Estranged Artist: Why I Left Behind Spotify, Etsy, and Amazon

When Greed is No Longer Worth the Benefits

Karina Lafayette – April 28th 2022

Photo by Max Nguyen on Unsplash

I don’t think I’ve ever been more sure of something in my life. As I deactivated my Etsy shop, there was a hint of nerves, the thought of what if a mistake was being made. Funny enough, in the past day there had been 37 views on my shop, more than in awhile. Even though I put my shop on vacation mode around April 11th- the time the digital Etsy strike began. Deep down, I knew it was for the best.

Just a year earlier, I was ecstastic about joining Etsy. It had always been touted as one of the only major platforms that support independent artists and entrepreneurs such as myself. Then while taking care of my shop and getting to know the ins and outs, it became more and more underwhelming. Sales and views only seemed to spark when I paid for ads, and regardless of how much I made with them, each month there was still the expectation of paying a small fee just to keep listings up. Here I was paying for the right to my own personal space on a platform that claims to support regular people. It didn’t seem logical. Most of the clients I’ve connected with so far have been through blogging and social media. A simple one-minute reel shared on different apps yields more power. So what is the purpose of Etsy anyway?

Then finally earlier this year came the announcement that they were raising fees- again. One day, a client booked a reading at $95CAD, and in return Etsy paid me $85CAD. Keep in mind there is no shipping, no physical product. Anytime I do a reading, I simply e-mail the person their digital file once it’s ready. Etsy gets very little out of this, or at least, they should. So it was either raise my prices, in a time where most people are struggling to get by, or go my own way. And that’s when I started my own little website instead. While there is still a small fee with every booking, it pales in comparison.

Now, starting a website is a lot of work and requires much more promo and sharing to get visitors on the regular, but considering the fact that you’re only competing with yourself, it’s a small price to pay. Even though the Internet is a vast scary place, I think that relying too much on platforms gives the illusion of a safety net. And by leaving apps like Prime, I could use the opportunity to invest in myself, instead of investing in platforms I’ve been supporting less and less as time goes by. Sure, music is great, but when it comes at the expense of artists on Spotify getting paid very little, is it really worth it? Music is available everywhere these days and there are plenty of apps like SoundCloud and Tidal that have a better reputation.

As for Amazon, being a writer, I’ve already had my issues with them to begin with. It’s not only that the corporation owned by one of the richest people on the planet continues to underpay factory workers, it’s also because with Amazon Kindle, authors only get 40-60% in royalties per book sale. Now, that may be industry standard, but when you’re talking about a large corporations and not a typical publishing house, 40-60% leaves much to be desired, especially when Barnes and Noble offers 70%. Not to mention, in order to get your books out there through Kindle, you need to jump through all kinds of hoops, which means it only works well for those who have a big following or established authors like Stephen King. I’ll also be willing to admit that one of the reasons I tried publishing with Kindle is because of E.L. James and her Fifty Shades success that started on there, but as time has shown us, James is probably a unicorn. The gatekeeping in literature is just as rampant as ever, so for those of us who want to continue our own way, we have to continue carving a different path.

With that being said, if I had those icky feelings toward Kindle, then why in the hell should I continue giving money to Amazon at all? Maybe having a Prime subscription was beneficial during lockdown, but it’s not like it’s the only place we can order online. Many stores have this option and if you ask me, I like the idea of knowing who I’m giving my money to anyway. Already, we’re seeing musicians like Neil Young and India Arie have been pulling out of Spotify, and more and more people are even leaving behind their Netflix subscriptions, proving that eventually people will be more important than profit. Meanwhile, some artists who want to leave Spotify are unable to, since well, the labels technically own their music. Nice, huh? It’s only a matter of time.

Beyond that, I also recently began removing some of my content from Medium, because while the Partner Program claims you can “make money from writing”, you can only really make money from readers who already are with Medium. Meaning if someone finds your article on Google or social media, good luck. And many bloggers there find that 98% of their readers are external, which sort of defeats the purpose.

I keep telling my friends that if I were rich one day, I’d start my own platform for artists, one that actually helps them- let’s speak that into existence.

And while I’m only one person, making it so Spotify, Etsy and Amazon won’t cry over me- they’ll continue making money and they’ll continue acting like the bigger fish- I like to think that doing what’s right for myself really can make a difference. No matter how small of a difference that is. The purpose of integrity is after all, doing the right thing even when no one is looking, even when others may not agree with you.

Karina xo


If you’re looking for alternative platforms to share your work, check out the following:

Substack

Patreon

Barnes and Noble Self-Publishing

Draft2Digital

Simily

WordPress

Vero

Discord


To check out my books, social media and more, scroll to the menu, where you can also get a reading. And be sure to watch my new short documentary series on the Saturn Return! If you support my work, please consider buying me a coffee.

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