The music isn’t your product, the music is your marketing. The shows, the merch, your influence - that’s your product.
Music has become all gimmick, fueled by celebrity gossip and social media bullshit. It's samey as hell and stagnant and lacks innovation.
Mumble rap is essentially just natural selection. Some random rapper started doing it, people liked it, and so it propagated. If people didn't like it, it would have died out quickly. You just aren't one of those people.
> It's samey as hell and stagnant and lacks innovation.
I've said the same thing about metal since the first time I heard it. Metal fans disagree. Who's right? Does it even matter?
But, something being selected for doesn’t imply that it isn’t a bad thing.
Even if we assume that “how much the typical person likes it” or “how many people like to listen to it” or something along those lines is a good measure of goodness, those are not the only things involved in the selection pressure. Things like cost to produce, discoverability, etc. are all also things that influence the selection pressures. And if there are contributions to the pressures which aren’t entirely aligned with the direction of good, then it seems entirely possible that the selection could make something worse (as in, not as good, not as in, less successful)
Warning: lots of exercising 1st amendment in the above video.
If a genre is taken up through “natural selection,” that means a lot of people like it, and it is therefore good music to those people - regardless of what some critic might think.
You can also like conscious rappers calling for social change and still enjoy a club banger asking women to shake their butts. They aren't diametrically opposed.
And yet thats where it's at right now, with some exception.
Hiphop used to have diversity of sound.
Now, as far as popular rap goes, it's all homogenized.
Same beats. Same cadence. Same flow. Voices indistinguishableffrom each other.
This is how people used to talk about Hip Hop in the 90s. People familiar with Trap can easily distinguish between the different rappers and producers - just like people familiar with 90's Hip Hop could distinguish between Nas and Ghostface or DJ Premier and Pete Rock.
And, that's only Trap. There are still popular MC's and producers who operate outside of Trap.
This isn't true unless you're talking the bling Era of the late 90s.
Also, past criticisms existing doesn't invalidate new ones even if there's similarities in the complaint. So that's a side step.
Tribe, wu, west coast gfunk rappers, mobb deep, fu schnickens, onyx, bone thugs, cypress, busta, we're all wildly different. Even at the height of g-funk, I could have named 50 at least semi popular rappers who deviated from that style.
Now who deviates? Danny brown? He's like 40. RtJ? They're like 40 too. Kendrick tends to always be the modern exception to every hip hop criticism. So I consider him the exception that proves the rule.
>are still popular MC's and producers who operate outside of Trap.
And they're treated the same as Rhymesayers or DefJux rappers, Saul Williams or immortal tech were during the bling and Crunk eras. It's all "white" even if black, nerdy, back packing shit thats not considered part of the "culture". Thats the way most lyrical rappers are treated today. They're talked about like Atmosphere was in 2004.
So fuck the culture.
> It's samey as hell and stagnant
I don't follow rap, but these two claims seem contradictory. Is the first not evidence of evolution in the genre, if in a direction you don't like?
It is samey, because everybody does the same thing. You can’t really differentiate music by different performers anymore. Each song is the same.
There used to be a cost to producing music; you needed a studio, producer, physical copies of the samples you wanted to use (in case of most rap), etc. Now you can just boot your computer and use one of the many digital studios.
It is a blessing in some ways, but a curse in most I think. Quality is by no means the element by which (popular) music is judged. It is all about presentation, which somehow means the most deplorable people get the most praise.
Note: I am talking about what is mainstream and played on still high quality radio. I don’t listen to rap stations and luckily there are stations that have a good selection of older music and only play some of the new stuff. The new stuff there is already worse than music from the past though.
If you look at the rap and hip-hop scene however, the quality has plummeted even more. It is just one homogeneous soup of crappy, lazy music. In no way like the music of 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G and Outkast but still all the same as the other new crap.
Admittedly they are now "older" :)
I have no idea about Spotify or mumble rap but that's how they might not contradict.
Even Mozart and Bach made crap music on a bad day.
I think in our time we are very fortunate to have the ability to discover music so easily. Personally I never listen to mainstream music but there is a lot more to discover.
If you really care about them and they're listed on Bandcamp, it's pretty trivial to sign up for email announcements at an artist level, so you don't miss an opportunity to support them financially whenever they release new material.
Many big musicians don't even have bandcamp accounts, which (1) amazes me (2) implies that they make most of their money through other means, e.g. touring, private performances, etc.
 From their website: When you buy something on Bandcamp, 80-85% of your money goes to the artist, and we pay out daily. The remainder goes to payment processor fees and Bandcamp’s revenue share, which is 10-15% on digital items, and 10% on physical goods.
At a certain point, Taylor Swift and larger artists _do_ make a good chunk of change from their actual music sales, but it isn't a feasible strategy to rely on that for indie and DIY artists.
This model breaks down for people like me who are neither interested in merch nor in going to concerts. I just like the music.
My theory is if you want to see something tomorrow, the best insurance you have it is to make it profitable for the people doing it today, so giving my money to musicians means a better chance there will be more music in the future <3
Now I think about it I did once buy a video log of the production of an album. But that’s one artist from the thousands I listen to.
80-85% of revenue from goods sold go to the artists .
It's not like bands stopped selling CD's/BluRays's, collectible box-sets, stickers, pins, access to behind-the-scenes videos and mailing lists. But the most someone like you can do for an average band/performer is promote their art through any channels available. The most valuable resource you have is your attention.
Hmmm... it's a shame they're trying to sell stuff like this. I want to support artists but the last thing I want is junk.
If you're in it for the passion, you'll do it whether you make money or not. Big successes are an anomaly, regardless of which mechanism the industry chooses to split up the loot. (Always in the favor of the publisher/label/whatever.)
If we want to encourage creativity, UBI is a better deal than worrying overmuch about trying to shoehorn creativity into revenue models. Because then at least the extra money, however much, would be extra on top instead of wholly inadequate.
I think the industry already accept it is the way forward.
Yes but this sort of makes me question, if it is on Youtube for free, why are we paying for it on Spotify and Apple Music?
But to humor you. Youtube is for video content primarily. Youtube Music is a premium service that costs as much as Spotify does and has a whole lot less content.
As someone who listens to a lot of music. Spotify offers me a way better UI/UX for consuming music than Youtube Music does.
No they don't.
This also allowed artists to go fully independent and keep all their profits.
Added into the mix now are independent vinyl / cd / tape makers who the artists partner with on Physical music releases. Yes, physicals are back in a major way thanks to platforms like Bandcamp.
*edited for a grammatical change.
At the end of the day, I want the artist to continue producing music, and prefer to find a channel by which they get the most revenue.
IMHO Bandcamp is one of the best things to happen to the music industry in the last decade. Love it!
I wish more bands would do this. Something about a bootsy live album with all its background noise and character that makes it very entertaining.
Examples: “Boy Meets Robot”, “Unwoman”, “The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets”, “Goldfrapp”, much of what is featured on “Dark Compass”.
Where do people go for music like this? Bandcamp? Other places?
I personally like a lot of Kpop for the strange music production that comes out of it with bands like Red Velvet, Mamamoo, Stellar, Lim Kim, Dalsooobin, Dal Shabet, etc., but that is really more of a side effect of Kpop's main product.
Albums are usually sold as boxes with a photo book inside and collectible cards, they are almost more like magazines. Some albums come in different editions with different idols featured - it's common for a fan to buy multiple copies of the same album in hopes of getting the edition or cards of their favourite idol (bias). The fans see album purchases and 'streaming' (playing their youtube singles on repeat) as ways to support their groups and increase their reputation.
Think of buying albums more like a kickstarter fundraising for fans to support their idols. The photo book or the chance to get a ticket for a fan meeting is arguably a bigger draw than that CD itself.
In fact, what I know, a lot of sales, especially oversee ones, those albums are not even physically sent back to the country where they originated at all. It is just a gesture to help their idols rank better on the music shows.
I'm not saying there's no overlap or that nobody can learn from anybody else, but to lump them all together ignores a lot of actual differences between marketing among genres. Heck, I bet TV talent shows are for country music right now what radio has been for hip-hop/R&B since the late 90s, which makes sense because country has (ironically) been appropriating just about all they can find in radio rap for the past many years (way before Lil Nas X).
Makes sense that everything else is just "marketing" these days.
I'm sure this has an impact on who decides to make music professionally. Why stick with it, only to sell your own t-shirts? (Note: I can't figure out how to get trend data for from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, to see if that question has merit.)
I'm D'Angelo is as good as it gets. Voodoo and Black Messiah are two of my absolute favorite albums, and they're the only two albums he's put out in the last 20 years. Other than it being a long process, I don't know a lot about the Black Messiah recording process, but Voodoo was multiple years of jamming with super-talented musicians then condensing that material into an album. They'd listen to classics like There's a Riot Going On then use that inspiration to guide the jam sessions. I think this approach is pretty similar to what you're referring to. On the other hand, look at how quickly acts like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Stones put out music in the 60s. The Beatles released two albums in '67 then a double-album in '68; Dylan released two albums in '65 then a double-album in '66 - then recorded all the Basement Tapes material in '67 and released another album that same year.
I have a lot of my grandparents old records, and when I first went through the collection I was surprised at the output of some artists both big and small. The obvious example would be Elvis. Just counting his studio albums, the guy put out over 20 albums over his career 24 year career, and that isn't counting singles, soundtracks, or whatever else he put out. If you factored in all of that, it's easily in the range of 150-200+ releases.
When vinyls were the predominant media form, it was prohibitively expensive for most artists to press a master, cut vinyls, package them, market it, and distribute it. I can do all of that in 10 minutes with Spotify now.
Tapes made this a little bit faster. And then CDs made it a little bit faster from there. And then MP3 players made it quite a bit faster. And then download speeds and prevalence of internet made streaming possible, and it made it a LOT faster. And then here we are - about 10 years after the emergence of Pandora and similar services.
To use your example: Elvis had a TON of funding and was able to maintain that rapid release cycle while touring because of that. Smaller DIY artists don't have funding, they're all working jobs, etc...
There was plentiful work for pianists and organists in movie theaters before the talkie. And so forth. Musicians have faced a constant back and forth relationship with technology practically from the git go.
Not sure if this is intentional, but it's a great HN style eggcorn.
Not sure these are fit for a single/month type of release. Even on a 12 song album that used to come out every 3-4 years, you only have enough material for a single year now, at that pace.
Quantity is often said to come at the expense of quality and for a good reason.
They'll write songs when there's inspiration, but maybe nothing for six months after. Then some don't feel right so they get thrown into the bin etc.
An album release is very much "when it's ready". Forcing it on a schedule only works when there's already a formula, which is mostly true only for very mainstream music.
As an example, look at the distance between these 2 albums, both great in my opinion, but technically it took 14 years after the last one to get it out, (abet not being worked on continually of course).
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_of_Solace#Discography
A quick check of Dawn of Solace's Spotify page and tour schedule shows me that they're active but probably not making full-time jobs out of this. And that's absolutely fine. They're doing their thing and probably enjoying it.
