What a turbulent fortnight for music. First Bieber faces Argentinean arrest after an alleged assault, then Usher resorts to releasing his latest single via boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios. And then the icing on the cake arrived when Cheryl released new album Only Human; just when we all thought we couldn’t take anymore YouTube pounces, the video sharing website unleashes its brand new ‘Music Key’ subscription, the latest streaming service to provide competition for Spotify. The service allows users to download videos with no ads and offline viewing for £9.99 a month. This certainly could be a great opportunity for music lovers (albeit the wealthier ones at £120 a year), but is it a fair deal for the industry?
It’s no secret that artists receive little income from fans streaming their tracks on services such as Spotify; only last week Taylor Swift launched a high profile attack on the Swedish company, claiming that it’s merely “an experiment” that “doesn’t fairly compensate the writers, producers, artists and creators”, prompting scathing replies from Grohl and other advocates. A plethora of artists – Thom Yorke, Moby, Foals, The Black Keys and now Swift – campaign against the low payout rates from the service, with Foals notably comparing it to eating at a top class restaurant and only leaving coppers as a tip, and not even paying the bill. I’m sure we’d all tut and shake our heads at such a devilish thought, but in reality this is an ever increasing problem for the music industry.
“We have to readdress how we consume music”
YouTube, however, aims to resolve this problem by sheer force. According to Time magazine one billion people watch a video on YouTube every month, whereas only 50 million people use Spotify. Therefore Music Key will in theory have a higher pay-out for artists as they have more users, eliminating the problem that gets so many musicians’ goat. The problem with this is one billion people have experienced free music on YouTube for years; who would start paying now? With a Google Chrome ad-block extension and the ability to create playlists via a Google account YouTube will thus be charging £9.99 for only one thing: offline mode. It is worth noting that all of the proponents of streaming are well established, arena-playing artists. Although we shouldn’t deny Taylor Swift a penny she has deservedly earned by defecating in our ears, we have to remember she’s pulled her tracks from Spotify after receiving only £317,000. The poor thing. That’s the equivalent of selling 31,700 albums (priced at £10 each), which would be seen as a very disappointing amount for an artist of her calibre. With this in mind spare a thought for the up and coming bands; how many greats have by-passed our attention as we continue to stream music and not financially back exciting, raw talents?
Realistically you could buy a new album every month for £9.99, supporting both up and coming talents as well as local businesses such as Jumbo Records. Alternatively, this could also buy you a gig ticket, thus supporting local independent venues. Noel Gallagher eloquently had his say last week: “It infuriates me that people are more willing to sit in a coffee shop and spend a tenner on two coffees, talking about the weather with their friends, and that coffee will last 45 minutes, yet they will physically get angry at you for asking them to buy an album for a tenner that will last a lifetime and might tell you about yourself and might even change your life. It’s a strange moment we’re in where people are willing to spend money on shit.” I have to stand up for my good friend coffee here and point out it’s not “shit”, but the man has a point. We have to readdress how we consume music.
Undoubtedly the internet has made us want to spend less on physical copies when it’s at your fingertips for next to nothing (if not free, should you be one of those scallies). The production of subscription services such as Spotify and YouTube is only going to make matters worse, and is ultimately spearheading the demise of music. I beg all of us to reassess where and how we feed the industry, or you might just watch it implode.
photo 1: s3.amazonaws.com
photo 2: getmusicasia.com
photo 3: getmusicasia.com