Streaming Services And The Future Of Music(ians)

david byrneA few weeks ago, artist David Byrne published on his website an essay entitled “How Will the Wolf Survive: Can Musicians Make a Living in the Streaming Era.” In it, he relays his view that, unless changes are adopted in the way musicians earn from streaming music, musicians will wither and their heretofore steady stream of art will dry up. Streaming services, he says, impart legitimacy to the act of consuming music without paying for it.

This reinforces the idea that music is something you can (and should) get for free, even if now it’s legal. For consumers this is a pretty amazing deal”it’s like Napster, but legal! The government tends to view things that way too”what’s good for the consumer is theoretically encouraged and supported. Sadly, consumers and businesses that cater to their demands don’t often take the long view; they’ve been known to overfish huge swaths of the oceans, spill oil over and over, chop down all the trees in a forest and then wonder why the topsoil that would support reforesting has washed away. So, I wonder similarly if streaming-on-demand might be similarly a business model that will deplete the resource”we who create music”that it depends upon. Many industries have depleted the resources they depend on, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

Byrne goes on with a point-by-point discussion of the common responses to this troubling vision, and suggests four things that could drastically improve – or at least illuminate – the challenges he sees. He calls for a better split of the monies paid out from the streaming services, a chance to opt-out, transparency in accounting, and an end to “free” streaming services. It is worth reading in full, and note the ways in which he defines the services he’s critiquing, specifically excluding non on-demand options like Pandora.

Billy Bragg responded to Byrne’s view in a speech given at an event sponsored by Music Tank (which he subsequently adapted for his own Facebook page). Bragg mostly agrees with Byrne’s perspective, making some distinctions that are experiential, and some that are simply uncertainties, but then disagrees with one key element of Byrne’s four suggestions:

Matt Farley Is The World's Most Successful Song Spammer

matt farleyA piece published today on BDCWire profiles a Massachusetts musician named Matt Farley, who has invented a one-man niche industry. Farley creates click-bait songs to load onto iTunes and streaming services like Spotify by using names of artists, celebrities, movies, and common search terms (“How to ask a girl to the prom,” for instance). The curiosity clicks that these songs have received earned Farley $23k last year.

Author Ryan Walsh interviewed Farley and found a very honest and open subject. Audio clips are included in the piece, including some from Farley’s older, more serious musical efforts, and Walsh speculates that this new career as a song spammer might have something to do with the personal frustrations so common to being an unknown musician.

It’s some interesting stuff, especially in these days when musicians are struggling more and more to figure out how to make a buck.


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Beats Music Streaming Service To Launch January 21

Beats MusicWatch out Spotify, there’s a new streaming service in town. Created by Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, Luke Wood, Ian Rogers, and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch NailsBeats Music will finally see its long awaited launch next Tuesday, Jan. 21, with AT&T as their exclusive carrying partner.

According to the Beats website, users will “[g]et playlists, curated by the best music experts. Recommendations, served up based on your interests. And you can even tell Beats Music where you are, what you’re feeling, and who you’re with, and we’ll deliver the perfect stream of music.”

Plans will start at $10, and AT&T will offer a family plan that allows five accounts to use the service for just $15/month.

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Spotify Offering Free Mobile Music Streaming

I can’t count the number of times I’ve reached for my phone in the hopes that I could make use of my free Spotify subscription, only to be reminded that without paying the $10/month fee, it just isn’t going to happen. But thanks to a new rollout by Spotify, it looks like all that is about to change this Wednesday, December 11th. Sort of.

The new platform, which will offer a free, ad supported service for mobile users with a working WiFi connection, will allow you to select 15 tracks to play in random rotation. Think of it as the streaming version of the iPod Shuffle. Except that Spotify will also give your playlist an expiration date, eventually requiring you to switch it up with a new list of songs.

More details will be announced during a press conference this Wednesday.

