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Music Venue Trust slams Spotify for FC Barcelona sponsorship

The Trust called out Spotify CEO Daniel Ek for his failure to invest in grassroots music

By Joe Goggins

Camp Nou, 2014
Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium will carry a sponsor's name for the first time in its history. (Photo: Ank Kumar/Wikimedia Commons)

The Music Venue Trust has responded to the news that FC Barcelona have entered into a “long-term agreement” with Spotify.

The streaming giant’s sponsorship of the Catalonian club was announced yesterday (March 15), with a multi-year deal set to run from the beginning of the 2022/23 season that will see the Spotify logo on the kits of the men’s and women’s sides and the addition of a sponsor’s name to the club’s historic Camp Nou stadium for the first time in its 65-year history.

Reports suggest that the deal is worth in the region of $310 million. It will bring some much-needed capital into the club, at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated their already parlous financial position; they have debts in excess of £1.2 billion.

The Music Venue Trust, though, took to Twitter today (March 16) to call out Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, and delve into how the quoted figure could have been better spent on grassroots music. “For the amount of money Spotify have agreed to spend on TEMPORARILY branding FC Barcelona they could, instead, have secured a PERMANENT future for circa 700 UK Grassroots Music Venues,” read the first tweet in a thread addressing the deal. 

“Such an investment could have unleashed £40 million per annum into grassroots artist talent development, from which Spotify, [Universal Music Group], [Sony Music], [Warner Records] and others are the ultimate financial beneficiaries,” the thread continued. “Not only that, but an investment of money in this way would generate a reasonable financial return, being invested into bricks and mortar and therefore remaining an asset. That’s how sensible investment works.” 

The Trust went on to suggest further ways the money could have helped the industry’s grassroots. “Spotify could have taken this money, invested it in music infrastructure, kept the asset value, improved economics for every new/emerging artist, and be making a small return on a sensible and protected investment which completely aligns with the best interests of their company. If you are a Spotify investor, or you work at the company, it’s probably worth asking why this temporary branding opportunity has been selected in preference to a long term structured investment in music with an assessable impact.”

The thread concluded with a direct address to Ek, who had last year been rumoured to be interested in buying a stake in Arsenal FC. “We’d like to talk with Daniel Ek so we could tell him the incredible opportunity he is missing. But we can’t even get [Spotify to take a meeting about the need to support and secure the grassroots music sector.”

The deal between Barcelona and Spotify will begin in July. The decision to rename their stadium to Spotify Camp Nou is a historic one for a club that did not have a commercial shirt sponsor until 2011. They had previously worn the logo of the charity UNICEF from 2006, without receiving a fee.