The article is saying that to be profitable and relevant, you're going to have to put out more frequent, smaller, rapidly-digestible bits of music. This was a model I applied regularly to death metal and hardcore bands that I worked with during my time in the industry and I can tell you right now- _it works_.
But he put an obnoxious self-serving spin on it because that's what rent-seeking billionaires do.
> Spotify isn't saying that if an artist doesn't put out material every 3 months they'll be de-ranked.
Not explicitly, but if someone releases 5 times a year, they're bound to be on the frontpage much more frequently. This of course makes sense and increases band awareness and engagement, but possibly puts pressure on smaller bands to release quantity over quality if they want to make it.
Saying more frequent releases == more press time is so obvious that I don't really get the point of saying that. This is true for software too, btw.
But as a software developer, I can tell you that while a minor release can generate almost the same amount of press as a major release for me, a minor release is in no way significant. It usually doesn't contain novel ideas, merely bug fixes and security patches, it doesn't push the software "forward" in any way, whereas a major release usually does.
I think DJs have a thing where they release a track and then slowly drip in various guest remixes of the same track.
As for metal, am sure it works to increase engagement and that's fine. But hearing from my musician friends, they tend to like to take their time to get things right and many fans there like big album releases.
Of course everybody enjoys teasers, but if we're talking full tracks here, you'd still want that 10-14 track album where many of the songs are surprises.
It's probably different if one goes to it commercially from the get go, with the express intent of making it a full time thing, rather than sort of failing into the full-time thing as you pick up steam.
Note that this is different from live shows, which I do believe need to be super frequent for these types of bands. But I am not as sure about Spotify digital releases.
It is worth noting that he gives an example of Taylor Swift as someone doing it right. That's Taylor Swift - one of the most mainstream artists right now, with an army of composers, producers etc. behind her. That's exactly my problem with his statements.
Just like horse buggy drivers didn't have to become truck drivers...
Concerning the single format: Going through and listening to my Bandcamp new release notifications is a weekly habit I enjoy. There are a lot of of those notifications and I gladly take the time to check them out, but I won't even listen to single track releases. I'm an album person. If an artist doesn't have enough quality material to compile an actual cohesive selection of his work and rather rushes from short-lived single to single, I'm not interested.
I'm even less interested in t-shirts, merchandise and live shows, though I get the appeal of the latter.
Quality of the art is of course completely absent from any such discussions.
In case anyone is wondering why all pop music sounds the same.
Man, that's depressing.
> Man, that's depressing.
If the CEO of an open-source company said, "Software isn't our product, software is our marketing", would you feel the same way?
I think it's a little sad that you can't write some great software that solves a problem for people and get paid for it anymore. Or at least not as easily as in the past.
The changing business model has a lot of negative externalities, too. Like the temptation to monetize user data instead of monetizing the value of the software directly, and the temptation to push the line on privacy.
I think that you're ignoring the fact that you were actually getting paid for solving their problem, not for great software per-se.
Just because the constraints on different parts of the value chain have changed, altering where the convenient bottlenecks are for extracting payments, doesn't make the past environment any better overall, just different.
But I think that's because open-source software development companies are the exception rather than the norm. No one expects you to open-source your software and then hope someone hires you for your services or buys one of your t-shirts. It's still the norm in our industry to write something and sell copies of it.
Plus, software pays more. Software developers generally don't get squeezed. Musicians, on the other hand, never seem to catch a break.
EDIT: Or, even better, it's the norm to sell a monthly right to use what we wrote.
Also, freemium games have business models very similar to music. Yeah, there are some successful freemium games out there, but in general it's pretty brutal and depressing.
Basically, in software, you can choose to open-source your software as marketing if you want, but proprietary is still a sustainable business model. The claim here (which I am in no position to evaluate) is that for music, you no longer really have any choice: selling music itself is no longer a sustainable business model; you can only give it away in hopes that you can sell something else as a result.
That is pretty depressing.
Where I live, they do...go live in one of the countries where software gets outsourced. People are paid < $200 monthly here.
Software developers have skills that are easily transferable than musicians. If software developers stop learning, they will quickly be devalued with legacy maintenance as an exception. We used to value musicians more because of supply and distribution problems. It was an artificially constrained labor market. Now it is not. That's why they aren't getting paid the same. Similar to how writing html and css would get you a good paying job, not now though. Musicians need to change and adapt. They need to pick up more transferable skills.
* infinitely reproducible for near zero marginal cost
* subject to changing tastes and style
* easily obtainable through illegal means
Edit: I also find that most people treat most music as a commodity much of the time. Why else would random feeds of related music be so popular?
Not for American games, of course, we basically destroyed the National Endowment for the Arts, thanks a lot guys.
The thing that people don't realize is that it is in fact quite comparable: the binary that one works with to hear a song is not intrinsically worth any more than the same bytes that produce a software application. I'm a musician who now primarily makes music with code.  I've decided therefore to always make my music available for free, without exception. We all agree software can and often should be free - music, to me, is exactly the same way.
"First STEM says that the humanities are worthless. Then they say how, really, STEM should get all that glory too because, really, it's the same thing -- but better."
Or this quote:
"Great paintings, for example, get you laid in a way that great computer programs never do. Even not-so-great paintings - in fact, any slapdash attempt at splashing paint onto a surface - will get you laid more than writing software, especially if you have the slightest hint of being a tortured, brooding soul about you. For evidence of this I would point to my college classmate Henning, who was a Swedish double art/theatre major and on most days could barely walk."
According to Duchamp an urinal can be art. Presumably code can also then, but it doesn't really confer any addition prestige on code and developers.
There is an art to building software, no doubt, in terms of it being a craft. But I think you've misspoken about functional things being artistically beautiful. What you really should mean is that functional things can be aesthetically beautiful, which is true and different.
Art is primarily defined by expression and exploration, particularly revolving around human emotions. Software products, in the end, do not fit this category. There is a vast difference.
Edit: I defined it elsewhere a bit smoother. I define art as the exploration of emotional expression. Art products are the end result of that exploration. Live acts or art or performances could be viewed as a sort of merger between the two, either as a reenactment of the exploration or as a new exploration happening in the moment.
The thing is that "music", is not "one thing". It all depends on the purpose, if there is one, and on the intention of the composer and of the players and of the audience.
Here, Spotify's CEO adresses a very specific market in the music industry, not "musicians" per se.
Your sentence, while it reasonate with me, is seen today as naive and non realistic.
Publish your work on github. Software is not your product, it's your marketing.
In the case of open-source software, they're probably marketing consulting, books, training. (I think conferences would likely be part of the marketing.)
And that, folks, is how we end up with those crapulacious open-source software tools (libraries, whatever) that are deliberately incomprehensible to anybody outside the producer bubble. e.g. Bouncy Castle: Utterly shite API to the point of unusable, despite the undoubtedly well done implementation underneath; completely absent documentation in any useful/usable form. Everything around it is just, "Buy our books, come on our courses if you want to use this library." The code itself is obfuscatory. Not a design document or user-guide in sight.
(Other examples abound. I just pick on the one that burned me the worst.)
So, back to music. How is this a good result for the "market"?
We end up with a flume of mediocre-to-crap music (but frequently! as if that's a good thing all by itself) all in the name of marketing,... what precisely? Where's the passion gone? Where's the art? Where's the music I'll listen to over and over again for decades?
Software, with rare exceptions, is solving a problem—music is not.
I define art as the exploration of emotional expression, and software simply does not fit into that category except in the cases of using software as a tool or mechanism in the exploration.
The "need" in creating art is often described by artists in that the act of creation is fulfilling an internal need. Writers, musicians, etc. often describe their works as pouring out of them, almost by necessity. This is rarely the case for software and engineering products which seek to fulfill an external need. Software, like engineering, seeks to solve problems. Art can but does not in general.
I personally find it mindblowing and a bit disturbing that I see people in this thread equating software to art. It's a bit disrespectful and elitist to claim that they're the same. Artist make pennies and are being forced by market dynamics to change their expression to merely survive. Meanwhile, software engineers make six figures and retire early playing a game of connect the dots. It's flippant to those artists who struggle for years and years in the hopes of even a modicum of support or recognition and live on pennies.
You can also phrase brain surgery and movie watching as "modifying the inner thought processes of the subject", and as such there isn't a clear distinction.
One is art, the other is trade.
One can of course make art one's means of substinance, and one can master one's trade artfully.
I think this is fairly accurate. In software, you can write some for marketing, but keep some proprietary.
Yes, absolutely, 100%! By all means care about image and marketing, but if your actual product isn't good (software, music, or anything else), then who cares?
For music... I'm far less qualified to say, but there's still a notion of (subjective) quality, which is only loosely correlated to marketing. I suppose we could say "good" music is that music which people enjoy, which still is driven by the actual music and not marketing.
It did happen. We call it "In App Purchasing". And we ALL loathe it like the plague.
With the success of things like Fortnite seeing games being released for free and relying on the DLC's and skins and rewards as the product.
on the other hand, I think F2P monetized with cosmetic items is a pretty good model for a multiplayer game. anyone with a computer can enjoy the game, and the people who care the most (or have the most disposable income) support ongoing development without messing with the balance.
But then look at games - companies release X games yearly or rely heavily on fans.
-- Hannah Arendt, "The Crisis in Culture - Its Social and Its Political Significance"
It is, but only if the music gets better in the process. Unlikely to happen if you rush for faster releases. More production doesn't equal to more novelty.
Actually, if you are constantly working at it, you'll probably get really good at it and the quality will get better and better.
There's a story about a ceramics professor that would divide his class in two at the beginning of the semester. He would grade one group by the quality of their best piece at the end of the semester and the other group by the weight of all the pieces produced during the whole semester. The professor said that invariably, the best pieces were produced by the people in the group that was graded by the weight of their pieces. His hypothesis was that people graded by the weight would produce a lot more pieces, so in the process they would also get really good at making the pieces, whereas the people graded by their best piece would just spend too much time on their pieces trying to make them perfect and wouldn't get enough practice to actually become better at making them.
Not a popular opinion here, but I really don’t think that coding is very comparable to pure art like music or painting, and I think that a lot of these ideas come from that place(that coding is art). Coding is art like electrical work is art—there is certainly a distinction between work crafted by a master and something muddled together by an amateur, but at the end of the day it’s functional. In these trades it’s perfectly okay to have creative fatigue as long as all the parts are good. If you have great variable names, nice modular form, terse functions, excellent descriptive comments, etc, its actually better if you have a monolithic unchanging form. Pure art, that is art meant to be consumed in the form its created, by contrast, brings with it all kinds of aesthetic values that are put by the way side in coding, and novelty and creativity are front and center.
That's true for engineering, but for music it only goes so far. A lot of musicians working this way will, after a while, find a formula that repeatedly sells, but loose a lot of originality in the process.
Think of it like a software roadmap: Is it better to wait 6 months and release a bucket of features twice a year, or to release features gradually throughout the year and measure their effectiveness? Some might say that releasing features gradually is "rushing things out", while others might say that it's the only way to ship non-broken software that people actually want to use.