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Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” Breaks Spotify Streaming Records

No one doubted that the return of Daft Punk would be huge, but I’m not sure anyone could have predicted it would be quite like this.

Daft Punk’s new single “Get Lucky” has quickly become the song to know in countries around the world. In addition to currently sitting at number in 46 countries, the track broke the Spotify streaming records for the US and UK within 24 hours of release. The previous record holders for the US and UK respectively were “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and “Pompei” by Bastille. (more…)

Spotify's Grammy Awards Playlist

Didn’t listen to the radio over the past year? You’re not alone. Terrestrial radio listenership has been declining steadily. Listeners turn more to Internet radio, which is usually tailored to the listener’s specific tastes. Thus they don’t get the kind of broad-spectrum popular music survey represented at the Grammy Awards.

If you are among those who need (and, importantly, want) a crash course on what’s popular in music right now, Spotify has made a playlist of winners from last night’s ceremony. Check it out here.

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Amazon AutoRip Service Offers Free MP3 Downloads Of Previously Purchased CDs

Amazon has announced a new service that grants users free MP3 downloads with any eligible CD that they purchase from the website. Once consumers have purchased an album that is eligible for the new AutoRip service, Amazon grants them access to an automatic digital version in Amazon’s Cloud Player that is playable from mobile devices. AutoRip will also allow users to access MP3 versions of albums bought off of Amazon since 1998 if they contain AutoRip-eligible songs. At this moment, about 50,000 songs are eligible for the AutoRip service, with more expected to be added. While AutoRip is currently only available in the United States, Amazon does plan to expand the service internationally throughout 2013.

In the past few years, most new vinyl releases have come with digital download cards as well, but the same service has been slow to take hold with CDs, as their already digital-friendly format seems to preclude the need for a corresponding digital download. With AutoRip, though, Amazon circumvents the entire ripping and syncing process, and allows users instant access from all devices. Sweet.

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New Phoenix Album To Drop In April 2013

Almost four years after the release of their breakout fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, French indie rockers Phoenix will finally put out a new record. Daniel Glass, of Phoenix’s Glassnote label, announced the news at a recent Spotify event where he casually mentioned that the band had finished tracking at a studio in Paris.  While more details about the highly anticipated upcoming album are unavailable, fans can check out the journal section of the band’s website to try to decipher further information regarding the release. While it seems like a difficult task for the band to surpass the runaway success of tracks like “1901” and “Lisztomania,” which dominated both the blogosphere and the mainstream charts, Glass is confident.  After acknowledging that “It’s very hard to beat Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” Glass added, “but this could be revolutionary.”

Check our OurStage act China Aster if you’re a fan of Phoenix.

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Stream The Final Alexisonfire EP "Death Letter"

Last week we told you about Alexisonfire‘s newest and final EP Death Letter. Well, the album was released today, and now you can stream all 6 songs on Spotify. Be prepared though, they are all acoustic, piano, and noise-rock versions of some of your favorite AOF songs, and they are not what you might expect. Each performance is a slow and dismal trudge in a sea of dark reverb, truly signifying the end of a once great band. There is no doubt that Death Letter truly lives up to it’s name as a distant swan song for the Canadian post-hardcore outfit. R.I.P. AOF.

If you like Alexisonfire, check out OurStage’s own Actor|Observer.

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Musicians Rally Against Internet Radio Fairness Act

While artists have individually expressed quiet distate for the paltry royalties paid out by music streaming services such as Pandora or Spotify, a unified statement from a large group of allied musicians has been noticeably absent. At least until this past Wednesday, when over 100 notable artists signed off on a letter publicly criticizing the Internet Radio Fairness Act. The letter, publicized by the MusicFirst Coalition, a group comprised of musicians’ unions, artists, and record labels, demands that Congress refuse to “gut the royalties that thousands of musicians rely upon” by passing the bipartisan bill, which would dramatically cut the royalty rates that streaming new media services such as Pandora are required to pay.