Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Discontent providers

There's no disputing that streaming has totally changed the face of the music industry. But Daniel Ek seems to have let that power and influence go to his head, if his recent interview with Music Ally is anything to go by.

Put simply, the Spotify CEO claimed that any musicians who now find themselves struggling or unable to make a living from their art are either stuck in the past, clinging in vain to the idea of being able "to release music the way it used to be released", or plain lazy: "[I]n this future landscape, ... you can't record music once every three to four years and think that's going to be enough. The artists today that are making it realise that it's about creating a continuous engagement with their fans. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans." In other words, the problems lie with the artists rather than with Spotify or its ilk.

Needless to say, Ek's comments have been met with considerable anger. One of the best ripostes has come from Zola Jesus, who (like many others) bristled at his astonishing ignorance of/disregard for the creative process and his arrogant view of artists as merely content providers whose output he can monetise.

Sure, there are some musicians who do indeed (to use her words) "have no muse to serve but the marketplace", but many (most?) would no doubt rightly refuse to be lectured by a jumped-up tech bro - especially one who can shoot himself spectacularly in the foot at point-blank range. By pointing out that many artists' incomes are suffering due to tours cancelled as a result of the pandemic, he was presumably trying to remind musicians of their financial dependence on him, rather like a domestic abuser might do to their victim - but, as Zola Jesus noted, instead he only underlined the damaging impact that streaming has had and the fundamentally exploitative nature of platforms like Spotify.

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