Music Streaming: The Haves and the Have-Nots


In recent days, I have blogged about the vast divide between the music industry elite and the have-nots. Last week I focused on the music elite via my post about Jay Z’s relationship with Samsung. (Jay Z responded defiantly by removing the hyphen in his name.) Yesterday my post about Thom Yorke’s war against Spotify focused more on the have-nots (such as indie musician Sam Duckworth), who earn next to nothing from streaming services. On July 19, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker also posted a thoughtful article about how difficult it is for emerging artists to generate any revenue from streaming services like Spotify. His well-written and well-reported piece also shows how streaming services favor the giant record labels for established artists with strong back catalogues, and I would recommend you read it. (For a dissenting view, I would also recommend two posts by Bob Lefsetz, “Thom Yorke vs. Spotify” and “Spotify?“). I don’t believe the solution to inadequate streaming royalties is for emerging artists to remove their music from Spotify (doing so sounds self-destructive, especially because Spotify gives musicians a platform to generate awareness). The music industry really needs an artist-owned music streaming/distribution service akin to United Artists in the movie industry many decades ago. Right now it’s coming down to big corporate brands like Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew to champion emerging artists. In 2010, Coca-Cola gave Somali-born rapper K’Naan a global stage via the 2010 World Cup tour. Mountain Dew runs its own label, Green Label Sound. Perhaps it’s time for another major brand named Jay Z to invest some of his own millions into a streaming service that champions the artists?

For additional reading:

Future of Music Coalition, “Does Spotify Make Sense for Non-Superstars?”

The Guardian, “Pink Floyd Back Catalogue Available on Spotify after Song Passes 1M”

The Independent, “Thom Yorke Spotify Criticism: Top Producer Accuses Radiohead Singer of Twitter Hypocrisy”

Update: NPR, “Paying the Piper: Music Streaming Services in Perspective”

Beyonce: Doing What Comes Natural?


Poor Beyonce. She allegedly lip-syncs the National Anthem at the presidential inauguration — adhering to an accepted practice in the entertainment world — and the next thing you know, she’s being scandalized. Media outlets ranging from CNN to The Huffington Post have breathlessly reported and analyzed the deeper meanings of Beyonce’s alleged lip-sync. Ad Age recently published an infographic depicting the explosion of conversation about the incident and speculation that she might lip-sync at the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show. You would think Beyonce committed massive fraud when in fact performers have been lip-syncing for ages, one famous example being Whitney Houston lip-syncing the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. In fact, Beyonce is guilty of nothing more than bad timing if indeed she lip-synced, as an unidentified source claims.


I dislike the practice of lip-syncing. Performers who lip-sync deny themselves and their fans the experience of hearing a song re-interpreted uniquely. Lip-syncing is especially annoying when you pay a premium price for the live experience. When a vocal in concert merely replicates the sound you hear in a recorded track, then concert goers are paying not for the singing but for the pure spectacle of seeing your favorite star live — the costumes, the set designs, and all else that comes with particularly high-concept shows. You might as well listen a recorded guitar solo, too.

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