Plenty of musicians have spoken out against Spotify, but few of them have had the guts to do it while standing on a stage sponsored by Spotify, in front of a huge Spotify logo, and while accepting money from Spotify to be there in the first place. Apparently, that kind of power move is reserved for rapper Vince Staples, who used his headlining set at SXSW’s Spotify House this week to air a whole bunch of grievances. According to Austin 360, he started things off early on by acknowledging that the vast majority of the audience was white, saying, “I know you’re all at SXSW like, ‘let’s watch the black people rap,’” adding “it’s almost like a real show” when the crowd enthusiastically cheered. Stereogum has some other highlights, including an instance where Staples called a fan “stupid” for climbing a tree so he could get a better view, yelled at some “bros” who left early so they could get free drinks, and quizzed a Mexican guy on his knowledge of horchata.
It sounds like that stuff was (mostly) in good fun, though. His criticisms of Spotify, on the other hand, were a bit more pointed. At one point, he gave a shout-out to his corporate sponsor, saying, “thank you for giving me this check to make up for what you’ve done to me and all my musical friends.” He then instructed the audience to look up all of the artists who had played on the stage, so they could listen to their albums 1,000 times and give them “an album sale.” Staples also thanked the crowd, noting that he gets “an eighth of a penny” every time someone streams one of his songs on Spotify. Stereogum says that the crowd got more and more into it as Staples became more vitriolic, so this worked out just fine for everybody in the end. Well, everybody except Spotify, unless it believes that “all press is good press.”