Friday, October 21, 2011

Topic

Just read this little blurb in a local music rag about Spotify. I'm too lazy to copy verbatim but the gist of it was Century Media (big metal label fyi) pulled most of its music off Spotify because of the abysmal royalty percentages. The example given claims one artist was paid $500 for half a million streams, which breaks down to needing to get played 244 times to equal one 99 cent iTunes download. And then there is the advertising revenue.

Any thoughts? Seems like the old bricks and mortar boss has been replaced by the cloud boss? I know most of us on here are thieves anyway, but I thought it was interesting.

29 comments:

rootless said...

I hate Spotify so much.....

DC said...

To your point, we are all going to "steal" it anyway (and if it sucks, delete it). I guess $.002 cents is better than $.000 cents, dig? And that is just the sad reality for the music industry in 2011.

I think that recorded music is generally becoming, or rather HAS become with prevalence of Spotify, a promotional asset, not a revenue generator, and musicians need to get paid via gigs or vinyl sales. That’s kind of what we have all been saying for a while now.

I'm a fan of Spotify, I’m even considering signing up for the monthly fee to make the commercials stop and so I can stream it on my Sonos. I think it’s here to stay... I mean, why not? You can listen to all music on earth for free (or 99% of music on earth... I have come up dry on a Spotify search very very few times)? Duh, that’s a no brainer.

All labels/artists could rally or unionize and pull all their music off of Spotify or demand more cash, but I don’t think there IS that much cash to go around. I don't think Spotify is raking in a ton of cash and cutting out the labels, I think there is some speculation that Spotify isn’t going to make it because there just isn’t that much cash there. And, exactly to your point, if they did that I’d go directly to mediafire, and if that comes up blank? 9 times out of 10 I’d say “meh” and queue up Atlas Sound Bedroom Databank Vol 1-4 again (my go-to this week). 4 CD’s that the artist released for free on his blog, FYI.

Spotify kind of sucks for the artist, but it is the only game in town. No one is going back to paying $15.00-$20.00 a CD, period. Sowwwy.

Here is a good article with some stats: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/how-much-do-music-artists-earn-online/

Gabino said...

That's a hell of a chart. Not suggesting going back to twenty buck CDs of course, just interesting how it is all falling out.

Bill Zink said...

Man, F Spotify. No way in hell they get my music.

Oh, wait. They don't care.

CS said...

I'm with DC regarding Spotify. I'd have traded the music landscape of 1991 for the music landscape of 2011 when I was in my band. In a heart beat. Remember, the cost of production is also way down (sure, not commensurate with the price of music, but still down).

I would dearly love to learn the "take home" pay of a great deal of artists. I'm just very curious. How much do the Wilco dudes earn each year? How much does Kurt Vile? East River Pipe? In the late 80s/early 90s I always had the sense that rock music was third world: a ton of impoverished and few super wealthy (that was probably wrong, but it's what it seemed to be). Now, I'm guessing there's a small lower-middle class, a fraction less impoverished, and even less super wealthy. Good times...

rootless said...

I like that idea about a musical third world. I find it ironic that the most popular, and surely most financially successful bands, like Wilco, can hire the Websherrif to scour the interwebs for free links to their albums but new bands actually need to give it away for free. I actually resent Wilco for making me consider paying for $10 for their new album, fuck that, they make tons of money touring, sell their songs to Volkswagen, etc. I've paid good money to go to their shows (or maybe one show), I shouldn't have to pay $10 for their album. Now, if they did a Radiohead style pay what you want thingy, I'd drop a few $$; that's the thing for me, the price point for most albums these days still doesn't make sense, I know it sounds out of wack, I pay $7+ for beers frequently but won't pay it for an album, but that's just the way it is.

DC said...

Was it one of you guys that told me this story or someone else? You were on tour with your band in 80's or 90's, and stopped in at a record store in some city and the bassist for Guatalcanal Diary (mid level 80-90 band) was working there. And there was a realization that "fuck, THIS dude has to have a day job at a record store?!"

