Spotify's new opportunities for Samoan artists

Samoan-Fijian artist Ezra Williams (better known as 'Raze') says Spotify has boosted her growing music career and is encouraging Samoan artists to take advantage of the platform after its local launch this month.

Raze, whose father's family is from Manono, told the Samoa Observer she uses Spotify as her main music sharing platform, and said it has been great for her and her career.

“It’s definitely growing, especially in these modern times with technology and everything. Spotify is definitely the new thing, it’s always upgrading and it’s a great way to get your music out there.

“I think it’s great it’s going over to Samoa.”

Raze, who in 2019 took home Best Pacific Female Artist and Best Pacific Soul/RnB Artist in the Pacific Music Awards, said she gets significant monthly pay-outs from the Spotify royalties system.

The royalties have come under fire for being little more than a pittance: at just US$0.003 per song stream it takes at least 1000 plays to earn a few dollars.

But Raze says her biggest months have earned somewhere between NZ$300 and $500. She hasn’t quite hit four figures yet but she is committed to promoting her career through Spotify. 

She also uses iTunes to make money, but her main online revenue generation comes from Spotify, she said, as well as promoting herself on social media sites.

Her top two tracks 'DO ME ONE' and 'Not About You' have been streamed 84,891 times, earning her approximately NZ$346 (T$637).

“This is a job, being an artist is work for us. Being on Spotify, when I see my playlist, that is work,” Raze said.

“If you’ve got the passion for it sometimes money doesn’t matter but when the money does come rolling through that’s when you’re like okay, this is the right thing for me to do.”

Raze said she encourages all local artists to use Spotify and importantly download the Spotify artists app which breaks down who listening to your music by age, gender, location and more.

The 26-year-old said the data is essentially helpful for knowing people are out there, loving her music and it encourages her to make more.

“The joy that it brings, that the work you put out, you get it back. You get the support and the love back from people you don’t even know, from different countries.

“People from America, the U.K, it’s crazy. I am super grateful for that. The biggest benefit of that is the push to make more music.”

Earlier this week, the global streaming giant announced a major expansion. It will open up to 85 countries, including Samoa, in the coming days, including both free and premium options and possibly family plans too.

It has tech expert Fa’asootauloa Sam Saili hoping other major technology platforms will also open up to the Pacific, like H.B.O. Max, Disney Plus and even Tinder, which currently aren’t available to Samoans.

Music industry expert and Base FM Managing Director Jasmin Ziedan said the platform doesn’t pay artists fairly, and shouldn’t be the sole money maker for musicians who want to earn a fair living from their work. 

“This is my personal opinion, and my professional opinion: you put your lead single on Spotify so that people get to know you but then you put your whole album on other platforms where you actually get paid.

“Or you sell from the boot of your car like Poetik and other Samoan artists do and get the full amount. So that’s $10 per CD instead of $3 from 1000 plays.

“They get a promotional platform, I think that’s big value, but that needs to be well educated to artists, how they should use it.”

For Raze, who started her career as a hip hop dancer, Spotify has been a successful space for the three years she has been using it.

Her latest single DO ME ONE was added to two Spotify curated playlists, New Music Friday AU and NZ, and an Australia and New Zealand playlist. 

She noticed the boost in revenue from the addition immediately, she said. And people who have been introduced to her music have approached her for paying gigs or collaborations too, she said. 

Samoan artists thinking of using the platform should have a set of originals ready to go before they launch their channel, and carefully schedule when to release their tracks to generate excitement in their audience, Raze said. 

“I do encourage all artists, get the app, it does pay off.”

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