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About the Host
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, He competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Spotify Audiobooks
Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to another Self-Publishing News podcast from Oxford, where it is absolutely, I think the technical term is, blowing a hoolie, and absolutely pelting it down.
So, apologies for any sound effects you're getting courtesy of the wonderful weather that we have here at the moment. I think the name they've given to this one is Storm Debbie. So, that means it's the fourth storm so far of the year; that feels like a lot of storms we've had in the last few weeks.
Anyway, in the last week we have had some interesting developments in several of the platforms that we are used to using. I'll start with the biggest news.
Spotify Rolls Out Audiobooks in US
So, this is something that's not a surprise, it's something we've known is coming, but it is now finally here. So, Spotify have announced that they are rolling out audiobooks, that's the full catalogue of audiobooks, to Customers in the US.
So, anyone who subscribes to the Spotify premium catalogue is going to have access to, they say 200,000 audio titles, and your subscription will get you 15 hours of audiobook content per month. You can top up in 10-hour bundles, I think it is, you can also, of course, carry on buying audiobooks a la carte.
So, Spotify have launched this service alongside a survey, which obviously has to be taken with a pinch of salt because it's a survey they've carried out themselves. Nonetheless, it's really interesting, I would recommend that you go to the Spotify press release and have a look at the full results of the survey, but the really interesting figure there is that 72 percent of Gen, I'm going to say Zed, I'm not going to say Gen Z, whichever you do say though, Zed or Z, 18 to 34 year olds, basically are listening, they say, to audiobooks.
They also have an interesting stat which suggests that people who listen to an audiobook will then continue listening to other audio content. In other words, people are staying, they think are going to stay on the Spotify platform and this is going to help people consume more of what they get through the audio medium.
Now this of course has been a controversial development, their rolling out of audio. Authors groups and publishers’ group, or authors and agents, have been upset with the big four publishers who announced a deal with Spotify, which gave Spotify access to that 200,000 strong catalogue.
What they objected to was the lack of transparency around the terms of that deal. Which meant that authors who, as far as they were concerned, hadn't necessarily signed away the rights to licenses for audio content, were nonetheless having those things agreed on their behalf without seeing what they were being agreed to.
So, that's not something that necessarily is a problem for us as indies.
We are able to access this new US market. We can do so by pushing our books to Spotify, for example, through Findaway Voices. The interesting thing there is that Spotify and Findaway Voices have teamed up such that… Findaway will not take a cut of whatever it is we get through Spotify. That doesn't necessarily mean that there's any more transparency. It's not 100 percent clear what the income from streaming will be.
Income from a la carte sales will be a cut that is not, again, re-cut by Findaway, but whatever money does come in from Spotify, if we put our books there through Findaway Voices, we will keep all of it.
On the blog I've linked to a very handy little section on Findaway about how you can do that, as much information as you can get.
TikTok Replace Creator Fund with New Creator Program
That takes us into another of the interesting stories that I came across this week, which sort of highlights this issue of how we get paid from the increasing consumption of creative content through streaming services.
The story that this focuses on is TikTok. So, TikTok back in 2020 introduced what they called the Creator Fund. This is a $1 billion fund that would pay the most popular creators of TikTok videos and incentivize people to create great shareable viral content.
Fantastic. A billion dollars is a lot of money, of course, but that money is running out, and it has become very clear that people whose videos were getting even millions of views were earning a few cents from this.
So, this highlights the problem that you have with these fixed sum creator pools. That it's increasingly the case, as popularity grows within a medium, and this is obviously the case with audiobooks, that the amount of money you get per stream is going to decrease because they're fixed.
It's not guaranteed that as the number of views goes up, as the revenue that's coming into the streaming service goes up, so the revenue that's pushed out to creators will go up. So, this is the problem that TikTok have faced, and they are in December this year, they're closing down their creator fund and starting what they're calling a creator program, which they hope will give more money to their creators and therefore incentivize them more than a few cents at a time to create really great viral content for them.