I think most bands, like bands that are on pitchfork but your coworkers don't know about, all have day jobs and make nowhere near 6 figures.

Pete said...

Newer artists have big trouble if the think this will replace a day job. Trying to break into the music business these days is akin to robbing a bank that has just been robbed. There's nothing left. Gigs, merch and vinyl is the only way to make a living nowadays. And if you lucky, very lucky the occasional licensing of your music for advertising. But there is an upside: Producing can be done at home. Your label? Run it from home. Give your music away for free and maybe people will come check you out?

shadow of shathragot said...

Spotify is ok by me. If you like an artist and want to support them you can buy their products. I get way more value and enjoyment out of a $10 Itunes buy than a $7 beer. I like the ability to customize my purchase and only pick what I like, vs. the buy a 14 track cd and only 4 are good days.

I read an article years ago where the main dude from Wilco said he made between 30k-70k per year depending on tours, sales, ect. I think this was before the YHF album broke big.

ator said...

for certain artists I will ALWAYS buy their albums. $10 aint shit if it might help a smaller-sized artist continue to make music.

Case and point: Rob Crow. I just purchased his brand new album (which is pretty great) DIRECT from the independent label he is on:

http://temporaryresidence.com/

It might not make a huge difference, but I would personally just feel like a creep downloading this album for free, knowing that he's probably struggling to make ends meet and has 2 or 3 kids to support. It's about the best investment imaginable considering the enjoyment I get from his music.

I feel the same way about the Deerhunter/Atlas Sound guys.... they're making some of the best music around and can probably use all the support they can get to keep on doing so. Even though Atlas Sound guy published all that stuff on his blog for free (which is awesome) Ill still buy the album when it comes out for 9.99 or whatever.

rootless said...

I hear you, Ator, but I don't feel bad about downloading any Atlas Sound album for free, I've seen him twice recently, so I'm supporting him financially. My thing is I'll try to see bands that I like when they come through NY (and of course all of them do), albums are like a business card these days. If I wasn't in a position to see much live music, like I lived in the burbs and had kids, I might feel differently.

ator said...

I don't know, rootless. I do think it's cool that you make a point to catch these bands live, but when you're at the show, why not pass up on 1 of those $15 watered-down gin and tonics, and spend that money at their merch table instead? Some of these guys can surely use all the help they can get. It's not like Atlas Sound guy is getting rich playing at crappy little clubs.

And with all due respect, i personally dont buy the whole "album = business card" analogy.... especially if we're talking about bands that put a lot of time and effort into the studio.

Maybe an album COVER is like a business card, but an entire album? What does that make the songs? fonts?

DC said...

Yeah, Rootless... what the fuck, man?!

shadow of shathragot said...

If the 2uo albums were on Itunes I'd buy them right now, even though DC would send them for free, or would he? I'm down for supporting the little guy on his way to superstar status! I played in bands so I have an idea how much goes into making music. If my $10 Itunes purchase keeps hope alive for an artist, I'm all for it.

rootless said...

well, firstly, I don't drink $15 G&Ts, I tend to drink beer at shows in the $5-8 range. What merch do I need? I don't do vinyl and I don't really wear band t-shirts that much. And what is this, charity? I'm sorry, I want to support bands, and I believe I do, but we're living through a time of creative destruction in the music industry, one that is bringing about great changes (cheap recording, social networks and other ways to reach large fan bases) and others not so great (musicians struggling to find a way to earn a living). I can't afford every album I want to check out, but if I do dig your album and you come to my city I'll do my best to come out and pay $20 or whatever for your show, and bring a friend or two. That's just my thing, it's not perfect, but there you go. And dude from Atlas Sound has gotten around $80 in ticket money from me, and he plays pretty good venues and his career is doing fine. He gives a lot of his shit away, he's brilliant, he gets out there and tours and people pay good money to see. DC, you've given up seeing live music, download for free as much as anyone on here, listen to spotify for free, so who you calling out, huh?