It's rare that an album contains all gems.
That's one of the aspects of the new economy... only a very small minority of artists can literally go dark for 3-4 years to write something that will rise to the top instantly.
That’s just producing a commodity.
Some groups have got it together and are able to fund years of quiet work before releases, but no matter how much I enjoy creating I would hate to be so bound as outlined above.
It turns out that the students who were just churning out pots ended up making the pots that were ultimately better.
I think there's probably something to be said for constantly creating.
In photography, you can get lucky. When I come back from holidays and review a thousand of random snapshots, a couple of them look great. Take 200 shots of a single thing, and one of them might be pro-level due to pure chance. Yet I'm not sure how well this "randomly great" percentage would translate to me playing the violin, dancing ballet, or writing a song.
I can imagine it's true that churning out quantity is its own education but I can also imagine there's a plateau past which deliberate practice and polish matter quite a bit.
I’d argue that it’s worse, though. Shorter cycles are even less healthy.
And just because it’s been done before(-ish) and other endeavours run in this timeline doesn’t make it good or beneficial to anything but those who aspire to only make money off of it.
The fact is, good music doesn’t require business to be good music. And the business doesn’t necessarily require the music to be good—it just requires that it directly or indirectly generates revenue. From the perspective of commerce the rest is incidental.
Encouraging the commercial perspective over something more balanced is a net negative for culture and society. At least I think so.
Some of Steve Albini's interviews are really on point with regards to this stuff. Really worth listening to if nothing more than to provide contrast to comments like the one above (which seem pretty reductive and flippant): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRAc3hx5pok
Now, being a musician or an artist, you decide what you do with it. If you consider that what matters is your sales and nothing else, Spotify's stance might apply to you. But you might have different point of view as well, still make music, and still live from it, perhaps.
I also find it depressing. It's a societal problem that we do not value art in the same way that we value science and technology. We see it everywhere from the STEM myth to arts educational programs and artists struggling just to survive. Even earning my living in science and technology, I personally have grown to believe art is far more important for human progress and development than science and technology. It's a real problem that we blindly let markets decide what is important because it is in fact humanity's lack of progress emotionally, which is unfortunately tied strongly to our biology, but our insane progress in technology that causes almost all of our problems.
I don't find this depressing. I don't even find this societal at all. What would be depressing would be to take Spotify's view of "what music should be" or "how musicians should work/behave" for a relevant, world-wide truth. When it is only a very specific, skewed and biased take by someone's who's got a direct interest into making people believe that it is the only way to go.
That many people go this way does not mean they are right, neither they are winning.
> It's a societal problem that we do not value art in the same way that we value science and technology.
Want to give a couple of examples against this:
- some of the most valuable software out there is free and open source. The authors of said software don’t get compensated anywhere near the softwares value. Coz everyone uses it for free.
- I very much value the games I play on my iPhone, but I have never paid any money for them.
- I will buy Opeth t-shirts, and Akerfeld custom guitars, but I’m never going to give Spotify as much money.
So, I don’t think your claim is so clear cut as you state it.
If you instrumentalize music to maximise your influencer career with the content of the music as an afterthought what you get isn't art but a mediocre commodity.
It's like Ricky Gervais remark at the Globes, the actors aren't actually actors any more, it's a competition for the best looking, most ripped steroid junkie.
We are only listening to the best stuff from the 70s and 80s, and in 30 years people will only listen to the best stuff from today.
Now, I think a major difference will be the "best" music people will be listening to will be very different from each other. 30+ years ago the popular music people listened to on the radio or MTV was much more broadly known and shared than music today, whereas today different demographics have increasingly siloed music tastes.
I hear a lot of good stuff my teenage sons play on Spotify that I would never hear if it wasn't for them.
There are artists that can publish work now, thanks to the internet, that publishers wouldn't even dream of going near let alone giving them deals. I really like microtonal electronic music for example, not exactly radio friendly.
I don't really think all new music is bad, just most of it. The same could be said for back in the day though. Metallica is a bad example for you to use cause they are still widespread because they are really good. There are other bands you haven't heard of from the 70s and 80s.
This "all new music is dross" argument is repeated every generation as new music out-ages the outgoing generation.
Of course there are bands I haven't heard of from the 70s and 80s. That doesn't mean the ones I have heard of are relevant. It means they're memorable.
unrelated but I love your username.
I bet they feel just terrible to only be making money off of people buying their music, but not paying attention to their opinions.
The problem with per-stream plays is that it is based on pop music logic: more streams
equals more money.
But many recording artists made a modest living by releasing music that you might not want to listen to over and over and over. This music is often labeled ‘art’ or ‘experimental’ or whatever, and for the enthusiast, paying $15 for a record of this stuff was great.
Streaming services have no answer for this problem. It’s up to something like Patreon, if anything, to fill this gap.
This is all sorta fine, but what grates in me is that it seems none of the streaming providers have even thought about this. They just don’t seem to be that in to music, and just think of types of pop music as representing all of music.
This is where that above quote is just a little irritating.
If I pay $10 and listen to 50 tracks, I want $10 (minus the provides fee) to be split among precisely those 50 tracks.
The difference is if you only listed to 50 tracks your listens are worth more that someone that diluted their listens over 5000.
Throwing everyone's fees into one big vat and dividing that according to the total listens, is bullshit. I want my favorite artist to be paid by me and I don't want to subsidize the worlds most popular artists that I never listen to.
That still would be fairer than the current system and that edge case would be rare.
As it stands today, we're all heavily subsidising the most popular (and well marketed) bands -not just their fans- leaving crumbs for other artists who end up having very little chance to see their lot improve at all.
I'm paying Spotify to listen to the artists I like, hoping to support them so they can make more music I like.
Instead, nearly everything I pay ends up in the pockets of artist I have no affinity for.
I’m sure Spotify will know the numbers for moving to user centric streaming payouts, would be very interesting to know the truth of who the winners and losers would be.
There’s a bit of info and some research here:
I think the option to be user centric could be a compelling feature for premium customers, to show money is going to artists fans love, and ultimately move more people on to the premium versions of streaming platforms
Personally at this time I’m more concerned that my Spotify subscription is subsidizing podcasts by Joe Rogan than Drake / Taylor Swift.
The guy just struggles with some mental health issues and isn't that great at talking to the public outside of his music. I disagree with him on some things, and he definitely has his issues, but I think he means well for the most part.
His shoes are doing really well, almost catching Jordan in yearly revenue.
At least Warhol had interesting and relevant things to say.
Here's one of the examples - https://youtu.be/ZgJyhKEZ8QU
It was fascinating when Life of Pablo was released on Spotify and over the next few months was given continuous updates and patches, like it had been software.
Really proves the old proverb that great art never is finished, it’s abandoned...
For me personally, it has been a negative, because I really loved Tame Impala's Borderline, which was switcheroo'd with a song I don't feel for when the album came out. They even took out the single version from Spotify and YouTube (the official channel), so we're stuck with the album version. A comment from unofficial YouTube version sums it up:
"I understand him wanting to make a version with the vision he originally intended for the song but the fact that he removed the other version when it already was presented and existed to other is what is infuriating and upsetting. The single version clearly held a special place in people's hearts and to lose that is hard to swallow."
The single version, one of my favorite songs of 2019.
The technology just makes it easier though. The Foundations have been trying to erase the original Colin Young version of Build me up Buttercup that I love in favor of Clem Curtis rerecordings since long before Internet was a thing, as an example.
(But yeah it's messed up just don't put out dates)
It takes time to grow as a person and cultivate new ideas. It may not be possible to do that if you don't get in and out of whatever it is you're doing.
Imagine telling Hemingway he has to release a new blog post every week instead of a book every couple of years.
"What's he going to record a song about?"
"Spotify'll kill him."
"I guess they will."
"He must have got mixed up in something with the music industry."
"I guess so," said Nick.
"It's a hell of a thing."
"It's an awful thing," Nick said.
They did not say anything. George reached down for his mobile phone and wiped the screen.
"I wonder what he did?" Nick said.
"Failed to write enough songs fast enough to generate user engagement. That's what Spotify will kill them for."
"I'm going to cancel my Spotify subscription," Nick said.
"Yes," said George. "That's a good thing to do."
"I can't stand to think about him waiting in the recording room and knowing he's going to get it. It's too damned awful."
"Well," said George, "you better not think about it."
But do Pop artists generally spend years to publish an album?
I honestly don't know, I don't follow that world anymore.
Except some of his books came about because he didn’t keep to that schedule, and we don’t usually talk about Hemingway for his articles in the Toronto Star.
But anyway my point was more about producing significant and valuable work.
Many of these are.. not so good. A few are great.
I was just making a side comment. I thought it was funny and that your analogy was even more true because we don’t talk so much about Hemingway’s frequent articles in a newspaper but we study at length and hold in high regard his long form works.
He's not telling bands how to be successful artistically, he's telling them how to be successful financially in the modern music world.
If the band is only interested in promoting their art, they can do anything they want. If they want to earn a living too, they need to provide the market what it wants.
In his prime writing period he was closer to the former than the latter; between 1923 and 1933 he published, it looks like, at least 49 short stories, 10 poems, 3 novels, and two nonfiction books. At least one of the novels was initially released in serialized form over 6 months of magazine issues.
If your goal is the best art you can produce, then perhaps Spotify and that roller coaster isn't what you should care about.
If you want to good art while also also getting a lot of buzz so you can make money or be popular, then you need to deal with market forces, just like everyone always has.
Different artists will value to varying degrees generating good art, exposing many people to that art, and getting paid well. All those goals are related, but I doubt any one of them can be maximized without concessions from others.
> Imagine telling Hemingway he has to release a new blog post every week instead of a book every couple of years.
Authors release at their own schedule if they don't rely on the money from the books, they have other income, or they've already made enough to be secure. Hemingway is not really different. Neither is any other already famous artist.
And how exactly will people get paid, when Spotify (and other streaming services) have effectively replaced album sales?
This is just the same tired old "exposure" argument.
Touring and merch sales, which is why the aggressive release schedule on Spotify to keep buzz up is supposed to be good in the first place.
> This is just the same tired old "exposure" argument.
The whole argument about needing to release more often is predicated by that exposure argument. If you don't think it works, then when you release on Spotify doesn't matter at all.
Either you accept that Spotify buzz drives attendance and thus more buzz from more releases more often brings more money, or you don't accept that and then there's no pressure to release more often.
You're dead wrong. I don't have the energy to go into it anymore, but see my other comments on the matter if you care.
I guess in the past musicians toured and performed to satisfy that need, and relegated the "important" work to long term writing/composing. With Spotify (and specially now with COVID) it seems this has changed since the only way to generate income is by releasing music.
Does it really matter for artists that aren't being played multiple times a day on iHeartMedia/Clear Channel radio stations already if they follow this model? I doubt it, unless their goal is more about fame than art, in which case the question answers itself.
Hemingway's fiction in particular aside, it is worth noting that many of the novel-length works now considered classics were actually created and released as a series of shorter works, often to fairly strict deadlines:
Yes totally, but my point was not so much about the time spent doing the thing as the pauses in between.
