‘Download’ and ‘stream’ are different animals. If you download and pay, it’s the same as buying a record. If you stream, it’s just dressed- up piracy.
Bring on the haters- I don’t care. I’m IN this business and I see young musicians give up their missions and dreams all the time because they can’t make a living. Someone has to speak up for them. – Rosanne Cash, 28 Sept, Facebook Status Update
Apparently a couple of weeks ago you wrote that you think music streaming is “just dressed-up piracy”. You’re not alone in this view. ‘Bring on the haters – I don’t care’, you added.
I don’t hate you Rosanne, you’re a great artist and a terrific songwriter, why would I hate you?
Maybe your point is that the implication of your comment is that anyone – your fans included – listening to your music on streaming sites (we’ll come back to this point) is akin to them being a music pirate/copyright infringer. I still don’t hate you, but as a fan being told that an artist I admire and like actually thinks of me in those terms is not exactly complementary.
There are legitimate arguments to be had over the way streaming works – payment rates and other things – although often these are more around the deals artists have with their record label as opposed to any particular streaming site. As Billy Bragg said last year ” If the rates were really so bad, the rights holders – the major record companies – would be complaining. The fact that they’re continuing to sign up means they must be making good money.”
The streaming world is not perfect. But, that horse has bolted, the stable door was left wide open and that horse trotted out and isn’t going back in – ever.
Of course, you can still take a stand. For starters, if you personally feel so passionately about this, take your music off streaming services. I listened to your last album on Spotify. If you’d rather I didn’t take it down. I May not agree with artists who take a stand and keep their records off streaming services but if it is through a personal firm standpoint against streaming, fine.
I’m interested, as an artist would you prefer I bought your album, but never played it after a first listen? or would you prefer I streamed it multiple times and potentially kept coming back and doing so over a period of years? I only ask, because if it is the former then I think it is you not I that is not valuing your music.
As it happens I still buy a lot of albums – digitally and physically – but I also have a Spotify account. I’ve listen to albums I would never have heard otherwise. Some I’ve liked, and liked enough to want to ‘own’ on Vinyl. Some others have lead to me going to see the artists live. These are our purchases that almost certainly would not have occurred had I not encountered the albums and artists on a streaming service.
You do, like other artists who object to streaming, think not of yourselves – heaven forbid – but of the poor upcoming artists who ‘give up’ their ‘dreams’ because they can’t make a living out of music. There is little as pious as a successful established musician talking on behalf of the ‘poor artist’, however well meaning it’s intended. I’m sorry Rosanne, I don’t ‘owe’ upcoming artists a right to make a ‘living’ out of music, in the same way they don’t owe me the right to make a living in my profession. If an artist is good I’ll support them to the hilt, getting out to see them live, buying merch, the works. If not, I’ll usually still try and be positive, but we all have dreams, not just wannabe musicians, and most of us never accomplish them. That is a fact of life.
As Todd Rundgren said ten year ago ” First, artists should re-emphasize performance and de-emphasize recording. You always make more money if you have a healthy performing life than you will if you have even a moderately healthy recording life. Don’t make recording the most important thing you do. Make performing the most important thing you do, and then you can make recordings and sell them at your shows, because record labels aren’t going to be around to help you get on the radio stations, and the radio stations probably aren’t going to play you anyway.”
Think of all that great classical music we like – how many of those artists ‘made a living’ out of it? They had a fire burning inside them that made them want to create, anyone who likes to write or perform has that within them, it’s not dependent on being financially rewarded for it – however nice that might be. In the words of Iggy Pop (John Peel Lecture 2014) “Traditional music was never a for profit enterprise.”
There does seem to be a number of artists quick to blame technology for all that they see with what is wrong with the music industry [hint right there - 'industry/business']
Over to you Dave Allen from Gang of Four: Spotify and the internet more generally “are not to blame for musicians’ problems… It is hard for me to understand why intelligent people like David Byrne and Thom Yorke [a couple of your fellow streaming is evil argument proponents] do not appear to understand that we are in the midst of new markets being formed.”
I now note, Rosanne, that a few days after your above post you seemed to modify your stance somewhat by saying “Streaming IS the way of the future– we aren’t blind about that– but musicians shouldn’t be the only ones not getting paid.” I would again refer you to the Billy Bragg comment above. Pretending the problem lies entirely with streaming sites is, at best stupid, and at worst undermines attempts to make a valid point about where the money goes/flows. Back to Mr Rundgren, in 2003 : “If I were in the record business, I would start getting out of the brick-and-mortar side of it and stop thinking of music as a commodity, and start thinking of it as a service, and develop models that more resemble cable television, where you pay a monthly fee and listen to as much as you can consume. If they can manage to do that, hey, if you get a million people paying 20 bucks a month, that’s $20 million a month. That’s $240 million a year, just off of a million people. So I think by that model, there’s plenty of money to be made, but we’ve got to stop worrying about bootlegging and the economies around it. Make music a service that’s easy to consume, and there’ll be plenty of money for everyone.”
Todd saw the future ten years ago, and even then – like Bragg – realised that even in this changed environment there would be plenty of money sloshing around. As always the question is where that money goes.
So Rosanne, whilst I admire your no doubt genuine desire to see more equitable distribution of the financial fruits of the work of new and established artists, firing off badly worded barbs at easy targets ,and technologies, that are actually providing a means to get your music to fans makes you look a bit like a spoilt brat. The deal you or others signed with their record label is not Spotify’s or Deezer’s fault, so stop trying to scapegoat them.
Yours, a fan