Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has written an impassioned, well-researched post for
The Guardiandiscussing how the rise in digital music streaming may generate profits for record labels and free content for consumers, but it’s a terrible idea financially for today’s artists.
Byrne, who authored the book “How Music Works,” specifically blasts Spotify and its business model.
“I’ve pulled as much of my catalogue from Spotify as I can,” he admits.
Byrne explains, “Spotify gave $US500m in advances to major labels in the U.S. for the right to licence their catalogues. That was an ‘advance’ against income — so theoretically it’s not the labels’ money to pocket.”
Here’s his main point about why artists are getting screwed:
“The inevitable result would seem to be that the Internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. … For a band of four people that makes a 15% royalty from Spotify streams, it would take 236,549,020 streams for each person to earn a minimum wage of $US15,080 (£9,435) a year. For perspective, Daft Punk’s song of the summer, ‘Get Lucky,’ reached 104,760,000 Spotify streams by the end of August: the two Daft Punk guys stand to make somewhere around $US13,000 each. Not bad, but remember this is just one song from a lengthy recording that took a lot of time and money to develop. That won’t pay their bills if it’s their principal source of income. And what happens to the bands who don’t have massive international summer hits?”
While Byrne does note that “some artists and indy musicians see Spotify fairly positively — as a way of getting noticed, of getting your music out there where folks can hear it risk free” — he says,”I don’t understand the claim of discovery that Spotify makes.”
And while Byrne doesn’t have an answer as to how to fix the current state of the music industry, he does reiterate the importance of it changing:
“I wish I could propose something besides what we’ve heard before: ‘Make money on live shows.’ Or, ‘Get corporate support and sell your music to advertisers.’ What’s at stake is not so much the survival of artists like me, but that of emerging artists and those who have only a few records under their belts.”
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