It's much easier when there are literally thousands of song writers trying to get a label or famous singer to use their song. The Nashville model is pretty much everywhere now.
It also helps that we've been able to computationally determine which parameters and heuristics are most likely to end up as a hit. There's a reason popular music across genres all more or less sounds the same today (loud, compressed with little dynamic range, auto-tuned, 4 chords, etc), with the difference between them being the style they are in.
I also find it easy to have a library of singles that I like.
I guess some albums could tell some story about what the musician was feeling at some time, but that probably doesn’t apply for a lot of music if not most. Certainly not the music I listen to, release it one at a time or all together, makes no difference to me.
Complaining about the death of the album is one thing, but the reality is that people like listening to singles and playlists.
You mean the 9 out of 10 songs that the music label didn't push for airplay, video etc.
If you're into electronic music you can also check Bleep (by Warp records). No DRM, you download your files and play them however you want.
Bandcamp could also put more effort into recommendations based on a user's purchases, or just when viewing an artist's page. Not "we recommend this new album that is trending" but "this artist is similar to this other one" in the style that the old what.cd site had, with its massive graphed connections from one artist to another based on style (within a genre) of music.
For example you get to an album page and there's just so much crap. The album and the player should be the main focus but the player is this tiny thing relegated into a corner.
Making it better for musicians would likely reduce their revenues.
That's apples-to-oranges. Obviously a "hit" anything is hard in any field, by definition. A hit app is just as hard (even harder, probably, since there are a lot less hit apps than hit songs).
But producing a single track? Seriously, it's not that hard. Yes, it takes a team of people and a lot of creativity and skill, but I don't know what this "incredible sacrifice" or "miracle" that is "more effort than you could ever imagine" is that you're talking about. It's a creative project like any other.
But that's not even the point of the article, which is simply to release tracks piecemeal and regularly rather than in an album only occasionally. There's nothing about everyone working "that much harder".
It sounds like you had a hard time in the biz, and I'm sorry. But I don't have any clue who the "geeks" are who "talk about the industry" that seems to bother you so much, and which doesn't seem to have anything to do with the article. I know a lot of software engineers who are also really into the indie music scene in Brooklyn and I think everyone does understand the work bands put into their music and their touring, and that most of the bands are never going to make it beyond attracting a few dozen or couple hundred audience members at any show, but they do it because they love it.
I can co-sign on this part of his premise. I worked for a music producer who has a number of #1 hits (Beyonce, Fergie, John Legend etc). He wrote >1 songs per day almost every day for over a decade.
His success ratio (hit vs placement vs nothing) was much lower than any mediocre software engineer trying to make working software over the same period of time.
It feels safe to say that in a 365 day period, a software developer can reasonably expect significantly more than one of those days to be used in 'working software' right?
"Working software" would be comparable to "listenable music". I'm sure every song that producer wrote daily was listenable.
But even if you mean "working software" as something that goes up on the app charts, top 100 in a popular category? I mean, then no -- I could easily see a developer spend an entire year building 1, 10, or even 100 apps and have none of them gain any traction at all.
There are 4.4 million software engineers in the United States. I would imagine most of the work that is generated by them on a day to day basis moves the needle of their careers forward. I could be wrong, but I bet most of them are employed, and getting paid for it.
At the very least I bet that more than half of them get paid for more than 5% of their workdays, right?
I doubt the same can be said for music producers, at least the ones making hits that the OP was referring to.
Speaking as a producer and developer, they are not the same things in any way and I love doing what I do deeply, thank you very much.
What's needed is to discuss artists compensation on their own terms.
Don't distort it by relating it to software development.
I can’t think of even one example of the use of analogy that has helped me understand a subject better than if it were discussed and explained on its own terms.
It seems all analogies do is enable the analogiser to delude themselves in to thinking similar is equal to same.
Profitability at least a year except if you can fall back to an existing social network/dev infrastructure, which is also based on a lot of work.
Eg. Only getting a decent ranking in Google could take months.
I'm not sure if it's that easy to compare.
Sure, you could strum a guitar and sing and have a decent song wrapped up in an afternoon.
But if you're creating anything more complex, you will spend hours finding the right sound, more hours creating the right arrangement, and even more hours fine-tuning the vocals, sounds, and final mix.
Something as simple as getting a snare drum right can take a ton of time. You don't hear it because you don't know what the bad snare sounds like.
But if you're creating your own sound? That takes effort and experimentation.
Creating a song - easy. Creating music that's distinctively your own - tons and tons of effort.
A woman who approached Picasso in a restaurant, asked him to scribble something on a napkin, and said she would be happy to pay whatever he felt it was worth. Picasso complied and then said, “That will be $10,000.”
“But you did that in thirty seconds,” the astonished woman replied.
“No,” Picasso said. “It has taken me forty years to do that.”
Compare it to actors/actresses who do hollywood movies, but also do indie films. If you want to make a living, you might not be able to do whatever it is you want, and might need to put out some more mainstream stuff.
Only a few people really get to do what they want in the arts and make a living.
Software is easier to create, doesn't need to be a hit to be used, and you can be paid to write it and to sell it.
Music requires much more creative work, the production is often unpaid, and the work product usually doesn't make much unless it's a hit with millions of plays.
With or without insight, it's obviously apples-to-oranges to compare "working software" to a "hit record".
Most "working software" is rarely used and makes no money, look at the long tail of apps in the iOS App Store, Google Play Store, etc that didn't become hits.
I've never seen Universal Music post their "roadmap" of how they plan to sign new artists, or what new social media marketing ideas they might have up their sleeve. This is because the music industry is, by far, more competitive than the tech industry. Record labels, publishing groups, etc. are not very willing to share their "trade secrets". If the tech industry was like the music industry, there would be absolutely no such thing as open source.
> I don't know what this "incredible sacrifice" or "miracle" that is "more effort than you could ever imagine" is that you're talking about. It's a creative project like any other.
Your second sentence answers the question in the first sentence. :)
True, but hardly apples-to-apples; it's orders of magnitude easier to make music than it is to make a viral app. In either case, the barrier to entry is low, the standard for doing it professionally is surprisingly high, and making a hit is a huge undertaking.
In software it can cost $10k to build an app but Google Search costs $10^10: a six orders of magnitude difference.
In music there’s got to be a big dynamic range in effort involved as well. (I doubt it’s 10^6 though!)
But comparing the best music to the lowest end app is apples to oranges.
That'd be a losing bet.
You can ofc release apps, that doesn't mean people will ever use it. The cost to acquire a user isn't anywhere cheaper than a finding an listener.
Things change... It costs as much to "release an app" as to "get a record out" today.
It's really not that different...
The way to keep fans engaged involves releasing EPs and Single on a regular basis, releasing a whole album only really makes sense in the context of trying to produce it for artistic value, not fan engagement value.
Then there's the recording and engineering challenges around mixing and mastering an album. Albums need to sound cohesive even if the songs aren't necessarily the same genre even. The best albums are those ones that flow between softer or more upbeat music but still feel tied together as a whole.
Forcing artists to pump out strings of singles and EPs diminishes music as an artform. It takes away the format that's allowed some of the best modern music to be created that likely would never have been created if artists were just constantly pumping out individual disconnected songs.
Even today, you can still find some pretty amazing albums that are being made where each song individually would stand as less, but together as an album they come together to make some great art.
> Forcing artists to pump out strings of singles and EPs
But who is forcing the artists? The market? It's clear people don't want to listen to LPs released every 3-4 years, they want singles and EPs released frequently. If it is indeed a market effect, then artists need to evolve or perish. If you want to make money selling art, you need to make it in a way that people want to buy it. It's that simple.
This is just the death of another art form.
One of the things that happens when consumers have options they didn't before is previously invisible preferences become expressible. What if the bulk of consumers never cared much about albums as coherent pieces of art? What if they only did so financially because it was the only way to get the separable pieces they did care about?
The advent of fast food has not exterminated fine dining. What's changed is that consumers have more choices. This did not signal the death of fine dining.
Music in the current age is equal parts pop culture as it is listening aesthetics. For an artist to thrive financially they have long had to take the first path rather than primarily focus on the later.
The artists all producing the top songs on spotify are doing so through the release of singles here and there and it makes total sense given the cultural context for how music is consumed and discovered in the current year.
But even amongst that music, you can still find some albums, being produced as such, with the intention of it being an album. It's harder to find and I doubt it makes money through services like Spotify, but on places like bandcamp, or independent label storefronts you can find plenty of albums in a wide variety of genres.
The best thing we can do is support those artists and keep buying that music if that's what we want. As long as there's a market for it, it can keep existing despite Spotify.
I'm not convinced. The standard 3-4 minute pop song came about because that's what could fit on one side of a 78. Albums came about because an LP (33 1/2) could fit roughly 40 minutes of music, or 10-12 of those songs. These formats proved to be a popular and effective even though the technologies that created them are long obsolete.
"When initially introduced, 12-inch LPs played for a maximum of about 23 minutes per side, 10-inchers for around 15... Economics and tastes initially determined which kind of music was available on each format. Recording company executives believed upscale classical music fans would be eager to hear a Beethoven symphony or a Mozart concerto without having to flip over multiple, four-minute-per-side 78s, and that pop music fans, who were used to listening to one song at a time, would find the shorter time of the 10-inch LP sufficient. As a result, the 12-inch format was reserved solely for higher-priced classical recordings and Broadway shows. Popular music continued to appear only on 10-inch records.
Their beliefs were wrong. By the mid-1950s, the 10-inch LP, like its similarly sized 78 rpm cousin, would lose the format war and be discontinued."
I really hope the medium of the album survives, because I much prefer listening to a coherent and deliberate group of songs than any other method.
Releasing songs individually is a serial process. Releasing an album puts all of the songs published into the same context, and everyone’s first experience of all songs occur at the same time.
A band that makes a successful album produces something greater than the sum of the individual songs inside the album
I still prefer to listen to full coherent albums, and one of the highlights of my week is my Sunday run, which gives me time to listen to an album start to finish with no interruptions.
I hope some of my favorite musicians will continue to conceptualize albums that have a 45+ minute arc, even if market pressures mean that they'll initially need to release the tracks one at a time.
I personally find it too tedious to even work out the lyrics of the song because most of the time I can’t figure out what the singer is saying, or whatever cryptic message it is. I just listen for the sounds, mostly, and that scratches my itch sufficiently to not make it worth my while to look more into it. But I can understand if some people do have an interest in it.
In fact, leaving out the few niche bands that release albums as a cohesive whole, the concept of an album seems terribly anachronistic in this new world of streaming. It's now the era of the single song, whether we like it or not. This is, of course, just considering popular genres of music.
I almost exclusively browse my library by album, but Spotify generally pushes me towards tracks. The release radar, for example, offers no way to filter to full album releases.
I hope artists aren't pressured into releasing tracks one off purely due to design decisions vs artistic choice. Software can easily cater to both.