Gabino said...

Yeah, DC... what the fuck, man?!

EJ said...

Spotify is theft, basically. If you aren't compensating an artist for the full value of their work, you're stealing from them. Obviously this opens up the question of "what is somebody's art worth to me?" which Radiohead looked at in a very groundbreaking way. However, Radiohead have the luxury of experiments like that because they already have an ENORMOUS fan base and people are going to buy their albums no matter what.
The thing about artists getting paid for their work, is that it allows them to keep working on their art. With the output of artists increasing because of home studios, computers, etc., and their compensation decreasing all the time (because of things like Spotify) artists won't be able to support their endeavors any more. Thankfully, there are some good sidesteps around this problem, like Kickstarter. Anyway, it's just another sad symptom of a society that values money above all else, and a sad sign of the apathy that walks hand-in-hand with it. Instead of rallying behind the slogan, "it's the way the music biz is, whaddya gonna do?", don't support the current paradigm.

Bill Zink said...

Not picking on one person here, but . . .

"Albums are like business cards?" Says who? If they wanted you to have their business card for free, they would find a way to give it to you. Mixtapes may be like business cards, but unless it is an authorized free download, you are stealing.

And I'm not sure where the idea of buying band's stuff out of charity comes in. You are right about not buying merch as charity, but that has nothing to do with the fact that downloading stuff for free is stealing.

If you are an active supporter of capitalism (I say active because all Americans are capitalists whether or not they want to be, even if a few are trying to work around the system), then you play by the rules that capitalism sets. The capitalist says that those recordings are property that the artist is selling, so downloading for free is stealing. So, you either have to admit you are stealing, or that the system is bullshit . . . and not only bullshit when it limits our desires, but bullshit from top to bottom.

One of the things that I don't accept about capitalism is how it puts ownership on ideas, including music. The idea that music really belongs to anyone is kind of dodgy, as anyone who has looked closely at musical copyright infringement cases can attest to. Property seems to make sense when it comes to physical objects, but restricting ephemeral ideas (including music) seems elitist.

To me, "theft" of an idea is only harmful if you are using it to your own monetary advantage and disadvantaging someone else in the process. I feel the same way about music.

In the end, we can't really have it both ways. If we think it is ok to "steal" music, then we owe it to a larger community to make that "theft" part of a positive system. For instance, I don't have a problem with downloading the new Tom Waits album because he seems to live a relatively comfortable life, and can make money whenever he chooses to. After I downloaded Tim Hecker's Ravedeath 1972, on the other hand, I felt compelled to go out and buy it after I had listened to it a few times. I'm going to download the hell out of old blues recordings, because nobody even remotely related to those guys is seeing a penny from those recordings, and of course anyone who has a garage full of hot rods and castles in the English wilderness doesn't really need my ducats.

Any music that I make is available for free. My Black Kaspar EPs are available on Bandcamp for a "pay what you want" rate so that if someone is kind enough to want to flip me enough cash to walk across the street and buy a six pack, they can do it. The band I used to be in had a "no copyright" stance, which we updated to a "fair use" stance (that is, you can listen to it, play it, possess it in any form you wish, as long as you do not use it in a context that generates money for anyone else, including commercial radio, without the explicit written permission of the band). We have in the past sold the physical objects that contained music, such as CDs, cassettes, and 7" singles, but only to try to pay for the recordings (most underground bands only hope to recoup the costs of their records . . . I'm guessing that was pretty much Arson Garden's goal, right Clark?). When I play live with local bands, I always insist that there is no cover, and have actually pulled off bills when I couldn't talk all the other bands into the no cover idea. I would love to make enough money (somewhere, somehow) to be able to play music full time, or buy a new guitar occasionally, or even cover the cost of all the damn strings I break, but I think it is more important that music be free . . .

Bill Zink said...

