In case you’re not able to see the list, it’s a visual representation of how many instances of a range of online ‘music payment events’ you’d require to make a living wage solely from that service.
Not surprisingly, streaming services come out of it badly, especially when compared to sales of CDs.
However, the problem with presenting data in this way is that implicit within the list itself is the assumption of linearity: the list itself says “these are distinct events between which there is at least conceptual parity when comparing how many instances of that payment event are required to meet a particular sum.”
What it doesn’t point out quite so clearly is that anyone who thinks that Spotify – or any other streaming service based on the same economic model – is going to pay them a wage is on ‘shrooms. That’s both a specious understanding of the value of ‘a listen’ vs ‘a download’ (which equates to not only ‘many many listens’ but also a nailing of ones colours to the mast of the band… A desire for a semi-permanent archive of that music to recall at will… an investment… a commitment of sorts) and also ignores the number of the events at the top of the list that are intrinsically reliant on events at the bottom of the list, that streaming and sales are cause and effect.
Spotify isn’t a replacement for CDs. It’s a replacement for adverts. It’s not stealing money from sales, it’s saving money from promo. It makes no sense to think otherwise, and if you *do* think otherwise, and your music is still on Spotify, you’re either an idiot, or trapped in the kind of record deal that is symptomatic of everything that was bad about the old industry – big corporate machines working against the expressed interest (well informed or otherwise) of the artists they really ought to be working *for*.
And *if* anyone has replaced CD-buying with Spotify, it suggests two things -
- that their CD buying was only ever under duress, forced on them in the absence of another model that better represented the value – *their* value of the listening
- that Spotify isn’t differentiating well enough between Lite and Premium in terms of the value to artists…
Yes, I think the Spotify payment mechanism is broken. Utterly so. Why? Because payment and value and gratitude and relationship are the four synchronous values in the online music economy. Not physical vs downloads vs streaming.
However, to worry about the cost of streaming is the equivalent of questioning the financial return in someone playing music to their friends. Oh go on, lets install motion detectors and credit card swipe machines on CD players – if more than one person is in the room, a royalty should be paid!!
Of course not. This is ALL about
- the free flow of excitement about great music around the web.
It’s fundamentally about the costless replacement of the irrepairably broken role of the paid ‘gate-keepers’ who acted in the old system as a deeply expensive and impenetrable barrier between musicians and their potential audience.
We don’t need ads now, we need fans.
Because fans = money.
Music – in any abstracted sense – has no value. None at all.
The value is in the relationship between listeners and the music. So we make the most awesome music we can, to load it with as much pure potential value as we possibly can, and then we invite listeners to realise that value, and infect their friends with it. To be carriers of viral value.
That’s awesome. Absolutely fucking awesome. And worrying about how many Spotify plays it’ll take to pay your rent is beyond moronic.
And yes, before it comes up in the comments, there are MASSIVE problems with how opaque Spotify are being with their accounting. It really ought to be challenged in court. I also think that the parity in royalty payments between lite and premium is a deal-breaker for many (clearly not all), as I wrote yesterday. But even a ‘fixed’, fair trade version of Spotify won’t live in isolation.
Think about these questions to get a broader picture of what the REAL questions are here
- Why do people listen to you?
- How do they discover you?
- What percentage of your new audience comes from playing live?
- When, after going to a gig, are you most likely to WANT to talk about the band, to share your joy at seeing and hearing awesome music?
- When did anyone ever make a career out of *pure* CD sales (no radio, no live, no sync, no nothing…), even more so, out of CD sales without a MASSIVE promotional push up front?
- How many bands *in the world* are written about in magazines?
- How often do you see your favourite indie musicians represented in the press?
- How often are you able to tell your friends on twitter/facebook/myspace/your blog/by email about how awesome they are
- How much does it cost the band for you to do that?
- How much does an ad in a magazine/on a billboard/on TV cost?
In the honest, real, proven answers to those questions are the big answers to the question at the top – there are loads of answers. They aren’t linear, they aren’t mapped, they are all experimental, and most of them require clevers, not cash to make them happen.