There was a market for records, not for music. What people were actually paying for was the technology to play music, and the distribution of music. When that became digitized, no significant market formed around music production for reasons that seem pretty obvious to me: 1. It is absolutely impossible for the market to ever reach a state where new music is not produced, regardless of the existence or absence of any monetary factor; and 2. I will be just as happy regardless of what is produced because my brain naturally adjusts that emotion to the scale of whatever I am perceiving.
There was a huge market around distribution and licensing and technology related to music, and a lot of that went away. But that doesn’t mean musicians are entitled to a 50-billion-dollar industry around music production that never existed to begin with.
> There was a huge market around distribution and licensing and technology related to music, and a lot of that went away
As I pointed out, distribution and licensing has not gone away, that segment of the industry has grown.
Likewise, you have to ignore everything but the direct-to-consumer parts of the market to have that comment begin to make any sense. Video games, commercials and movies are all being produced with increasing efficiency as well, and thus, sync placements and licensing are more important than ever.
I actually think I disagree with your premise here as well, which is still more cogent and direct than GP, who said "the market doesn't exist". Yet, I think demand has kept up with the supply, I mean, I think the demand is almost infinite. Yes, people naturally want to produce music, much in the same way that some people want to make delicious meals for their friends, and when their dinner parties become popular enough to warrant pop-up level sizes, they might consider commercializing and commodifying their product because there isn't an option to continue doing it at a loss for most people. The financial incentive, in most cases is—how do I keep creating a thing people enjoy without dying? Likewise, people might want to eat at the same 5 restaurants their whole life, or hear the same 5 artists, but even that latter group are going to be enthusiastic when one of those 5 artists releases new content. Think about the fact that whoever happens to own The Beatles catalog can release a remastered version of any of their albums and have consumers ready to buy, what is to the layperson, a nearly identical product. Now, remember your favorite meal you've had out? Have you ever tried to recreate that experience?
I guess what I'm getting at is, you can't think of music in purely economic terms, because it tends to behave in unexpected and unpredictable ways that don't align cleanly with the dry notions "supply and demand".
to my memory, the mantra was that money corrupts the art.
But Spotify has made it even harder to find by swamping it in mediocre burger+fries music.
I'm just surprised that you feel it's _harder_ to find good music because of Spotify.
I really miss the days when Youtube's "related videos" were seemingly based on a graph data model -- populated like: other people that watched this, then clicked on that.
Honestly, it was far more accurate for new, niche music. My browser tabs would grow exponentially.
Now it's all sorts of weird shit like US news coverage of sentencing serial killers. Which I didn't ever watch before...
I do agree that bands are getting screwed though. That's why I use Spotify for discovery and buy lots of merch when a band really lands with me (and go to live shows - pre COIVD of course).
Compared to what?
I grew up with music heavily filtered by radio promoters. That was rarely "change-your-life music".
It doesn't follow that "more people making music" means "same amount of good music"
Help me have a good cry? Sure. Make chores less boring, absolutely.
But for me life changes are life-changing; music's ultimately just what was on, the soundtrack.
Functional music, like what you describe, is easy to listen to. It serves a purpose: reduce boredom, be a companion in sadness, lift the awkwardness of sitting next to strangers in silence. It fits in the genres you are used to listening.
This is, of course, just my experience. But it's clear that for many people, music becomes their life.
I think the same could be said of any (good) art. Art and engineering are fundamentally very different things that just can't be compared, even if there may be some mutual overlapping. (Audio/mixing/mastering engineering definitely crosses the streams more, but for the sake of argument let's just consider the entire end-to-end process of making an album, which I think is almost entirely a matter of art.)
There is some degree of art involved in developing software, but if it's just getting some business app working for BigCorp, it really can't be compared to writing amazing fiction, painting a beautiful painting, directing a fantastic film, making a great album, or any other artistic endeavor. Anyone who scoffs at artists because they're not doing [technical thing] just shouldn't be paid any heed.
In fact art != artistry
It's entirely possible for somebody relatively lacking in technical ability and/or any great insight into their craft to produce something wonderful.
100% that. Thom Yorke (Radiohead singer) has composed dozens of godly songs without even being able to read the notes (in fact, his band members are calling him the idiot savant and are asking him NOT to learn the notes at this point, as it might spoil the magic). Tricky composed some good songs without being able to read notes OR play any instrument.
Most pop/rock musicians historically have played (and composed) by ear without notation or formal music theory.
It's only in the past 20 years or so that large numbers of pop/rock musicians went to music school.
Even so, virtually all pop/rock is composed by ear today, even for music school graduates. Typically composers start by humming or singing a melody, "transcribe" that to an instrument by ear, and then embellish that further if they know music theory.
You can see from above why most pop music consists of the same 4 chords, with the addition of audience/gatekeeper familiarity (don't mess with a formula that works.)
Nobody is saying that it isn't hard work to create a record. That is a straw man.
But someone did get up on a stage and point out that monetization of your work will require a strategy that is adapted to reality. If you want financial success you have to do different things than before. You can get angry at it and wish this was 1983 again - or you can get cracking.
Well, you can't really blame the tech CEO here... Spotify charges people what they're willing to pay to listen to music. I think it's a minor miracle that they've worked out a way to get people to pay anything for music considering how easy music piracy has been since the internet came along. (Not taking a moral stance, just stating a fact).
I believe the effort and risks involved with piracy are -- on average in well-off places -- simply "worth it" compared to owning physical media and "not worth it" compared to paid streaming subscriptions.
It's not just about dollars, but the value proposition of the total experience. The average pirate doesn't streamline their rig with all sorts of automation to pull things into a slick xbmc derivative heuristically; rather it's a time sink and less on-demand.
On the other hand, the more restrictive back catalog does keep piracy relevant for those who want less common selections.
If you pirate something and make a playlist, it won't be full of holes after the next round of contract negotiations. With Spotify -it very well might.
Every time I thought I've been "close" over the past 18 months it turned out I still had so, so far left to go. My "scope" is creeping, sure, but it turns out there's so, so, so much work in-between "recording & mixing one voice & one guitar" and "having a really well arranged song with just the right musical details" etc.
I've done a bunch of big, original projects in tech over the years, but I've never worked as hard at anything in my life as I have on this music.
And I'm still barely scratching the surface of where I want my music to go long term, and I know that the closer I get to recording the music that's in my head, the more ambitious my future records will be.
1. Albums don't maximize artist income - musicians should be steadily releasing new tracks. (Ironically, this is how things used to be up until the 70's, when a new technology, the LP, changed the dominant form of artistic expression.)
2. Nobody reads rolling stone anymore, mtv doesn't play music anymore, if you want a successful career you have to actively market yourself.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you're a musician the primary way you're going to be making money is through touring and selling merch at shows. Not by cutting more tracks for spotify to make a buck off of.
It may be the case that their careers were going to get more difficult anyway; nevertheless, Ek is in fact one of the main drivers and beneficiaries.
30 Seconds to Mars made a documentary about the album they recorded in 2008 and the lawsuit they had to deal with at their record label (which had been recently purchased by a larger company that had zero music / talent experience). Their contracts seem to put them almost $1 million in debt to the record label for each album, despite the fact that they sell (err sold?) multi millions and they do worldwide tours.
Sure, Spotify's CEO is a strange vessel to make more demands on musical talent, but he's also in a position to know how his customers want to consume their music and what gets them engaged in his product. I would take it for what it is and no more.
It's silly to compare the ease of making "working software" with a "hit record". Just like probably most of the music you worked on as a sound engineer, most "working software" made little money and got few customers, look at the long tail of apps that aren't hits in the iOS App Store, Google Play Store, etc.
Even comparing "financially successful software" to "financially successful music" makes no sense. Far more musicians have made six figures or more from a song that took tens of hours to make, than indie software developers have made six figures from an app that they only spent tens of hours on. Is that because music is easier? Yet far fewer technically competent musicians are able to make a living using those skills than technically competent software developers. Is that because music is harder?
It's almost like two things can require different talents, have different factors that go into their financial success, and still both be hard.
Just as we are pivoting away from unsustainable energy, we need to pivot away from unsustainable value structures. We have the tech, we have the brainpower, now we need the will to work on that.
I think it's a category error to expect the CEO of the music distributor to be the one that stands up for the sustainability of music artists. Even if you did get a "benevolent dictator" figure in that position, it would likely crumble to a competitor who is focusing more on optimizing the value+experience for the listener.
Thank you for sharing. The world is always a better place with more human warmth.
We live in a world of plenty. We should be working less, not more. We have created more music in this century than all of the last combined. We have the ability to listen to thousands of years of music at the touch of a button. A concert that would have taken hours of work for 50 people to entertain 200 now takes nothing - a million people put on their headphones and listen to a recording made 20 years ago.
And that is just music - the same plenitude is available in almost all aspects of our lives. And yet, people insist on ever more growth, on ever more work.
Hopefully in the next decades, as the reality of global warming and worker empowerment gain traction, we'll realize that in fact the work week can be drastically reduced without affecting our material needs, as long we let go of this level of consumption.
To be fair, there's orders of magnitude less plenitude in certain necessities like food and housing - still more than enough over all, but not by so large a margin that you don't get local shortfalls (especially in housing).
In my opinion, we're way past the point where we should have stopped trying to grow, in most fields. In particular in music, we're at least 2 decades past the point where the music production industry is being helpful.
Also in art in general, it's interesting to think about what this world of plenty has cost us. Even if we have incomprehensibly more music available to us than any generation before say 1920, most people have actually lost the pleasure of producing their own music.
In the times before recording and playing back music were common, a much larger proportion of the population would be learning how to sing and play themselves. Many more people would be composing and sharing their own stories - the almost dead world of folklore.
This can also apply to a lot of crafts - we're more and more becoming dependent on industry for simple things that we would have done ourselves in centuries past.
If all of this had been a way to help free us pursue other passions, it would have been good. But it seems to me that it's mostly a way to free us to do more work for other people, and that, for the average person who is not working in a job capable of using their creativity, it has started stunting a lot their creative potential, which would have found an outlet in some of these domestic pursuits in the past.
Unfortunately that applies to pretty much everything. Of all the things in my life, I only even know how to provide the raw materials for some of them. And I could probably replicate a lot of the software given time.
Modern life is a series of miracles and all of it requires more effort than people imagine.
You have factor in piracy if the price is to high or the solution is inconvenient. The public has rejected DRM and songs are easily give away to their friends. Lastly, No one wants physical media.
So after you've pumped out 6 singles a year, spent £100 a pop promoting those said singles, £50 mastering each single.. how much do these people think 98% of artists are making these days and can be sure of what they may take home every 2 months from these singles. At least with an LP you have a fixed cost and a revenue projection that can be worked out by price per copy.
They can go back to the olden model of no streaming as well.
We all have the freedom to do whatever; the issue is the consequences.
The question I think is more about if as a society we think it’s important for musicians to be able to make a decent living at their work and if so do we want to use our collective tools of law or government (or if someone gets lucky and innovates a better business model) to help that happen?
And if Spotify’s current business model is good or bad for our culture, if we believe that having musicians being able to make a decent living is important for our culture.
