Ilian Tape removes entire back catalogue from Spotify, says “it’s time for a change”

© August Castell-Castell

“We asked the artists on the label and they all agreed that it’s the right thing to do.”

Ilian Tape has removed its entire back catalogue from Spotify. The Munich-based label – which was founded by the Zenker Brothers in 2007 – first made reference to a forthcoming shift away from Spotify in an end of year tweet posted last week (30 December).

“This year has been one of the busiest for the label. We want to deeply thank all the artists and all our supporters!” the post reads. “Ilian Tape turns 15 next year, lots of fresh stuff coming up. It’s also time for a change, none of the music will be available on Spotify anymore. Happy new year!”

In a statement shared with Crack Magazine today (4 January), Ilian Tape co-founder Marco Zenker discussed the decision in greater detail, citing low royalty rates, a supposed quantity-driven ethos and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s recent €100 million investment in AI defence tech company Helsing as reasons behind the label’s decision.

“We thought about taking everything off Spotify for a while and now it just felt like the right thing to do,” Zenker said. “In an interview in 2020, the Spotify CEO made clear that it’s all about quantity; that artists can’t take several years to finish an album anymore. It’s also not possible to search for labels on Spotify, because Spotify sees no value in labels and probably would like to see labels disappear eventually. The shares are intransparent and much lower compared to other streaming sites. And now the CEO is also investing insane amounts of money into warfare technology. That was just enough for us.”

Zenker added that the label asked its roster – which includes the likes of Skee Mask and Stenny – first, and “they all agreed that it’s the right thing to do.”

“A lot of the things I mentioned apply to many other streaming services, too,” Zenker continues in a follow-up email. “But Spotify was by far the most popular for our catalogue, and – for us – the investments and statements towards artists and the culture from the CEO led to the decision.”

Several Ilian Tape-affiliated artists have supported the move publicly. On Sunday (2 January), Skee Mask – real name Bryan Müller – announced the removal of his music from Spotify on social media. The artist told fans he had “nothing against streaming in general” – describing it as “one of the many good ways to make music even more accessible – but stood against Spotify’s corporate ethics, and “how much/less the creators behind the music receive in terms of value, respect or space.”

“I’m aware of the fact that almost every (big) streaming company plays the game in a similar way like Spotify nowadays, but that’s not the point,” he added.

In his statement Müller also explained that his music would be made available on Spotify again “as soon as this company starts (somehow) becoming honest and respectful towards music-makers.” [sic]

Elsewhere, London-based artist Djrum, who has previously released on the label, backed the decision in an Instagram story, writing: “Ilian Tape have dropped their entire catalogue from Spotify. I fully support the brave move. Musicians deserve fair pay.”

Italian producer and Ilian Tape signee Stenny also showed his support via an Instagram story. “As controversial as this decision may seem,” the artist told his followers, “we hope it will fuel change.”

Fans of the label can still purchase music and past releases via Bandcamp and the Ilian Tape website, which you can check out here.

Update, 4 January: This story was updated at 19:43 GMT to include a statement from Marco Zenker, co-founder of Ilian Tape and one-half of the Zenker Brothers, on the decision to pull the label’s music from Spotify