Sunday, March 17, 2013

Go with the flow?

At the risk of sounding old and out of touch (which couldn't be further from the truth, of course), I'd only just started to get my head around the various debates about whether or not downloading music (legal or even illegal) might be a good or a bad thing for the industry - and now the debate has already moved onto the ethics and merits (or otherwise) of streaming.

As someone who can confess to having never used Spotify and who frankly feels uncomfortable at the notion that the whole concept of owning music is redundant, I'm nevertheless interested to hear the arguments advanced on both sides. On the one hand, streaming would seem to provide valuable exposure for up-and-coming artists who can use it as a promotional tool. On the other, however, the low rates paid by legal streaming services like Spotify mean that many artists don't feel they're fairly compensated for their efforts and that some faceless suits are instead making money at their expense.

Of course, the response to that might be (a) it was always thus, regardless of the business and delivery model (record companies have been screwing over bands for their own personal gain since time immemorial) and (b) if this helps prevent cynical careerists trying their hand at music-making simply because it's perceived as lucrative, then all the better. And yet the industry can't survive if circumstances dictate that artists are unable to pursue a dream and attempt to realise their visions. Man can live on bread alone, though man does at very least need bread.

Anyway, here's a handy survey or articles and links on the subject which might help you to make up your own mind.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)


skif said...

Interesting link. I do use Spotify and pay a premium fee as I understand artists get a little bit more when listened to this way (at least thats what I gathered from Jana Hunter's posting on the subject -

I have certainly bought records as a result of listening to them on Spotify (GNOD, Talk Normal and a Michael Rother solo LP being recent examples) and there's plenty of bands who I am unlikely to have got a chance to listen to otherwise, so they may be getting a small amount for my listening, but it's more than they would have got had I looked them up on YouTube or downloaded illegally - which I only do if something is out of print.

It's not ideal when you look at things like Hopkins only getting £8 for 90,000 plays - and not everyone will be using it in addition to buying records (I too am wedded to the idea that if I like something, I want it 'as mine' rather than something which I can plug into a switchboard for), so it's a mechanism which could be improved.

I'd be happy to pay more for Spotify as long as it goes to the artists rather than admin and doesn't get too prohibitive.

Ben said...

Your point about YouTube is a good one - to be honest, that's one of my main sources of learning about new music at the moment, and although it often results in me buying albums it doesn't always, so in those instances the artists aren't seeing a penny in return for my (sometimes repeated) plays. You may be guilting me towards signing up to Spotify...