I do believe music should be free, but I believe that it is important not to just consume for free, but to find a way to give back, whether that be to offer your own work for free as much as possible, or to pony up a few bucks for those at the bottom end of the system who have trouble making ends meet. It's the whole "marketplace of ideas" that has a large role destroying humankind, and while walling off music from those who can't afford it is a long way from trying to copyright the human genome, it's part of the same corrupt system.

Oh yeah, and I'm not liking the ideologies behind Spotify. Of course, if the artists have a problem with it, they need to get their music off there, so in the end it's their fault.

blablazo said...

I rarely download music - legally or otherwise. When I do it's because I'm too lazy to do a vinyl transfer or it's something I owned in the past but don't have anymore for whatever reason.

I'm a voracious consumer of music but I'm buying twenty or thirty used $1 records at a pop. I know when I do this the artist isn't getting compensation. Is this any different than illegally downloading music? I don't know and I don't really care to be honest. I just know I have so much to listen to that downloading more seems even more gluttonous than what I do already.

I'm not really hip to the latest and greatest bands out there which is another reason I don't download much, I guess. I'm too busy living in the past to listen to much new shit. The only current music I buy on a regular basis is reggae and I buy direct from the label whenever possible.

Just wanted to contribute to this thread. I guess the bottom line for me is download if you want, don't if you don't.

DC said...

Three things:

1) "HOME TAPING IS KILLING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY"

2) Spotify isn't stealing, it's legit and artists are on there voluntarily and getting compensated. It is a shitty business model for artists, but it isn't "stealing"... whereas Mediafire downloads are I would say "stealing", from a strictly legal standpoint.

3) If the answer is for everyone on earth to hold hands, sing kumbayah and "do the right thing", then artists and music industry are in bad bad shape. Never gonna happen. If everyone on this blog saw the light and agreed in a blood oath to never consume music unless it is purchased directly from the artist it would a) be a huge fucking pain in the ass, b) major lifestyle change and difficult task to enforce, and c) would be, what, 20 dudes? 20 dudes who are taking the time to have this debate. The other 8 billion people probably not so much.

For the record, i have downloaded shit off mediafire, i don't go to many, if any, live shows these days, and I'm checking out True Widow on Spotify as we speak.

CS said...

Couple of things:

1) DC, that was me who told you that story. I remember another one about the good folk in 11th dream day cleaning the bathrooms at the metro (YUCK).

2) Bill, what's re-coupe mean? But, yes, you're correct. Basically the goal was to make enough to keep going, with day jobs and all. Sure, there were dreams of no day jobs, cruel cruel dreams.

3) Bill wrote: "I do believe music should be free." Well, I don't know. What separates music, as intellectual property, from a design for a kick-ass blender, an original painting, a piece of software? I'll go all capitalist and say music should cost what the market will spend. Granted, that may be depressing right about now, but I don't think music is so special to be above or exempt from that. Now, if the mechanics of the distribution system don't allow for a true expression of the value the market holds for something, that's a different kettle of fish. But I don't think that's true as of yet where music is concerned.

4) Spotify ain't theft.

Gabino said...

I have always been a scab to the music industry, always. I have also bought tons of music over the years, and have always done what I can in terms of gigs and merch. But I am the guy who borrowed your new album for a month, could've built a house with the bricks of blank tapes I purchased, bought way more used cds than new, etc. And now with the advent of illegal downloading my collection of music is finally how I've always wanted it; fucking gi-normous as all hell....

That's just how I am, my taste for music has always been insatiable, most of my life beyond my means. And though I'm definitely no tastemaker, I think most of people who have known me have benefitted from being hipped to stuff they wouldn't have otherwise. They in turn have probably supported the artist in some way. I bet most of you are that person in your crowd.

I'm not really going to stand on that rationalization above; just trying to say that it all comes around, home taping didn't kill the music industry, and music should be and is free in a way that a can of tuna isn't. If you can get paid to make music more power to you, but it you can't you'd still do it anyway. If you're choosing to call yourself a musician you should probably accept that your life will most likely be less financially stable (but infinitely more rewarding) than the guy who works at the tuna factory. Isn't that how it's always been? And I mean for hundreds of years before music was even recorded?