I think this depends on a great many factors. Do you mean possible for some musicians, everyone who wants to do music in some capacity, or somewhere in between? How do you define a decent living?
I'm reminded of the "No farms, no food" bumper-stickers I would sometimes see. While obviously true as written, it's subtlety different in practice and politics. Food comes from farms. Farms are needed. Yet this may not the same as all farms being needed, important, or significant to keep functioning. The person with that bumper sticker may not agree with the distinction I've drawn.
Music is absolutely critical to our ongoing cultural life. No musicians, no music. Yet... to what extent should a society with limited resources devote them to the promotion and enablement of musicians, bearing in mind that there are other uses for those resources? Even with an abundance mindset and in today's world of plenty, this key question does not go away.
We cannot support a million Beyonce's, a million Gaga's and millions of other musicians - we don't live in a Communist utopia.
Now as for Spotify - they are not a monopoly, in US they are neck and neck with Apple Music. So... Why should we intervene with heavy handed laws* - when there's still a fierce battle happening in the market?
Also - Let's not have the government decide how culture should progress.
* - laws are always conservative and change slowly
Spotify is not the same as Netflix etc, because Netflix etc is commissioning and promoting new work - something Spotify has no interest in.
So... you sell units, not streams. You buy a perpetual license to play a unit as many times as you want. The artist gets a royalty for the unit sale. This frontloads income around unit release, which encourages new creation, but units generate a perpetual royalty stream as part of the artist's back catalog, so artists are less likely to starve.
Preview streams are available for free as tasters. Or perhaps a full taster can be played X times before it has to be bought.
The player is tied to an app, but most music is now consumed on phones or in a web player, so DRM is irrelevant and there is no real loss of convenience.
This model worked (more or less) for decades.
The point is popular creators should be paid for full-time work. That's how you get the best work from artists.
And it's not as if the economy can't support this. Operating in any other way is entirely down to politics, not economics.
People always forget that storage and distribution of music is a relatively new concept and a new revenue channel for musicians. When did records become main stream? And how old is music? Technology gave artists a means to sell their work besides live performances. Technology also makes the market more efficient which leads to the costs being drive down. Physical media has been replaced with digital media. Physical stores replaced with digital marketplaces.
Without Spotify or other streaming services , piracy would be even more rampant with the ability of people to transfer 1000s of songs between other people in a matter of seconds. Only way to fight it is to lock down the devices which public doesn’t want and would require the government intervention.
Are you missing the multi-billion dollar infrastructure here, maybe?
Possibly not anymore since there was an investigation into what they did years ago, but they've probably just got better and hiding it:
It is order of magnitudes more difficult being in the top 0.1% in Y industry. Then, being in the bottom 99.9% in Z industry. Giving that roughly the same number of people work in each industry.
I probably agree with you about your broader sentiment of the commodification of music for the principal benefit of tech investors is not in the interest of society as a whole; however, I don't think your bit about software/geeks served to support your point. Some people appreciate software the way you appreciate music, and perhaps they appreciate music as a sort of commodity. People have different preferences, but sometimes that creates an economic environment that isn't optimal for your own preferences.
One idea:musicians could organize around federated servers, operated at cost-plus by tech helpers. One avenue to liberate themselves from the mass-market vultures.
For a recent, nuanced view of what's happened by music historian Alan Cross, try:'Ongoing History of New Music' podcast 'Trying to be a Superstar in the 21st Century'.
Compared to what, the records major companies? I clearly remember artists were complaining about those, too. So which one is it?
That couldn't be further from the truth, it's extremely easy to make a hit, large labels consistently release hits again and again.
It's all about distribution and marketing network, not about the music.
Sames goes with tech, good luck trying to make a product and garner any amount of traction, whereas the same product released from microsoft/google/aws would get millions of eyeballs right away.
Thinking that good has much to do with success is a recipe to be disappointed. Go spend some time promoting your creations instead of trying to make them better.
I'm more than willing to listen to raw demos, even a single guy with a guitar or a synth and a drum machine.
Instead we get over-produced turds...
It's the same way with software. People will just vomit up anything up there and truely good, and tested, libraries and frameworks are hard to come by.
Both music and software are crafts that take years to perfect. But adoption by an audience is never guaranteed.
Multi writer bands (what you need for high output) are fucked by the revenue share model.
The way people consume music has changed and for the right reason.
Music now is a commodity that can be obtained in secs. This is totally different the old days when people buy tapes and CDs and use dedicated equipments just to listen music. If you are buying a CD for 15+ dollars, ofc it should contain more than a handful song.
Now you can literally release any number of songs at any time, and test the water as frequently as you want.
The streaming point values PRS for Music assigned to Spotify used to be higher per play value than many radio stations in the UK. Someone I worked with actually analysed all this and we were really surprised to discover it. Low Performing royalty revenues were not Spotify isn't paying money fairly to artists, rather Spotify knew exactly how many people streamed any given track and the royalty payout model paid based on % of total streams.
So it was actually a fairer model -- if you assume number of streams is an indicator of performance copyright value.
Compared this to the Radio model. A typical track played on BBC Radio could earn something like £80 for one play (depending on the time of day and the station). But that was because radio audience figures were estimated from sample data for the entire nation. And those samples changed something like every 1-2 years. 10 people in the country might actually be listening to the station at the time -- but you'd still get £80 regardless.
Of course the actual total license value then becomes the big point of issue -- was Spotify being charged enough...?
EMI, Sony, Warner et al. all thought no. They went and cut their own deals with Spotify. Not only was their music being treated as equal to everyone else (they didn't like that), they thought they could get a larger license revenue by dealing with Spotify directly.
So the we ended up in this really weird position: PRS for Music wasn't licensing the majority of UK royalty revenue from Spotify (the majors were) but PRS did all the processing for them (eventually GEMA took over). Leaving PRS for Music with the same workload and less bargaining power during license negotiations.
I bet you all £10 in my wallet that the artists Ek referred to as "happy" were on those major labels' rosters.
Source: I used to work for PRS doing usage level data analysis.
Note 1: This was correct as of 5 years ago, certain things may have changed recently.
Note 2: I'm only talking about the Performing copyright. I stayed the hell away from the mess that was Mechanical rights as much as possible.
PRO: Performing Rights Organsiation
streaming point values: 1pt = 1 stream for Spotify. 1pt = 1 second of music on Radio.
royalty payout model: total points in a quarter * point value = total available license revenue for the quarter
Artists aren’t some gift from God here to bestow the world with joy from the heavens that we should all marvel at.
They are people who chose to learn a skill capable of outputting something suitable for consumption as entertainment.
As such, it is their job to be putting out these works regularly, just like everyone else.
Appreciation is nice, but doesn’t matter. Everyday people do mundane things that you have no idea how to do and probably go unappreciated, yet they are more necessary than any sort of “art”. Take art down from the pedestal please.
This framing of human creativity purely in terms of "outputting", "consumption", and mere "entertainment" ignores possibilities outside the sphere of the market, and outside production-for-sale. Art may well suffer from the compulsion to "put it out regularly". I think the fact that art lived through patronage for much of human history is the only reason we have so much good art today.
that's not to say that artists are "geniuses" who should be put on pedestals, but it's a fundamentally different thing than a vocation
Certain pieces of art are uplifting. Art itself is just human expression.
Just because you may not like my perfectly polished cube and don't see the meaning I put into it - doesn't make it "not art".
Artistry is that which finds expression in the creative act of expressing art.
That is not the same as all non-functional human expression.
While I am handing out invitations to auto-copulation, I would also like to hand out a large number to every senator and representative who has voted to defund the arts. Making room for people who have learnt creative skills to pursue their craft without having to constantly worry about whether or not this week's piece is gonna make enough money for them to pay their rent is an important part of society.
Finally, I should express my absolute delight that Patreon continues to exist, and that I have enough people willing to spare a few bucks per month that I can pay my rent while continuing to work on my long, slow projects. I keep on worrying that Patreon will fall apart when it becomes clear that their burn rate is higher than their profits, but I will enjoy it while I still can. It's about the closest thing to the NEA I'm likely to experience in my adult life.
Congratulations on being caught by the title and completely missing the whole argument.
Imagine if I came out and said: "I'm an atheist and I don't need God to tell me to treat people well, love freedom, help the needy and be a nice person... no longer can I justify killing, pillaging and raping using the word of God."
And you put all focus on "I justify killing, pillaging and raping using the word of God"
Translation: We don't have a marketing department to handle this royal pain-in-the-ass for you, like a record company would've in the old days. Selling stuff still requires marketing though, so the people who do well are the ones who handle that part themselves, along with making the music. If you're not good at wearing all the hats at once (for example you're amazing at music and not particularly at marketing) well I guess you don't belong in the new future landscape.
Corollary: This future landscape tends naturally toward being filled with mediocre musicians who work at it part-time - almost like a moonlighting side gig to their marketing jobs.
There's really nothing unusual in bands losing fans and appeal. If you don't want to change and loose fans - that's your choice. This isn't even new. Many artists had to recreate themselves to stay relevant or just retire.
Now - you have much cheaper and much more direct means of engaging with your audience. If you decide to ignore this - then you probably will not make a splash, but there's always a need for wedding singers and backup vocals...
Pretty hard to lose fans you don't have...and it's really REALLY hard to get fans
Fallacy? Scores of well-known musicians, from Bette Midler to Taylor Swift, have talked about how little they make through Spotify and other streaming platforms. IIRC Swift only joined the platform after cutting a special deal. Not everyone can do this. Quoting the guitarist for Mastodon, which has a much smaller following (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/07/05/mastodon-guitari...):
I could live a thousand years, and Spotify plays [our music] all day long, and maybe I’ll just make a couple of thousand dollars.
Ek also said this:
> "Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape," Ek said, "where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.”
This quote reminded me of Joni Mitchell, who would take years-long breaks earlier in her career to escape from the business, work on songwriting, and recharge. Many other musicians can't, as Ek puts it, "create a continuous engagement with their fans" for reasons related to privacy, family life, finances, or mental health.
It's bad enough Spotify pays artists peanuts. But if Ek is tuning his platform to benefit only those artists who are willing to jump through Spotify's algorithmically generated hoops, and sideline everyone else, then the future of the music industry looks very dim.
The vast majority of artists are still getting screwed over by the labels. They're getting a pittance, if anything.
If at all possible, always buy directly from the artists or through sites like Bandcamp that actually pay out well.
Bandcamp takes only a 15% cut, which is better than Spotify's 30%, but the way people talk about it you would think there's a 10x difference or something.
It's not about the relative cut of the services, but the absolute value of the payouts. On one platform you earn fractions of a cent per stream while the other allows you to collect whatever price you set for your release directly. I'm sure the latter approach is significantly better for smaller, niche artists, if not all but the most popular ones.
Or put differently: The number of plays on Spotify required to match the payout of a handful of album sales on Bandcamp is probably out of reach for most artists.
That means basically all of my $10 subscription would go to huge popular artists, instead of to the artists I actually listen to.
By buying on Bandcamp, I make sure my money goes to the artists I actually listen to.
