A Response To Your Post About Why Spotify Must Die…

I need to write a blog about my pro-streaming thoughts so I can just post a link every time I see another “spotify is killing the music industry” facebook status/link to poorly researched article/reactionary rant/genuinely upset, worried artist.

I think it’s important for people to hear the other side because I truly believe in it, but I can’t keep spending as much time as I do replying to every anti-spotify post that I see on facebook. Before we start let me just say, I am a songwriter, someone who plays on other people’s tracks too, a listener (one who buys and streams music) and a label owner, so I do have a few different perspectives on this – right or wrong.

I’ll tell you what I believe has been killing music, major labels throttling innovation that could be working us out of the slump we’ve been experiencing. Labels taking equity and/or advances against catalogue and syphoning it away into their own pockets instead of to the artists who’s content secured the necessity for those deals. It’s little wonder that some of the larger artists on our radars are reacting with contempt towards streaming services, but in many cases I really believe it is outdated recording deals and cruel business practices that are to blame.

Tech companies (not just spotify) behind streaming operations are offering an interesting new solution for current user behaviour, for the present market, not that of 15-20 years ago. A market irreversibly changed by P2P (napster et al). But no service will succeed without those major catalogues making the platform “definitive”. Free or not many users don’t want to subscribe to multiple apps, they want one go-to. So for any streaming platform with ambitions of being the future of music consumption, those major catalogue deals are vital.

I’ve done my own research on this with people who download legally or otherwise. People’s value ideas have changed. Interestingly everyone seems to develop their own kind of “moral guide” to downloading. Some are really quite complex; getting in to percentages of music they’ll pay for amongst all the “free” stuff. Some gauge it by their perception of the commercial size/success of the band or artist as to whether they will “support” or not. Some simply value music by the format (this really upsets me actually), therefore a CD is worth £5, vinyl is worth £10-20 but your digital is valueless – the art contained on it is evidently meaningless.

However, within all this you do start to see conversions from people previously torrenting/downloading music moving to streaming platforms. This combined with “cloud streaming” options like iTunes match, which even registers your torrented tracks and then pays the artist a small rate per subsequent play and you’re already looking at new income streams in your accounting.

I’ve seen figures that suggest 25% of internet users seek copyright infringing content ie. torrents, MP3 blogspot links etc. Around 327 million people (from a 2013 study). With iTunes alone as big as it is now, we can begin to rule out availability as the issue behind many of those downloaders (though buying major label catalogue in lossless quality is still a total nightmare). So lets suggest that a big percentage of those 327 million don’t want to pay money for your digital music.

We need free streaming options to start to convert more of those people. The more we convert, the more valuable this method becomes. More ad revenue for streaming platforms, more 0.007s of a penny going to artists, maybe even an increase in those streaming rates (who knows).

This is, rightly, such an emotional topic for so many people and it is endlessly complex and evolving. There are much deeper conversations, vaguely alluded to here, about the value of music as art, and the straight up value of music as product which is unquestionably broken. Conversations about ad support for “pirate” sites, about levelling the advances and streaming rates playing field for majors and independents, about artist contracts and remuneration. I don’t want to go in to all that now. I just wanted to, for me as much as anything, write down my thoughts right now on 28th July 2014, about why I believe in streaming.

Music is alive and very well. More people are listening to music than ever before. But don’t think for a minute that they all want to buy our music, that’s just the way it is now, I’m sorry, I don’t necessarily like it either. But we need to educate more about the effects of torrenting/copyright infringement. And we need to educate more about the legitimate, free alternatives…

…not try to bury them.

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