It's something that ultimately ends up in the ether, unlike a painting or a blender. That is particularly true now that most of it is simply data. To commodify it too much takes something away from it. All this financial and technological upheaval is not going to stop people from making good music, it's always there, always will be. I think it's an exciting time to witness.

CS said...

To Gabe: What about movies? books? poems? (which reminds me, anyone ever read Martin Amis' hilarious farce that imagined the worlds of poetry and big time hollywood screen writing were reversed? Good stuff).

I just don't see music as being any different from almost anything else. Someone thinks it up and creates it, then they or someone else figures out how to distribute it, and whomever does that gets to decide if it's free or not. I'm not arguing that musicians should be paid more (though that would be nice), I'm just saying that they're entitled to the same market forces that govern anyone's intellectual property. If they don't want to give you their recordings, we really shouldn't be taking them. Because their particular type of property happens to be easier to disseminate without their permission, doesn't absolve the market from acting upon it in a sporting way.

Bill Zink said...

In case there is any question left, I WANT the music industry to collapse. The industry has been nothing but bad for the music.

Clark, when you get into private property issues, I think the whole mess relies more on practice than on logic. I mean, really, how much of the average pop song, circa 2011, can be said to be the sole intellectual property of the guy who wrote it, and not the co-property of Lennon/McCartney, Prince, McKinley Morganfield, Ellas McDaniel, Sly Stone, Jimmy Reed, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Beethoven, Mozart, nameless indigenous peoples, etc. etc. etc.? It's all pretty much been done, and to me, a "fresh take", no matter how interesting and vital, hardly represents an innovation above and beyond what has already been done. We are all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us (or are currently inspiring us).

There's no point in taking a Marxist hard line, because the reality of an American revolution in our lifetimes is next to nonexistent. I do, however, think that you can (and should) draw a demarcation between ephemeral ideas and physical objects; so, say, a song is not property, but a recording is, in the same way intellectual concepts are not intellectual properties, but books are, or a painting would be property, the image of a painting would be an idea, etc.

That is a completely arbitrary division, but it is certainly no more arbitrary than saying "Who Do You Love" belongs to Bo Diddley, and "I Want Candy" belongs to Feldman, Berns, Goldstein, and Gottehrer. Or no more arbitrary than saying the traditional hambone that Bo Diddley converted into his "Bo Diddley beat" is really his, as far as that goes. I think property as a whole should be called into question, but no point in being quixotic about it; you got to choose your battles, and this is the one I would choose.

I think the line needs to be drawn because "intellectual property" is the power structure's transgression against the free flow of ideas, and another system of control over the lower classes. And, it's going to ridiculous lengths: how arbitrary is it that corporate Pharma can copyright my fundamental biological makeup?

Clark, I appreciate that you take a stand on principle when it comes to downloading. I think there are different principles at work here, and the "hand holding" that DC refers to is more about larger cultural awareness than it is about political correctness.

Bill Zink said...

What is the difference between a song and a really cool blender? A really cool blender won't change your life, no matter how cool it is. Unless your life is really sad.

Bill Zink said...

And I know Spotify isn't theft. I still think it's bullshit. I pay $15 a month for Rhapsody, which I'm pretty comfortable with because the artists do see some money from it, according to a singer-songwriter friend of mine from VA who sees the pennies trickle in every time I re-load his stuff onto my mp3 player. I wish more people were on Rhapsody, 'cause I've got some pretty badass playlists I could share.

DC said...

Spotify LOST $20MM pounds last year per latest financial statement:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b89d97ea-f365-11e0-b98c-00144feab49a.html#axzz1c6vXWFnb

Maybe they will go out of business and this will all be moot... but in any event, they don't have the cash to pay artists "what they deserve".

Gabino said...

Wow, so much for that model, next?