went to but those I used to frequent had record players so you could listen to stuff before buying.
    I'm not exactly from that generation, but I do the same. If there's a new underground band around that seems like something I'd like, I go buy their album. If I don't like it, I trade it to a friend or something like that. I'll always support local bands, and I'm pretty sure I'd drive quite far for a band I really like to watch them play live. But apparently this way of seeing new music is far gone for a lot of people.
    If I like a band I will buy the album. That is why I LOVE Pandora.That streaming service has introduced me to bands I would have, not otherwise, known of. Bands should be grateful they are getting heard and not having to pump money into a corrupt system just to be heard. Hey Sean. What kind of Royalties do you get paid from my local radio station that plays "The Rooster" at least 12 times a day? Not a Cent.
    Agreed 100%. It's good to hear an album before release. Maybe get the streaming services to pay a bit more and in more equal wages so younger bands can get a start. Also create a listening period or a limit to amount of listens. I listened to Glass Animals-ZABA about 3 times on Spotify before I bought it, just to make sure that the two singles weren't the only tracks I'd like (which they weren't). It's a tough topic to talk about it because you're basically wrong and right either way
    Business is just too slow to keep up with Technology. people know they can get what they want, when ever they want, but if there was an faster easier system WORLD WIDE I can see Many people being happy to pay $10+ a month for an easier service give access to your music from any device, Artists would get more of a share as more would have access to more new music( more then any record store could hold ). selling CD's is like selling candles or horse shoes there's just no market any more. people have always got music for free from recording the radio for mix tapes or having a double tape decks, people have not changed it's just technology that has made it easier to get what you really want, the music or more the "entertainment industry" has not kept up with give users better value for there time effort or money. the entertainment industry should make it easier to get content and keep it, to give the user more value for money then the illegal options. once they do this people will be happy to pay more money for the service and in turn give artist more money. iTunes is a success but it's only the first step in many in giving users access to the media they want, when they want. the money is in subscription cause many are happy to pay them, yet there are no subscription services from any of the media content holders who complain the most about the internet ? they don't even offer an alternative to illegal activity ?
    I am not sure to follow your comment. One you speak about how common it was in the probably 80`s (?) to get free music: All great bands made their name from that time, and record sells went to the roof. Strangely I have several hundreds of records from that time and a very few "copies" on my own. Must have been the golden edge of the music industry (from 60 to lets say 95). and two, you are talking about a business model based on technology witch as nothing to do with musicians work and how you can survive as musicians (and probably as well for label). Subscription is not made by the musician but by a service you buy. They are resellers. The mistake the music industry made is allow the reselling outside their core business and allow technology full control over the art work.
    1/ 1960 - 95 copies didn't damage the music industry because most people will support there artists but today technology has made it far FAR easier to do the wrong thing and there is no commercial alternative that is fair to the users or artist, I feel most do want to give the artist money. today the middle man wants far more from the user and the artist when we all know the get music is far cheaper. 2/ many artists like Radiohead & even Louis C.K. have found great profit from delivering direct to the user.the whole system to get money to the artist needs to change just as much as the system to delivery the artists product.
    I remember when albums came as 12" disks made of black stuff with a little label even changing sides was a ritual of work brings me to the Jethro Tull album thick as a brick you had a choice of two sides and you needed to start from the start to the end to get some of the in-jokes it is one long track!
    Hell, I *wish* I had $111. I could afford to buy one ticket to see Alice In Chains with that much.
    Don't you have a choice not to put your music on there.
    Yeah, for some you do. Just make sure your record company don't own all your compositions, and then you'll be fine. But let's be honest, most people illegally download anyway, so streaming music is 'just' an easierly and legally obtainable alternative. I use Spotify and listen to music there almost all the time. But I also buy records of the bands I listen to, whenever I have the money. It's not all bad.
    "As many people don't listen to albums in their entirety; they cherry-pick stuff." If 99% of artists didn't put mostly filler in their albums, maybe people would stop cherry picking.
    Musicians who succeed in the new market will recognize that streaming represents free advertising to build a following of fans who pay big bucks for show tickets and merch, and who justify corporate sponsors paying for jingles and product endorsements. Selling music directly is now icing on the cake. This is bad news for musicians who rely on record sales.
    I love AIC, but come on! would you rather see people listen to some music on those? or would you rather see people download your music for free?
    I remember back before streaming when bands would complain because they would sell a million albums, but they would still be broke. Everybody wanted to be signed, but did not think about the money. It was an investment, not free money that labels gave them. All label advances had to be paid back first. They may have only gotten 111 dollars, but I am sure that is after the label took their cut. It was more than likely the labels who brokered the deal with streaming services, not the artist.
    Yeah, does he understands how his songs aren't his anymore? He gets royalties after the label gets paid for streaming there content.
