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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