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”