by Jesse Cannon
This week on Zack’s & my podcast Off The Record, we got into some myth busting about Spotify. One of the more jarring discussions was about how to properly compensate musicians from streaming services. But before we get into this, let’s remember how we got here.
Over the past few decades, music had a problem. In order to decide whether you wanted to purchase a record you had to hear it from a friend; preview it in a store, by putting on headphones and standing in a booth; or through some other, equally inconvenient method. This led to fans frequently purchasing albums they later discovered they didn’t enjoy. With peak prices for CDs at around $20, fans began to harbour animosity toward this method of music discovery and especially toward the bands whose albums they would buy and find underwhelming.
The music business ignored fans animosity towards music discovery, continuously raised prices (even in a recession), cashed in by reselling those fans music they already owned once a decade via the introduction of new formats (vinyl to cassettes to CDs to digital downloads) and treated music like an experience rather than a utility (like water) that you pay for as you use. Fans were left with very little sympathy for the music business, and when someone feels scorned, they feel some vindication when they get to screw the person who’s been screwing them. Along came Napster and modern day digital music distribution, offering a way to preview music for free, and fans jumped at it. This is how we got to the rampant illegal downloading and reduced revenues of modern digital music.
Now, we finally have an answer, a way to stop money from bleeding out of the music business, and it is streaming music services like Spotify, Rdio, Tidal and Beats. These services give listeners a superior listening experience to scouring torrent sites and have begun to diminish illegal file sharing. But we are left with one big problem: these services don’t pay musicians enough money.