    He's just got a hangover from being in a 90's rock band. My melbourne based garage band has our EP uploaded to spotify and now anybody in the world can stream it. Now that sounds pretty cool to me.
    Von II
    Does it make you money that allows you to record a new EP or put out some more merch, like selling a few hundred albums would? I bet it doesn't.
    It is not suppose to. It is there for exposure, just like the radio was, and is. No band makes money from a radio station playing their song either. Most of the big labels pay to get their entertainers music played on the radio station. The money comes from tours, merchandise sales, and for independant bands, album sales.
    As usual posters on this blog talkin about something they have no clue about...ever hear of the term "royalties"?
    That's why you have a page on something like Bandcamp, so if people want to pay they can. Though I do agree with the notion that streaming should pay a bit more than what it currently does, especially seeing as it's rapidly becoming a popular medium.
    Your in a garage band that nobody has heard of and probably never will....he is AIC...and is tired of recording his music for free and he realizes what it is doing to music in general....amazing how you kids on this blog always miss the point....
    So you're making enouth money to support yourself from that are you?
    doesn't matter what they say, AIC hasn't been good since adding that black guy in there as the's not a race-motivated opinion...he just fvcking blows. haven't listened to them since hearing him after a few songs. still listen to the old stuff now and then tho. staley was one of a kind.
    You get to play music for a living. Not making the money that you wish you were? Pursue another career. If you're only playing music because of the millionaire-dream portrayal of rock stars that you grew up on in 60's, 70's and 80's then you're missing something.MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people would rather be playing music for a living than working the jobs that they have to work to survive. Be grateful or just do something else.I love AIC's music but this attitude that some musicians have that they need to millionaires is ridiculous.
    I don't think he's afraid that musicians can't become millionaires, i think the concern is that if things continue they will barely be able to reach minimum wage unless they are Metallica or Lady Gaga. To a young band that might not be a concern, but if you got a family to support it won't really make sense to continue playing considering the time needed to do it properly. Probably also why we see a lot of bandmembers quit the industry and bandmembers juggling several jobs to help support themselves. But maybe that's how things should be, only the people willing to sacrifice family and so forth, should be able to live this way or bands should stay local and cut world tours, earn money from second partime jobs and support their music that way, I have no idea, but things are probably going to change for better or for worse.
    Alice in Chains release an album every 5 years on average; you think the actual writing and recording process takes 5 years of full time work? In total it's no more than a few months. Touring and concerts account for maybe 2 months per year as well. So what exactly is their time being taken by? Even a band that releases an album every year has ample time left over for family, (other) hobbies, and at least a part time job. The artists in question make a living twiddling their thumbs most of the year, so even at minimum wage, I don't think they should be complaining, especially when you consider how many people make music for free these days.
    The thing is, i don't think he's worried about his own band, believe it or not, but he might actually be worrying about the future of the industry as a whole. It is possible to be worried about other artists thn yourself. Unless i'm wrong, but thn he should have made it more clear, cause it sounds like he's talking about other bands and not just about AIC.
    you gotta be retarded to think a great full album can be written and recorded in a few months! and 2 months per year of touring? more like 2 months off if they're lucky. try actually being in a band and making a living off it, then you will realize just how ridiculous that comment was.
    The problem is that musicians and artists don't think as consumers. The **** should I buy a record that I only like one or two songs for? Also, if I paying the electric bill and the internet bill, streaming is everything BUT free. There's nothing ****ing free in the world.
    No one said you had to buy records. There are plenty of ways to buy music, you can easily buy songs for a couple of dollars. And heck, technically there's nothing wrong with streaming, it's just that it might be unsustainable in the long run (atleast at current pricing level).
    why does he care, doesnt he already have all the money in the world, some people just want more and more
    He's not talking about his own band, he's concered about the younger generations of musicians.
    "My fear is, like, when big rock bands that can still go to an arena and play that show - Metallica and stuff like that - decide to not do it anymore, who will take their place?" Hopefully no one. I feel sorry for people who pay hundreds of dollars to see their favorite band from row 56. That's so impersonal and commercial. The last show I went to cost me $20. I went crowd surfing and literally got thrown onto the stage while one of my favorite bands was playing. No one who goes to an arena show will get to experience that.
    Arena shows offer a different type of experience. Not everyone is seeking the same experience as you are.
    "Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin', then you better start swimmin', or you'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin'."
    But the comfort and commodities of modern world actually doesn't has anything to do with supply and demand.
    yeah. if u really want a radio thing just get a iheart radio account. basicly the same thing but free
    From the perspective of independent musicians, streaming services are an excellentplataform for their music to be listened, in other hand it in fact could be harmful for artists who indeed need to pay their bills with the sales
    huge aic fan, but music was never meant to be a money making scheme it's an art and should be treated as such, money only deludes and weakens the integrity of music.