She wanted a lot of money, just like in the good old record label days. And BTW - her deal screwed indie bands even more...
> Joni Mitchell
Who TF is this person?
> only those artists who are willing to jump through Spotify's algorithmically generated hoops
Since when is general audience and human attention span a result of Spotify's engineering? Do you think that Taylor Swift doesn't have people earning 6 figures to make sure that she stays relevant?
For all those artists... access to millions of potential listeners from around the world is an amazing advancement.
The number of artists I've discovered, personally, through Pandora's recommendation system is staggering. I'd never know about these artists in a pre-streaming world.
It probably gets complicated w/ ads vs premium subs, but if I was 1 subscriber and there were 100 total subs, and I listened exclusively to 1 artist, but 99 other people listened to a different artist... the artist I listened to gets the same amount if they get 100% of my fee or 1% of the total fees, right?
I guess users with idle subscriptions is another edge case here.
But let's be real - majority of people go to Spotify BECAUSE there is Gaga, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Adelle, The Weekend, Shawn Mendes, etc... If you take those names out of the pot - Spotify turns into crappier Soundcloud.
These indie artists literally cottail on the big names.
BandCamp is more-or-less an "indie" place to find music. People have to be "into" it to go there and find music.
Spotify and Pandora are far lower barriers for every-day people. Just put on some station you've created from your favorite band, and eventually it'll start playing new bands you've never heard and might love. It's amazing.
I read somewhere that the artist behind this discovered that the streaming songs he made the most from were songs that were apparently requested by random small child requests so he created a whole bunch of songs for just that purpose and makes the bulk of his income through that. Discovery on the streaming services is awful and the renumeration for indie artists is also awful. It's the worst of all possible worlds.
This artist has made a business out of their music. Most music isn't a business, it's a passion and hobby.
I mean... If you pointed me to your BandCamp store page and told me to buy an album, without first hearing it - I wouldn't buy it.
It might be that “listen on Spotify before you buy on Bandcamp” is the 2020 version of “download on Bittorrent before you buy the CD”. But it feels like “is this slightly better for musicians than music piracy” is a pretty low bar for a $50 billion company to shoot for.
>is this slightly better for musicians than music piracy
They're a music streaming and recommendation service company, not a "we kill piracy" company. Maybe they should get into more promotional business... but they're not in that business.
I would argue that Spotify is "(insert more successful band in the genre here) is looking for a warm up act for their gig in your town".
If you're in a very middle of the pack mass appeal genre - you're definitely screwed on Spotify, or anywhere, without a breakout act(corporate contract/viral video)
I wouldn't buy "your band's" album, even if I could listen to it right before buying it. I don't have the time to listen to 30 minutes of audio without being hooked onto it first.
One unknown song in my Google Music or Soundcloud auto-playlist may get me hooked... But you need to build a desire to buy the album beforehand.
I don't think I'm the only person like that, btw.
One CD sold at a gig for $10 is equal to about 2,000 Spotify plays. A t-shirt sale is double that. A mid-level band can play to 200 people a night and do $1000 daily in merch, easy (and I've personally done it). Sure, if people discover the band via Spotify, that brings them to shows, so there is the discoverability aspect - but the compensation is not remotely comparable.
Spotify profits off of the market value of streaming music having dropped to practically nothing (due to practically infinite supply), and their pay rates are terrible as a result.
"Mid-level" band playing to 200 people who don't know who they are, and might buy a few T-Shirts isn't making much either. Plus they have to quit their jobs and travel, or settle for local shows once a month (or right now, zero shows for practically the entire year). The bar or "house" might pay the band $250 for the show, split 4 or 5 ways... plus deduct any overpriced alcohol and food the band consumed. They often walk away with barely enough money to put into the gas tank.
Heck, most of the professional, full-time "mid-level" bands can hardly afford their practice space monthly rent.
Very, very few "Mid-level" bands make money. It's a passion project. Very few get lucky enough to make it to the next level and tour with some known bands.
Assuming the album is 10 songs, am I then right in thinking that once I've listened to an album over 200 times (2000 individual song-plays) then the artist would have been better off if I'd used spotify rather than buying the cd?
200 plays over a few decades of album ownership sounds like a pretty low threshold for cds to be better for artists than spotify. Perversely, it looks as though the only artists who will have done better from me buying their album are ones I grew tired of quickly (though my reselling the album could mitigate that).
You have to back such claims with data.
"Access to millions of potential listeners from around the world" was an advance that had arrived with internet itself and monetized with a number of retailed-recording models like iTunes or Amazon.
Or Pandora, if you like, but it's important to note it is a big mistake to think of Spotify and Pandora as the same thing. They're no more in the same category than FM radio is in the same category as a cabinet full of records. Pandora is radio evolved,and it's a discovery and promotional boon, I happily enjoy it and pay for it. Spotify is something else entirely -- it isn't primarily a radio station, it is a cloud replacement for record collections or the practice of owning recordings at all. Even calling it "streaming" almost kneecaps attempts to think about it productively because of how much that term is associated with broadcast.
Spotify's value-ad isn't audience reach. It isn't even algorithmic or social recommendation, both of which were done before it began to gnaw away at the industry. Spotify's contribution to both is marginal.
The big first-order benefit for the consumer is that it replaces retailed-recording revenue with very fractional per-stream revenue, and so it turns out you pay a lot less and the artist gets paid a lot less.
Trying to justify that with "yes, but their potential audience is so much bigger" ignores that artists have to do a LOT of increased volume to make up. 100 plays for every single or album they might have sold is a floor; in a retailed-recording model, someone who nets $.50 a song is already doing better than someone who gets 100 plays on Spotify (also, that's average and there are some rank-takes-all issues with how payments are distributed). And you still have the classic problem artists have always had -- how do you capture fickle and scarce attention?
And if you're relying on attention-volume, then that means niche music isn't going to be as much, so you need to pick a form that has the broadest possible appeal. And like the article says, you need to also focus on volume of material rather than polishing less frequent releases for a long time. And of course, marketing & promotion matters more than ever when a broad audience makes the economics work.
Do we like these incentives? Or do we just like paying less up front and not having to think about them?
As you say, let's be honest and clear-eyed about our answers.
Most of us have known or lived with someone in a band at some point in our youth. Some of us still play in bands for fun. How much money did they or do you make from selling CD's today?
It's practically zero, and it's been practically zero the entire time I've been alive. Anecdata, the people in bands I currently know produce and print CD's at a total loss. They literally give them away for free, hoping to get someone to listen to their latest masterpiece.
Pandora and Spotify are a massive boon for these folks.
Revenues to artists from digital distribution is a fraction of what it was during the CD days.
People used to pay for music, now they do not.
People also used to steal music too. Having a "free" or minimal-cost streaming option has pretty much removed that desire for most people.
> Revenues to artists from digital distribution is a fraction of what it was during the CD days.
Perhaps for the Taylor Swift's of the world, sure. For everyone else, which makes up 99.99% of musicians, bands and artists... they made zero or negative money before, now they have a chance to get in front of people who would otherwise never know who they are or listen to their music. That's a win for the 99.99%.
So yes, you make a good point about the long tail.
However - the barrier was reasonable. It was possible to make an album and get it out without killing yourself - the actual manufacture of a CD/Cassette is not that much.
So that barrier was maybe artificial, but it did definitely make it so that most big music was good. The secondary acts could make demo/mix tapes.
By dropping the barrier you definitely get a bunch of artists we would not otherwise, but the signal to noise ratio is immense. There are 100 waste-of-time-noise artists for every serious one, and it's harder for the good one's to get through.
We see this on the top pop charts. There are still mega acts with decent production qualities like Taylor Swift - where the artistry is getting low (she is no Michael Jackson), and then the rest of it is unlistenable, reductive garbage. There was always quite a lot of that (i.e. a lot of not-very-good music on the charts) - but the signal to noise ratio is a much bigger problem now.
So - the 'decent music' that is not 'really pop' like Taylor Swift never gets through. Decent artists are stuck in a pile of noise and rubble.
Spotify has to price match against those giants who subsidize their respective services with other profitable aspects of the business.
Spotify themselves for the most part having been losing money/matching even.
What can Spotify do? They raise the cost of premium, they lose marketshare and that would be a death spiral no?
Cory Doctorow points the way in Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free talking about future models for artists to make a living. It might superficially seem like the Spotify CEO is saying the same things but this is just cover for the gatekeepers to keep an unconscionable share for themselves.
It's sad that many talented artists are brainwashed by these big platforms. They chase after big money. They don't produce anything original.
I think the same thing is happening to software.
They can, but only as long as they don't care about money. But musicians also need to pay rent.
You can't put Rammstein in the same league as my friend who would like to make a living in music but realizes that it's unlikely he'll ever make pay-the-rent kind of money from that, simply due to the sheer volume of competition and luck involved (while their music is as good as any song I've heard in the genre, it's a combination of reaching the right people and stumbling upon better ideas than your competition, which both have a significant luck factor). The former can do what they want and still get that private jet, the latter has to "spend their time riding a perpetual wave that they have to continually feed" and likely still couldn't pay the rent. That spectrum is way too broad to generalize into "musicians".
I'm not even that big a fan of Rammstein, just a few of their songs I like :)
And that was 2012 - I'm sure things haven't improved since then.
Maybe if you want to be mega-successful, but I have to believe there's room for other approaches too. My favorite band that I've discovered since joining Spotify is Darkwater. They have three albums (2007, 2010, and 2019). Right now, this is the only band I would absolutely make sure to see if they tour within a couple 100 miles. I have to believe they're paying the bills without too much trouble.
In the vinyl era, when a single LP was about 40 minutes long, it was pretty normal for artists to release roughly an album a year. (e.g. Led Zeppelin's eight studio albums were released over a span of 10.5 years, but one was a double album and they took a long break when Robert Plant's son died. The first 7 albums were released over 7 years).
It seems like it was only when albums started to be recorded for the longer CD format (75 min or so) that the time between albums seemed to increase, as if artists felt they needed to have enough material to fill a substantial fraction of a CD's capacity before releasing.
Now that we're in the streaming era, there isn't any particular container size to "fill" to make an album, so there isn't any particular reason for bands to wait long periods, except for their own creative cycles. The notion of an "album" isn't really constrained by any physical limits anymore and it's really just "a bunch of songs released together".
I think the Ek's statements just reflect the fact that it's easier to be successful if you're prolific, and the the new model actually pays when people listen (roughly speaking), rather than just when they buy.
Also, it lets you take breaks and lets things breathe. It's really hard to take a song from creation to recording to mastering to releasing without giving yourself a break in the meantime.
Also also, batching out writing, recording, and post-prod makes it go much faster as well
In short, it's far far easier to make 12 songs in a year than one song in a month, and you'll get a much better product out of it.
Also, there's nothing stopping anyone from recording a bunch of work at once and then releasing it over time.
Back in the 70's, bands just didn't casually tour the world like now.
I think you have the causality backwards. Because CDs were a longer format, they enabled bands to take longer tours before having to release another album.
