Let’s face it: The world of music is becoming increasingly digital, and consumers are growing more intolerant of paying for the product.
Since the Internet boom of the late ’90s and early 2000s, the music industry has been struggling to update its practices to stay afloat. Programs like Napster, LimeWire and various torrenting applications created a massive obstacle for profits, forcing the industry to respond somehow.
Fast-forward a decade or so, and you have websites like Pandora and Spotify rapidly changing the game. The upside is they are changing in a way that gives money back to the music industry, rather than having millions of listeners circumventing online piracy laws.
These sites offer subscriptions but are primarily used as free methods for listening to music.
This is a brilliant strategy to attack piracy. It effectively takes the driving force behind illegally downloading music and neutralizes it by making the tunes free and legal. Who wouldn’t be pumped for this?
Last month, Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of the super-group Atoms for Peace came out against Spotify and ultimately pulled their music from the online streaming service.
“Streaming suits (back) catalogue, but (it) cannot work as a way of supporting new artists’ work,” Godrich said.
While I am a die-hard Radiohead fan and tend to hold most of what Thom Yorke says in the highest regard, his opinion here misses the mark.
Is he right about the massive revenue that Spotify is making off of these plays? Absolutely.
Spotify makes its revenue from ads and memberships. These two things only succeed as a result of the musicians that draw the consumer to their product. Spotify then pays the music’s rights holders, who are then in charge of doling out cash to the musician, but this can sometimes go awry.
However, Spotify, along with the whole concept of streaming music, is providing a different service to up-and-coming musicians that is potentially more beneficial to the artist than record sales or money per play.
The ability for small-time bands to get exposed on a program like Spotify is unprecedented.
Let’s take a look at the indie-rock scene. With free streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, bands that would have otherwise gone unknown — because of lack of play or lack of window into their music — are getting noticed and being invited to play in the ever-expanding music festival market.
The system is not perfect, but it is far more ideal for smaller, growing acts than anything that has come previously. Free and legal streaming of music provides far more of a chance for the consumer to become a fan of a given band or singer and does so with almost no risk to the consumer.
Do musicians have a right to be upset? Sure, but we are living in a post-Napster world, and changes to the industry have to be made for survival.
Send your thoughts on Spotify and the changing music market to Zane at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @humanzane