Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spotting Convenience

I've heard Spotify is pretty awesome, but since I don't have a computer or, uh, money, I haven't tried it out yet. It's going to be interesting to see how the subscription-based streaming music services is going to benefit artists. Apparently, indie record labels have found it wanting. From washingtoncitypaper -

But guess what royalties Dischord Records gets from streaming services like Spotify? “They’re negligible,” says Ian MacKaye, the D.C. label’s co-owner and public face. Although specific deals are confidential, Spotify tallies its royalty payments in fractions of a cent per stream—meaning a label might only make a few dollars, even if tens of thousands users play “Waiting Room.”

So digital music streaming has put small independent labels—you know, the kind we care about, the kind that can document and foster scenes—in a tough spot. Because it’s free and legal, Spotify disincentivizes piracy; why break the law if you don’t have to? For bands, if they’re already putting out a physical release, there’s not much extra overhead involved in putting the music on Spotify. Although Spotify users might be inspired to buy what they stream, the fear is that streaming may ultimately supplant digital downloads. Those downloads typically net artists and labels 70 percent of the retail price per sale.

They don't really address it in the article, but I'm curious to know if these services are crowding out the other way musicians can earn revenue. Have the sale of Fugazi albums decreased since you can listen to their entire discography online now? Or are people using Spotify as a sort of radio where they'll hear and try out new music and then end up going buying albums and going to shows and supplementing a musician's income that way. Either way, I feel like indie labels might just chafe at the low payments they earn on these services because it so clearly monetizes exactly how far a particular musician has entered (or failed to enter) into the public consciousness. The record label has just requested that their catalog be removed from Spotify, and I haven't heard or listened to any of the bands on their roster. It's gonna be interesting to see how labels try to balance promoting their music while also being able to control and maximize their revenue.

There is a link in the first article to the avclub that speaks of the convenience factor in new technologies and how some cultural artifacts might get lost in the transition. It's worth a read -

Streaming music has turned every laptop into a world-class listening booth, and Netflix’s DVD service allowed anyone with a mailbox access to many of the greatest movies ever made. But as we come to expect and even rely on near-instantaneous access, we risk unconsciously downgrading anything that isn’t so ready at hand. Because of my profession, people confess to me that it’s been years since they saw a movie in a theater, while friends post requests for Netflix Instant recommendations on Facebook and Twitter, apparently content to limit their options to whatever’s streaming right now...

...Search for Drive Angry, and [Netflix] Instant helpfully suggests you watch Kick-Ass instead...

...Luis Buñuel’s Land Without Bread, once a pivotal text for teachers seeking to illustrate the potential for deception inherent in the documentary form, has all but drifted out of the conversation, replaced by more easily accessible examples.
The services offering access to a bottomless library of content continue to multiply, but for myriad reasons ranging from licensing restrictions to tangled chains of custody, these services are critically flawed. Spotify’s great, unless you want to listen to anything Hüsker Dü recorded before its major-label debut. Would you trade New Day Rising for the Black Eyed Peas catalogue?

edit: Total whoops...just realized tornavalanche is my friend John's older brother's band and is on Exotic Fever and I have listened to them and they are quite good.

In other news, after filming a bunch of shows in Chicago for fun and for free, John took photos and filmed interviews backstage at Lollapalooza last week. Check his website out in the next couple weeks for him to hopefully post them or link to the website where they are posted.

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