The music industry isn’t a sinking ship. It’s a submarine.

Robert McDonald

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In the week following the now worldwide bandwagon hop of Record Store Day, news stories begin to highlight the change in the music industry. Today the Guardian reported that ‘Daft Punk break Spotify record: Get Lucky is most-streamed new single in Spotify history’

This is now where the music industry is.

In a time not so long ago (early-2000’s) record labels pushed bands into releasing singles that they thought would make the most return/sales. In a time not so long ago (early-2000’s) record labels were ones who created the hits.

 

The music charts were once the key parameter of ‘success’. A top ten charting was a measured sign that the general music public wanted to hear an artist’s music.

 

Spotify, the music streaming service is well on course to be a new parameter of success for musicians. Pressing ‘play’ on a track is the 2013 version of walking to a record store and paying for the single, ogling at its tatty artwork on the way home and then finally sticking it into the machine to listening, then sit back and wondering about the single you just bought and if it will make the chart.

 

Technology has been kryptonite for record labels. Napster, file sharing and a basic dearth in common sense since the Internet became a free music archive has seen the major record labels (EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner Music Group) fall to the behest of the likes of Spottily.

 

Spotify state that they: “pay out the majority (approaching 70%) of ALL of our revenue (advertising and subscription fees) to rights holders: artists, labels, publishers, and performing rights societies (e.g. ASCAP, BMI, etc.). In just three years since launching, Spotify has paid out over 500M USD in royalties.”

 

So in true submarine fashion the music industry is crawling around the Internet looking for pennies from percentage plays from streaming sites. Slipping away from large high street shops were face-to-face music buying existed for nearly 100 years (HMV) and into laptops, desktops and even mobile phones.

However there have been some illuminating facts from artists to show that all isn’t rose-y in the Spotify garden. In an article in written by Damon Krukowski (in bands Damon & Naomi and Galaxie 500, who are on independent labels) for Pitchfork, he highlights the plight of streamed hits instead of physical hits. Damon said one of his tracks had 5,960 plays on Spotify, which made him the whimsy sum of $1.05 in songwriting royalties. He went on to state that the track would need nearly 50,000 plays to earn the royalties that one physical sale of an album would.

 

Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, when pushed on the matter in a Guardian interview from 2012: “The whole debate about artists payments is slightly misconstrued. We have paid out over half a billion dollars to rights holders now, and that’s doubled in the last nine months. That’s a significant amount of money.”

Which blazons over the cracks that are evident in the Spotify model. Money does go directly from Spotify to artist it does so through royalties agencies. The water the submarine that is the music industry finds itself is uncharted and murky.

The Daft Punk single ‘Get Lucky’ has broken the amount of plays in a single day on Spotify. The total numbers of plays ‘Get Lucky’ actually got? To match the strange position of power these websites now have, they concluded not to release the figure.

 

(Also I thought it is worth noting the strange irony that two men who dress up as robots inspired this article on highlighting technology changing the music business)

 

Unlike in 1997 when Oasis released their third album 763,735 copies were sold which is still fastest selling album of all-time in the UK. The money created by the sales was traced from store to label to artists pocket. A stream of accountability that is now utterly changed the untold number of plays of ‘Get Lucky’ are probably in an excel spreadsheet in a Spotify office.

 

Many traditional industries have been broken, bypassed and burst by the Internet. The music industry is now trying to avoid those three b-words and looking to find its place in this Internet age.

 

(I wrote this while streaming the new White Fence album from Spotify.)

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Robert McDonald

@therobbyPOP