Artists turning their backs on legal streaming is short-sighted
GRAMMYS, BRITS, yada yada – it’s the wretched music industry award season and it’s all happy-clappy as champagne is uncorked, Jesus is thanked and everyone loves everything and everybody. The equivalent of a bikini-clad model draping herself over a car, the music award season is a tawdry promotional device to shift more units. No one really knows who votes for what or why, or which awards have been carved up in advance.
And all those righteous and hypocritical speeches about “saving the music industry” and “fighting back” must be scrutinised given what has now become public knowledge about how certain labels and certain big-name acts are now behaving towards the legal streaming services.
If you came in late on this one, the consensus reached a while back was that these streaming services such as Spotify were the perfect antidote to those pesky illegal downloaders who were threatening the very future of the industry.
By nudging people towards either a free but ad-sponsored service or a premium rate streaming service, the logical argument was that people would become accustomed to valuing music again. The money being charged even for the most expensive streaming service isn’t that much (relatively speaking), but the crucial aspect here is that everyone is on board, from the labels to the artists to the publishers.
Agreed, the idea of “accessing” music as opposed to buying or downloading it was going to take time to bed in, and these services did need time to grow. And yes, they pay rubbish royalties at the moment, but that’s because not enough people are aware of them or convinced of their merits.
But while certain territories can now boast that the revenue taken in by streaming services is helping to plug the hole left by illegal downloaders, we have just witnessed a bafflingly stupid decision by some big names to remove their music from streaming services.
Into this week’s hall of shame go Adele, Coldplay, The Black Keys and Paul Mccartney and their respective recording labels. All four of these acts have pulled some or all of their work from the streaming services, and the reason given is that streaming their work only “cannibalises” their physical/ digital sales.
When Coldplay released their mega-selling Mylo Xyloto last October, it wasn’t made available on Spotify, thus forcing their fans into buying and owning the full album. The thinking, one suspects, is that since you’ve got a large fan base, make them pay full price for the album instead of letting them stream it either for free or as part of their monthly subscription. Hardly “free trade” is it guys?
The Black Keys, so beloved of the indieratti, pulled their current album off because, as their drummer said at the time, “Streaming services are more popular, but it still isn’t at a point where you’re able to replace royalties from record sales with the royalties from streams”.
So there you have it — it’s about money, not the principle of fully supporting and endorsing legal streaming services. And I wouldn’t really call The Black Keys a “struggling band”. As for Adele and her management/label, shame on them for pulling 21 from Spotify on its release.
Last week Mccartney became the latest refusenik by pulling most of his work off the streaming services. The more cynical among us noted that this came in the same week as he was preparing to stream a concert on itunes, and one wonders if the Apple tie-in was related to the decision.
Yes, streaming services currently pay a lousy return to artists and labels. They’re start-up companies – the more people who join, the greater the rewards will be. Those of us who’ve been screaming at the illegal downloaders to get with the legal streaming programme feel very short-changed by the actions of Adele, Coldplay, Black Keys and Mccartney.
If the music industry is in a mess it’s because it deserves to be. The short-sighted greed of these artists is undermining all the arguments for a subscription economy model of music, in which everyone will be rewarded fairly – once a critical mass is reached. This is no better than cheating.