To Spotify or Not to Spotify – A debate on digital music & the recording industry

I posted a video on facebook earlier tonight, as I was doing a quick search on youtube to get a sense of Sean Parker’s ideas/predictions/thought process. Well, this video pissed off a German friend who works with music artist promotion – because it doesn’t compensate independent artists appropriately. What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

(Now, I don’t have strong opinions on Spotify, but I don’t think it’s doing anything wrong- aside from filling an interim market gap until the next solution comes along). Play video clip:

Con: ‎”According to an infographic by David McCandless, an independent artist on Spotify would need over four million streams per month to earn US$1,160.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotify
–The only one who gets richer and richer is that wanker… he’s got the artists by the balls. Oh, wait, not in Germany, since Germany is not co-operating with Spotify because they don’t want to pay the artist.

[Spotify is].. in it for the money, not for the sake of fair artist compensation. But if the small labels pull out (and they do) they are fucked. So who got who by the balls? 😉

Re: Well, that’s probably true- they’re in it for the money. I don’t know how much independent artists make off traditional radio play nowawdays.. is it more or less than a thousand a month? Also, this is basically the current digital evolution of on-demand radio- artists can still broadcast on traditional radio and sell on iTunes (which they are doing).

I don’t know why Spotify doesn’t pay artists more for the radio play. But I can say that Spotify already comes with a shit ton of ads as a free user. Though according to the Wiki, free unlimited song play is only for the first 6 months. (oh no! we’ll be forced into a subscription). Maybe ads on Spotify cost less than ads on traditional radio, but then the cost of running Spotify is probably less than the amalgated costs of all the current radio stations nationwide. I don’t know, I also just have it hammered into my head that ClearChannel is evil.

Well I obviously don’t work in music. From my understanding, at least in the US, artists don’t get paid to be played on radio anyway. The only way you will end up on any moderately popular radio station in the US is through massive buyouts / paid placement and vouching by label executives to the radio executives.

I don’t think Parker is saying Spotify is the total solution to the music world. Once all the milk is given away for free, who wants to buy the cow? And who wants to pay for milk again? It’s going to be a hard and slow change to getting people to want to pay. in Small steps. You can only push as far as the market will let you push (the same with music $, the same with challenging someone else’s beliefs in a debate, the same with avant garde art forms).

It has nothing to do with music, it’s the nature of the digital realm, which people inevitably want to become open source content. What photographers are selling pictures now that a copy of any of your photos can be downloaded digitally.. and reprinted even?

We can’t just sit and complain, and knock every solution down. We accept that the world changes, and we have to adapt.

If machines didn’t replace manual labor, we’d also not have any of the scales of benefits of technology we have now. But if everyone just said NO, and wanted to keep things as is.. we’d all still be stuck riding horse and carriages cross country.

But what Parker actually said is “We got you (the users) by the balls” or did I get that wrong? The god of technology is not my religion, I am sorry. Actually I am not religious. But we are talking about business here and music (believe it or not) is still a big business. Since Spotify is not a radio but a stream on demand service that actually wants to replace download stores and filesharing services, they have to compete with that. And if artists (still) make so much more money with selling their stuff on iTunes, they will by ALL pull out of Spotify. Actually by what you describe we are on the way back to riding horse and carriage because we forget to deal with how people who do not work in technology companies make a living out of their art. You can’t replace them by a computer.

0) I think Parker is speaking in relative terms to that specific software, not in absolute terms of the world like this is it ‘n I believe it!
I think he is aware that change will come along and has to be accounted for whenever the market begins to ripen for the next iteration- whether it’s Spotify or a competitor.

1) I don’t think Spotify will fail (and quite frankly I don’t care if it does), because when I think of Spotify I’m not really thinking of the company, I’m thinking of the medium- a technological music distribution platform– it’s possibilities, where it can succeed, where it needs to improve.

I, and I suspect other users, care more that the technological service exists in some shape or form. Inevitably there is going to be Spotify or variations of it as they or competitors will bring the next evolution of the idea to market. The base platform (digital downloading and peer networks) is not going to go away, that is forever engrained now. Spotify is a small blip on the long term map – an iteration of a free service and getting people to pay or be compensated.

2) Because the tech platform is part of a larger zeitgeist, and this software is just an iteration of it, I think sure it’s fine if artists or users who disagree opt out of using Spotify. But more importantly than veto-ing is voicing what one thinks is a better model, and running through all the calculations and negotiations to see if you end up any farther. I think if you just say NO altogether and protest the software without giving any thought to a better solution, it’s dismissive and missing out on an opportunity. You kinda have to be a pro-solution active participant to see the history you want to live come to life.

The thing about technology is just that we’re in the technological age right now. So I think those who are anti-technology.. anti facebook etc (and I mean REALLY anti where you don’t even know how to use it, meaning you’ve actively being blocking it out) are being cliché and passé. I mean when has being anti-participatory in society ever worked out? At some point in all the complaining and revolting, you have to engage and come up with a productive solution and mutual understanding if you want to move forward. It’s like going on a family hiking trip and getting into an argument. Fight all you want, but you’re not actually going to stay behind in the woods and let your family continue on and finish the journey.

If we were in the industrial age, the same people would find some bone or fault to pick and be anti-industrial. etc etc. I think the only people that win in the end are those that propose better solutions. Better is totally subjective, which is what makes life life- it can be a high brow or low brow solution, and it varies by audience.

3) Compensate people (creatives, artists, laborers) fairly? Yes! Are they not being paid fairly because that market opportunity window is closing and it’s just not so relevant anymore, or because somebody is being greedy? Most of the time it’s the latter, so how do you change that?  Or is it just not cut out to be the medium artists generate most of their income from? How do you get Spotify to compensate artists fairly?

As suggested, indie labels pulling out is one option…

Overall-
A majority shareholder (figuratively) is not going to give up a slice of their pie for no reason. People just aren’t wired to work that way. There’s reciprocity even in altruism. You’ll have to figure out your way to negotiate a better rate.

The convenience of not having to download everything you want to listen to for a small fee IS a move forward and a step away from free downloading.  Parker broke the model years ago, and I agree this is a step toward mending it.

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About Steven Chu


Hi, I'm Steven! I'm an entrepreneur, photographer and art director in New York. Follow this blog for self expression, fun, and most importantly: looking comfortable, at ease, and amazing in your photos no matter who takes them! I dedicate this to my amazing friends who have let me inadvertently turn all of our hangouts and travel photos into a never ending photoshoot of fun. The proof is in the pudding-- our photos rock. My other projects: I'm the founder of InstaTechie.com, a face-to-face tech concierge service for NYC. Book a techie to walk you through something you want to learn! My work focuses on socially engaged art projects which use technology to create access to resources for communities. Visit Steven Chu Studio (stevenchustudio.com) for branding & design work or Steven Chu (stevenchu.com) for photography projects.

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