FPLG1Photo: Biha / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0I’ve been really preoccupied with some articles I read recently that explained how attendance at small venues (fewer than 1,000) has been declining around the world since before COVID-19. At the same time, major acts, stadiums, and big festivals have seen ever-growing attendance numbers while smaller local festivals are in decline. This has all coincided with Spotify and its algorithms gradually nudging people toward more and more mainstream artists. Most people basically just seem to be going with the flow and obeying Spotify’s guidance away from diverse, local, and independent artists, towards more and more mainstream, global, and major label artists. People are now objectively willing to spend more and more money on major label global artist stadium tickets and less and less money on independent small venue tickets.
There was a time when, during diminishing income from album sales, artists were told to comfort themselves that their touring income could possibly offset it and fill in the ever-growing hole in their finances. But now, touring and concerts have become less and less sustainable and we independent musicians are forced to face difficult questions.
I am now seeing so many friends and colleagues bowing out, because it’s basically become unsustainable to make music. The income has gone down steadily since way before COVID. And it’s getting harder and harder to reach people on social media. I used to be able to reach thousands of people with my posts and videos and now it’s down to tens. It means that promoting tours is basically impossible.
For every billionaire musician to be made, tens of thousands of musicians will have to give up their dreams, because like it or not, there is a fixed sum of money that the public spends on music. And when the top artists get a bigger and bigger part of the income, it actually means, literally, that lower rung artists suffer. It’s not a zero-sum game, but it’s very, very close to zero.
I don’t blame the public. People are basically the victims of social media and tech companies that narrow our horizons and select what we can see, what we are exposed to. We don’t really control our field of vision anymore. For example, I am following a lot of artists on Facebook, but my feed is full of “suggested” content that I never asked for. Why?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Not asking for a hug, sympathy, tears, or care. I’m simply asking what can we do? What can we do to fight this? I don’t want to quit the most wonderful work I’ve ever had. I’m not ready to give up. But there comes a time when I have to decide when my dignity, my family, basically being able to pay for my home, can in any way be sustained by what used to be a pretty decent source of income, but is now running on fumes and
my passion.
I love you guys! I don’t want to lose you and lose my relationship with you. But what can one do when faced with such a completely broken situation? We need a revolution. Unless we are okay with a complete breakdown of artistic and cultural diversity, we need extreme and deep systematic change.
I still have faith. I will still fight. But it is increasingly evident that more and more artists are having to make this difficult decision and I am no exception. This is more than just a “capitalism bad” thing. This is something else. I really appreciate you guys for being there for me. It’s just obvious that social media and streaming platforms are deliberately making this a no-win scenario for 99 percent of artists.
I am political. I want artists to be able to survive and even thrive from their art, even if it doesn’t have major mainstream mass appeal. That’s just who I am. And I thank all of you for being o.k. with that.

Svavar Knútur is currently on tour following the release of his new album, Ahoy! Side B. And his new single, While the World Burns (Repainted), featuring Norwegian singer Helene Bøksle is now out, streaming everywhere it can stream. “I hope you guys listen to it and save it and playlist it and all the good things for the almighty Algo, god of fools hope and silly musicians trying to live of their art,” he says.