DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen says that music streaming service Spotify is an exploitative enterprise which is just as bad as Napster, the pioneering file-sharing service which unleashed piracy on the record business and began the cataclysm that caused worldwide revenues to decline from a peak of twenty-seven billion dollars in 1999 to fifteen billion in 2013.
Speaking to CTNow, Collen was asked about the fact that much of the DEF LEPPARD catalogue is not available on Spotify or other streaming services. He responded: "I love what Taylor Swift has done [i.e. keeping her music off Spotify]. I have a friend who is a songwriter, and he had a song that got over a million plays on Spotify, and he received 12 pounds, about $18-$19. That really sums it up. It's [as] bad [as], if not worse, than the whole Napster thing and downloading when it started. Again, a CEO from [Spotify] would make an amazing profit, whereas the artist is taken advantage of. I'm not a fan of that."
He continued: "I don't know where we stand in the future, but perhaps it would be good to do something else. When they show their true colors, you go, 'Well, it's the same old story again,' like some old blues guy getting $50 and actually owing his whole catalogue for life to someone who's ripped him off. It's a little like that. It happens all the time with artists, Michelangelo or whomever, back in the day. William Blake died penniless doing brass etchings, living on someone's floor. A businessman will probably think an artist is just content with the art. It's a bummer getting ripped off."
DEF LEPPARD in 2012 joined the long list of rockers who have re-recorded their biggest hits in note-perfect renditions. The band's frontman, Joe Elliott, told Classic Rock magazine: "We're trying to wrestle back our career and ownership of these songs. [DEF LEPPARD's former label Universal] own the originals; we're at loggerheads with them over the digital rights. And as long as they're playing silly buggers, we'll just keep recording them again."
The singer continued: "Until we can come to some kind of humane conclusion to this ridiculous stand-off, we're going to say, 'Fuck you!' We were offered a great deal two years ago and shook hands on it. And then some other twat at the label put a stop to it. It's our life and our music and we're not going to let them exploit us to the extent that they're trying to."
Elliott told The Hollywood Reporter that DEF LEPPARD is in a unique position because they are one of few bands to have veto power. He said, "[Universal] can't release our back catalog, we're not going to let them put a song on a compilation unless we want it there, and they'll never be able to license. They won't be able to do anything without our permission because that's in our contract."
Asked to explain the crux of the band's argument, Elliott said, "We want to get the same rate for digital as we do when we sell CDs, and they're trying to give us a rate that doesn't even come close. They illegally put up our songs for a while, paying us the rate they chose without even negotiating with us, so we had our lawyer take them down."
He added, "When you do your own recordings, you're making about 85 percent and 15 percent goes to iTunes or whichever particular digital domain you put them up. Something along those lines would be fair. But they were offering us the opposite — a quarter of what we get paid on our CDs. So we thought if we can't get them to pay us a decent rate on the digital, then we're going to go in, re-record them and pay ourselves decently. Because we're not fighting against our own back catalog. If we put rerecords up against the originals, nobody would buy the re-records. So what we're trying to create is what they know by making as close as we can, forgeries of what we did in '83, '81, '87…"