Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Stream Baby Stream
The death of the compact disc was inevitable.
"Everything dies baby, that's a fact."
During my heyday as a retailer, I did not see it coming. Maybe I didn't want to see it. This particular occupation was something I had planned on doing for many years to come. When it all began to go to hell in a handbasket, my business partner and I wrote about our woes. You can read that HERE.
It was easy to blame illegal downloading, but after spending 12 hours a day for 15 years talking to music lovers, very few stopped buying music because they were on a BitTorrent site grabbing the new Jessica Simpson CD. People stopped buying CDs because CDs became too expensive and to add insult to injury, the loyal music buyers began to feel betrayed when the labels began repackaging the same music over and over, with promises of "new and unreleased material" that had already been purchased.
Illegal downloading was the scapegoat for label greed. Maybe it turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. But fans who would sneak cassette players into concert halls to tape their favorite bands still bought every single release. No one was substituting a copy of "Led Zeppelin IV" with a fair sounding bootleg from a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970.
I'm thinking about this now in the wake of the Spotify backlash. You can read that HERE. The message is simple: Spotify does not pay out enough royalties to artists. "Streaming is killing the music industry."
Oh please! You cannot kill something twice.
Seven years after my shop shut its doors for good, I spend 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, searching for records, cleaning records, photographing records and listing records all with the hope of selling records. It is a far cry from owning a shop. People used to come to me. Now I have to find them. But through it all, through the everyday schlep and the disappointing returns, I still spend a portion of what little I make on music. I have to. Understand?
I love Spotify. I pay for Spotify. And as long as Scott Muni and Alison Steele remain dead, Spotify will serve as my radio. And if I get to hear the new Tommy Keene record on Spotify and I like it, I am buying it. I still believe that practice takes place.
Then there is the case of Robert Plant. And Neil Young. And so many other major artists who release their music on this new hot format called vinyl at $40 a clip. So in these instances, maybe I am just streaming, though I would have happily purchased the Robert Plant album if it didn't cost four times more than my average copay at my doctor.
A respected musician, a guitar player who is against Spotify and its business model, said this on a Facebook thread, "If I had a dollar everytime I heard the word exposure..." He also mentions how as a session player and a writer, he has had close to a million streams but has only received an embarrassing payout. When you read each individual story, and find out first hand just what goes into being a working musician and just how little compensation there is, you can sympathize. But with all due respect to this one musician and to this one story, his situation, with his status, would most likely have been exactly the same, less the one million hits.
I don't believe Spotify is the enemy.
What is the answer? Certainly not the circus that is Taylor Swift's principles.