It's not 100 percent clear how this is going to be funded or what the mechanism is going to be that links income to TikTok with income that goes out to creators. What is clear though is that this is part of an ecosystem they're trying to build for creators, because they realized that in a world where people get their content through streaming and expect to pay a fixed price for that, as popularity grows, it's going to be harder for people to make a living out of that because there are so many streaming platforms, the expectation is that streaming content costs a certain amount if you're watching more and more of that content, but you're not paying more for it.
So, there's not necessarily more customers coming in, but there's more viewing or streaming going on the platform, there are going to be more things that are going to be watched, or listened to or read, so there's going to be more views happening and the same amount of money that's going out to creators.
So, TikTok's answer to this isn't to increase the pot so much as to create a whole ecosystem of ways in which you can make money.
So, they are enabling people to sell merch. So, as we know, TikTok has an in-app bookstore that will be potentially part of the way that as authors we can do this, but all TikTok creators who are at a certain level have this ability to sell merch. They also have the ability to have tips. You can tip people who are creating really great content.
Obviously, another way that people do it on a lot of platforms is to have sort of special content set aside. So, in YouTube, you've got member content and obviously some people go outside to platforms like Patreon to introduce special content to their superfans through that.
So, it's really interesting to see the way we've almost come full circle back to, I actually put a link to Kevin Kelly's revolutionary article, 1000 True Fans, in the piece I did on this TikTok story, and that was originally published back in, just looking again, I think 2007.
So, right back at the start of this whole thing, when Kindle was just getting off the ground, and we were just starting to think about how we were going to make money, Kevin Kelly was there with this idea of the superfan; the people who really loved your content and the idea that they would not only pay for content but they would pay for all sorts of extra things around this content.
It's really interesting that a decade and a half later, as streaming becomes more and more popular, it's clear, just as it was in the music industry decades ago, just as Kelly was making out, that we're not going to make necessarily a full income just from people reading our books; we're going to have to find another way to do it.
And platforms who, as is suggested by this Spotify research on how to keep people in app, as it were, platforms have wanted to keep people on their platform because obviously that drives ad revenue. So, as we're seeing with TikTok, I think what's going to happen is we're going to see more and more of these platforms creating ways for us to make multiple streams of income from the same platform, and that is going to be the way that we can top up what is going to be a diminishing central pool of money that we would otherwise be able to draw on.
So, it's really interesting how these things seem to be cyclical, how it's all now come back full circle, and we're almost back at the idea of superfans.
So, that's a really interesting set of interlinked stories.
AI Lawsuit Against Stability AI at a Stalemate
Then the other thing that was interesting that was happening this week, we can't really go a week without mentioning AI, but the AI news this week, focuses on a lawsuit that artists were taking out against Stability AI, which is the platform behind Stable Diffusion.
Also involved in that suit were Midjourney and DeviantArt, and they were claiming breach of copyright for training of AI on their works that they hadn't given permission to train it on, and the interesting thing here is that the judge in the case has put it back to them.
So, they basically say the case as it stands, we can't hear it because it would just fail, because it's not clear, and this is a really interesting point, it's not clear there's sufficient similarity between the art that the AI was producing and the art on which it had been trained. Not sufficient, that is, to demonstrate a breach of copyright.
So, this idea that you can produce art in the style of someone, even if the result has been trained on the someone whose style you want to replicate, it's not clear that the final product will represent a copyright breach. So, that's a really interesting thing.
The judge has also claimed that the mechanism that Stability AI uses doesn't, as they put it, it doesn't ingest complete works. That is, it chops your artwork down into chunks before it trains itself on them, and that apparently means that you can't necessarily claim that the actual work itself has had its copyright breached.
So, it's going to be interesting to follow what happens with that case to see if the case is brought back in another form.
If not, then it may be that we're starting to see case law around copyright and AI start to crystallize and, in some interesting and not necessarily the way that we might, or a lot of creators out there might have hoped would happen.
Lots of interesting stuff going on this week. I'm sure there will be again next week.
I think we've avoided the worst of the weather, so I'm going to count that as a win and look forward to speaking to you all again soon. Thank you.