Musicians moaning about paltry Spotify payments is nothing new (see: latest furore surrounding Grizzly Bear). Much of the discussion to this point has boiled down to sheer economics - ‘we’re not getting paid enough; this is not a substitute for sales’.
Baltimore indie rockers Lower Dens have similar gripes with streaming services:
won’t use spotify. not for anything besides browsing. they offer musicians next to nothing.— Lower Dens (@lowerdens) October 23, 2012
After this tweet, the indie rockers entered into an almost stream-of-consciousness rant about the logic behind streaming services. Brilliantly, they called into question the very notion that we should have access to all the music, all the time.
ok. let’s talk about this RT @lowerdens People who have the desire to purchase all the music they like on an average wage disagree with you.— Lower Dens (@lowerdens) October 23, 2012
it’s true, you can’t make an average wage, pay a fair amount to musicians for what they make, and purchase all the music you like, but…— Lower Dens (@lowerdens) October 23, 2012
…that’s only if you expect to be able to listen to everything you desire, all the time. besides the bigger question about what kind of…— Lower Dens (@lowerdens) October 23, 2012
…relationship this gives you to music (not the one I’d want), this is unreasonable because you and me shouldn’t have everything we want..— Lower Dens (@lowerdens) October 23, 2012
…all the time. that doesn’t make any sense for a lot of reasons. and it’s a weird relationship we’ve developed to music in particular…— Lower Dens (@lowerdens) October 23, 2012
…just cause it’s so doesn’t make it right.— Lower Dens (@lowerdens) October 23, 2012
As someone who has reaped the abundant harvest of music in the digital age, these words forced me to evaluate my own relationship with music.
Having used the ‘Internet Lending Library’ in the past and more recently streaming services such as Spotify - justifying this all along with economic considerations - perhaps I’ve become the worst kind of music fan. The kind of fan who will profess to ‘love’ a band with the gusto of a 13-year-old Belieber, only to baulk at supporting them with something they hold most dear: COLD HARD CASH.
I wrote sometime ago, mainly with tongue-in-cheek, about trying to slow down my music consumption. Since that post, I’ve done nothing of the sort. In fact, my consumption has largely increased with BIG ON THE INTERNET - a Spotify playlist I’m updating with buzzing tracks.
As much as I can gush over the convenience and utility of Spotify for fans, when artists whom I respect are crying foul of its value to them, it’s time for me to start listening. It’s time to find a balance between my needs for new music and the need of artists to be fairly compensated.
Perhaps it comes down to a fundamental change in the motivations of spending money on music.
Once upon a time, we purchased physical goods. Those goods were expensive to make and distribute - relative to an MP3 - and consumers could justify the outlay. With the advent of digital music, this loss of tangibility has been a disaster for the record business. It’s much easier to steal something you can’t hold in your hands. The resurgence of vinyl is testament to this - much harder to steal (and not as socially accepted).
With these factors in mind, how else could we compensate artists? Well, like the great museums and galleries, perhaps it’s time to look at a more philanthropic path. Instead of ‘paying for an album’, fans would be asked to ‘pay to support music’. Think of record labels as galleries, musicians as artists to receive bursaries.
OH, IT’S SO IDEALISTIC, FAIRIES, A WORLD WITH NO LAWYERS, ETC.
I like the idea of becoming a ‘patron of the indie music arts’. We could all wear suits to shows, muse about the latest goings on in the Bushwick Scene, and pay attention to the art - rather than overpriced beer.
Fanciful perhaps, but who knows: if we’d like our bands to more than soundtracks to branded content experiences, we’ve got to think above-and-beyond our own selfish needs for all the music, all the time.