We’re Being Imprisoned

Word Round Town is That the music industry is trying to imprison us.

What do you think about the way the music industry is heading? I don’t like it, but then again this is the music “industry” and not simply music. As I mentioned the week before last week, the industry (through music streaming services) are gradually bringing their users into a place where they’d have to pay for the music which they listen to. Think of it like money and the debit card or contactless payment. It starts off with the rare few and soon government will force it on every individual (the world will be paying contactless, no cash….maybe even no card….) Anyway, that same principle is what we are seeing here. The day will come, or at least the industry want the day to come, where listeners will have the option to either listen to music legally by paying for it or (the only other option) listen illegally through illegal downloads or pirate radio.

I think we should see music like a book (see Josh Mangel’s comments). We all have the right to read. The principle we often use with books is that I can read it in the library or loan it from them, borrow it from a friend etc.. If we like it, then and only then will we buy it. If anything, file-sharing and streaming only helps artists. It builds promo, recognition and can be the link to reaching out to untouched areas, locally, nationally and even globally thanks to the internet. Our word-of-mouth promotes the artists without costing them a penny. And true to the point those pirates buy just as much music, or even more, than those who don’t.

I listen to Spotify freely and if I like a song or album I’ll invest in buying it because it means so much more to me than the random tracks I may listen to whenever I check in the Spotify. I know I’m going to listen again and again, wherever and on whatever device. I love it.

I’m not going to pay for something I may not like. Simple. None of us should.

It isn’t just me, even the artists generating money from us listen to music for free.

  • Jake Bugg said “I stream music because it’s such a handy tool that, if somebody mentions a record, you can get it up straight there on your phone. And if I really like it, I will go out and buy the record.”
  • Kanye West went to the extreme and pirated Serum (…I know that isn’t streaming but still…).

To be frank, artists and the industry are making so much greater a deal out if this whole thing. Did you know that artists of all levels, wealth and status gain only 6% or less of their entire revenue from record sales. The top percentage of income, just as always, comes through performances and touring (other revenue streams come through songwriting, composing, teaching, endorsements and more). Taylor Swift generated over $39 million in 2013. ASTONISHING!!! 6 months on the road touring the US gave her an estimated $30 million. Remember, Taylor Swift has other revenue streams beyond record sales and touring, so $9+ million may very well link to endorsements, merchandise, interviews and special guest appearances, radio airplay and so on.

To add, the average artist will receive 10-20% from a sale. A band will have to split that 10-20% between them. So, from a £0.99 sale an artist would get 1penny, 20p if their lucky. See what I’m getting at?

With that into consideration, why are we being imprisoned into this cage of subscription fees? Who will we go with when we’re finally (if it goes that way) forced to pay for streaming? Will we go for Soundcloud? Tidal? Apple Music? some other new streaming major? Why? What artists will be exclusive to that subscription? Are we meant to pay for every streaming site if we want to listen to a variety of artists?


Streaming is Changing…for the better?

Word Round Town is That “Streaming is Changing”.

The world of streaming is changing, and it’s hard to say whether or not it’s for the better. For artists, not necessarily record labels, the newly introduced changes will most likely impact them positively if all goes according to plan. Tidal’s and Apple Music’s latest means that users will have to pay for their streaming. This principle favours the artists by increasing their revenue and at the same time users receive a package of continually updates offers and services. Even Soundcloud have followed the similar principle for profit (of which will be addressed later).

However, for the user, the fan, the listener, this recent “development” cannot be all so good. It’s fair to say we may soon see the end of free streaming services. Competition is HOT! And all major services all seem to want exclusivity. They want their listener to be totally loyal to them and them alone. The listener will of course have to if all major services begin charging and if artists continue to exclude themselves from certain services (e.g Taylor Swift removing her music from Spotify).

My hope is that Spotify, as they are currently still doing, will remain true to their mission to release free music while still providing revenue for artists through ad-support and the option of paid subscription.

Just as the world leaders may squeeze society into newly developed technologies or procedures (e.g. forcing people to carry out their traditional activities online as opposed to traditional methods , as such methods decrease in society – reservations/bookings/registration, payments, CV/job searching, coursework, essays, news) so streaming is gradually bringing society into a place where music can no longer be viewed as free to listen to, unless listened to illegally.

Apple Music, in January this year, ended their free streaming of iTunes radio leaving station users with either of these messages “READY TO PLAY WHEN YOU ARE” or “Get on our Wavelength” and prompted to join the payed subscription. Of course those who pay will receive more than what they were given whilst using the free service. Subscribers will receive on -and offline listening, radio stations, social ties and tailor made recommendations, the use of Siri (voice command), expert-created playlists, a blog and a social network (“Connect”) that gives artists a platform to share content with their followers.

Soundcloud has changed drastically, and surely not for the better. Soundcloud have robbed themselves of the very thing that made the streaming service unique – favouring the undiscoverable and independent. Make a song, distribute it free of charge (up to 2hours of uploading space). Not only has it been great for music but also podcasts, spoken word and other audio based material.

On a social platform with a level playing field for all artists and other site-users, users can upload their own material, repost the material of others, follow account holders, and comment on and “Like” uploads. Undiscovered/independent artists have been recognised by major artists through Soundcloud (e.g. Snoop Dogg discovering Iza Lach, the unknown producer Boots working with Beyonce).

Now that Soundcloud are making users join a paid subscription, it is less likely such unique aspects of Soundcloud will be considered the place for independent artists and create such opportunities for these artists.

YouTube have also decided to pull the plug on free music…almost. YouTube are moving closer and closer into an exclusive tier. Recently YouTube forced revenue earning users to comply to the new terms and conditions with the site with a slight blackmail stating “videos will no longer be available for public display or monitization in the United States” if revenue earners refused to comply (small clips will still be viewable). ESPN had to remove most of their content from all formats of YouTube in the United States.

There we have it. Streaming may be gradually fading into an all-pay no-say service. However there is still hope with the likes of Spotify.


unrelated Elmo picture found at Elmo’s World: Music – Muppet Wiki – Wikia