78s were an A and a B side, they could be released as singles/one offs and generally weren't cohesive. Eventually you had people releasing related works or having longer recording sessions.
It sounds like a scenario of "What is old is new again", not that singles ever faded but all mediums outside of digital required the same amount of effort from the user for 1 track as it did for an album (put on an LP vs 45, cassettes had singles too but it's the same effort, CD changing would be difficult for a single song).
Shows with 50 or more episodes in the entire series may take years for the whole series to come out. But they never really try to go more than a year without releasing a batch of ~10 episodes.
Yep, now just apply this to all creators and you get the gist.
Few artists have whole albums worth listening to.
Reviews for metal bands will trash albums that only have 1 or 2 good songs.
Some artists have one piece that is great for a wide audience and all of their other stuff is only for select listeners.(aka one hit wonders)
If you only listened to people who release consistently good music - you'd listen to 10 artists in total(or something like that).
Sorry that you know of only ten decent bands, when there are actually tens of thousands of artists that never add filler to their albums.
In hindsight, I should have paid artists fairly, that much is clear to me now (I paid ever since Grooveshark).
Nevertheless, not having experienced the music album phase, it seems like an odd thing to pay for things you know you don't want and have to switch CDs the whole time to get to what you do want. I can't think of a single album I'd listen A-Z. There are a few rare bands where I like most of their songs (because they're very similar), and some bands where I don't like most songs but I like most from one or two of their albums, but I don't think there exists a single album where I like all songs, nor that I like >=50% of the songs in 50% of the albums of which I like >=1 song.
I also grew up during Napster & Co., but it's really not that hard to recognize that albums exist and aren't really tied to a specific medium. You can buy them as digital downloads, on CD or vinyl.
As someone who loves albums and regards EPs let alone singles as a lesser, rushed and not particularly worthwhile format, let me assure you that you don't have to pay for things you don't want. The trick is to buy strong albums that avoid filler content and don't need to rely on a single hit.
I admit that it takes effort to find the gems in a sea of mediocrity, but in absolute numbers there are more great albums than ever in addition to the ones you might have missed in the past. I'd say anyone claiming that there isn't any fantastic, album-worthy music isn't looking hard enough.
First of all, I don't listen to albums, I listen to songs.
Secondly, greatness is hard to achieve and even harder to maintain. Listening just to songs as part of great albums composed of only great songs would mean that I would not listen to a lot of great songs, because in many cases some of the other songs on an album are bad. I would also probably listen to a lot fewer artists I like, for the same reason.
Thirdly, sometimes it's not even about great or not. In many cases my opinion of what constitutes a great song disagrees with what the artist considers a great song. So I might not personally like a song on an album. For example, I hate long guitar solos, I consider them a form of musical bravado which I do not like. Obviously guitarists would disagree with me :-)
And lastly, you committed a fallacy, it's called appeal to incredulity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_incredulity ("someone must be listening to music <<the wrong way>>, their music must be horrible"). I'm free to listen to whatever I want and there are many ways to happiness. You can't objectively prove that someone's path to happiness is wrong as long as they don't harm someone else.
To quote someone I know: "Everybody thinks that all their friends are nice, all the music they listen to is good and all the code they write is good" :-)
But I think you'll find most folks who do are older and/or fans of specific genres. A lot of acts in some genres don't release "albums" like you're thinking of anymore.
None of my peers do it, though.
How many of those artists continuously engage with the community? How many were famous before Spotify existed?
It’s not like software where we can iterate/improve as we learn. In music, you capture a moment, a sensation, an experience - and you had better capture it as intended, even if that means an extra month in the studio.
This same musician told me that the increased ubiquity of singles is intended to speed up iteration/feedback/ship cycles.
It was super interesting at the time and a lot of internet music circles were talking about the potential of this going forward considering it's only possible because of the streaming services. But unfortunately it didn't seem to catch on and I haven't seen any other examples.
In fact, having tremendous wealth and fame come with additional costs. You end up needing a mansion, not for the space per se but for privacy and security. You end up needing bodyguards. Etc.
One way to make services like Spotify make sense for "average joe" musicians and other creatives is to address the other half of the equation: The cost of living for the average joe.
We basically only build upper class housing these days. The average new home in the 1950s was about 1200 square feet and housed about 3.5 people. These days, it's more like 2400 square feet (or more) and houses about 2.5 people
We have also torn down a million SROs and we largely have done away with things like boarding houses, where you rented a room and got breakfast and dinner as part of the rent and you supplied your own lunch elsewhere. Instead, we default to expecting young people to share a house or apartment designed for a nuclear family with a bunch of strangers. Then we make horror movies about it, like Single White Female, and then fail to go "Huh. Maybe that's not such a wonderful thing to insist young, single people do."
Health care is another major issue in the US. It costs way too much and many other developed countries handle that better, so we have many other examples to draw from. It's not like we need to brilliantly design something that's never been done before to make this work. We just mostly need the political will and to take our heads out of our butts in this country.
Indie artists are sinking more into getting their songs promoted on playlists than they gain in streaming revenue in return. It's literally "pay to be played"
(Remember "Pay to Play" in Sunset Strip clubs in the 80's? You would literally front the money for renting the club on a Tuesday or Thursday and then sell tickets and hope to pay off your "concert" (Friday/Saturday had music the club actually booked & paid, hence their "reputation" was solid)
Anyway, I severely resent the massive influence these relatively new corporate overlords have had in reducing the value of music significantly.
BANDCAMP is one suggested remedy, as they take their (relatively small, I think its' around 10%?) cut from your sales and allow you to have your bands page and sub-domain "yourband.bandcamp.com" etc... in other words: they treat you respectfully as humans should treat other humans.
This race to the bottom can only end in more Aututuned Pop, lol...
I don't really want to read 20 hackernews' argue about how hard it is/isn't to make a hit album.
Quality music takes more effort, training, and skill to make than low-quality music, and this is not about the production alone.
Expert-level musicians are generally disregarded by Joe Q. Public in favor of Joe Q. Publics "favorite" musicians, training and knowledge and compositional skill notwithstanding. The limiting factor is Joe Q. Public's musical listening skills, which certainly will not improve in a world that is racing to achieve cheaper mass-produced conformist "music" that likely will be replaced by algorithmic generation in the near future.
I am hardly a great composer, but even I could describe formulaic "genre music" in such a manner that a decent music AI could iterate it nonstop.
The subject of people "liking genres" rather than following individual artists of talent across their works as they explore all genres, etc... that's a different topic for a different day.
I will also contend that grooming a public to like simplistic rhythms that are easy to program on 16-note step sequencers is not accidental.
Let's say I run a bookstore. 70% of my revenue goes to pay workers. A works 32 hours, B works 5 hours, and C works 3 hours.
Is it not fair to give A 80% of the pay pool, since she worked 80% of the hours?
Finally, terrestrial pop radio, independent college radio, and ham radioesque bedroom experimentalists are all on the same platform, the swim lanes have been erased. Everything is flattened, everything is discoverable, yet the sobering truth that few people are streaming their work elicits attacks on Spotify from bands and marginal artists. How is their contempt justified?
If we want to try and analyze this, we should analyze what music distribution was like prior to digital. My guess is that for most artist who went through traditional publishing and distribution, they only received 10-20% per album sale. That seems high too.
Of course, a platform wants people to keep strutting out stuff on their own platform.
As for royalties from Spotify, perhaps an issue of the middlemen required and not required. I remember chat about the web being a great evener on this front where independents could strut their stuff and virality would take care of the rest.
Apparently convenience and one platform, as with so many things on the web trumps everything else.
The commoditization of Music?
The complete lack of understanding of how creativity works?
Telling artists to "work harder" while his net worth is in the billions, all thanks to the exploitation of said artists?
All this non-sense during a terrible crisis that puts many musicians out of job since nowadays they have to rely on live performances to make a buck, all thanks to....platforms like spotify?
Can we please boycott spotify to hell?
I'm biased myself, having spent the last 20 years studying software dev and then working in software. I feel that while it is a lot of work, the market is quite hot for any technical talent, and making a decent living is straightforward. Even a shitty software dev likely makes a comfortable living, you don't have to be Jeff Dean. In CS you can graduate from MIT and probably be set for life, but in music you can graduate from Juliard or Berklee and likely still be living on a futon for decades. Or am I off here?
Whereas as a solo producer/composer (or someone in a band) it seems that getting anywhere near ramen profitability is really really hard. It's reminiscent of startups: you have to find your niche, you have to constantly stay relevant, you have to market yourself incessantly on every medium, and most likely you'll be drowned into obscurity by someone else who became a winner-take-all in that space. And while the payoff for founders in small to medium startups is still pretty decent (and can be life-changing), as an artist is seems like the polarization between starving and huge is even greater.
Even in photography you can always "sell out" and shoot weddings in perpetuity while you're doing more artistic work on the side. And that "main gig" pays reasonably well, even though it's exhausting. But with music things like playing gigs will likely not get you anywhere close to sustainability. Maybe teaching is the "weddings" of music?
I once had a piano teacher who remarked: "why do musicians make so little money? For the same reason they do so many drugs. Professional musicians are paid in dopamine."
There is nothing like a crowd cheering for you.
But you're right, you can make a living being a wedding DJ, or if you can get gigs at upscale hotels/restaurants playing cello or piano, you can make a pretty decent living as a musician. But it takes a lot more work than learning to hook up a bunch of web forms to a database, and usually, it pays a lot less money. Then there's always teaching; and I believe if you have the ability to kindly teach music to children, you have attained enlightenment.
If you are striking out on your own, the grind is like founding a startup. If you build yet another photo-sharing app (or you're a guitar player who sings about love), you have to be uncommonly talented and lucky to break through. Similarly, startups come in many genres; maybe high tech startups are like jazz - often founded by PhDs, and very often failures because no one can wrap their head around it - even though it is brilliant.
If you can make it work - either startups or music, you get paid in dopamine and money. If you make it out the other side of that gauntlet, I believe you have also achieved enlightenment.
If you want to "make a living", it can be done in music. However, you will generally be more stable and comfortable in the world of tech.
That's a good point, never thought of it that way. As a developer, it's satisfying to get better at your craft and to get small dopamine boosts from elegantly written solutions, but it's not like the rollercoaster of being in front of a bajillion people and sweating bullets and nailing your part, especially when playing in a band and melting away into something bigger than you. You can only get so much transcendence from writing login flow #65 and getting your integration tests to pass.
To be fair, as a startup founded you also don't exactly feel these incredible peaks of dopamine, but there's a longer sense of satisfaction, confidence and ownership of being a big part of something successful that puts food on the table for a bunch of people and solves pain points for even more people.
The way I see it, and I'd be curious to hear what you think, is that trying to get big the hard and old way in music (aka make a "stale" genre album, release album, hope you go viral) is kind of like starting yet another pizza shop in the middle of new york city. You're one of many, you likely don't have anything so revolutionary to suddenly crush your competition. You're very much of a commodity. Seems to me that you'd be much better off being at the beginning of a new fashion or trend in music genres, or using a new music or distribution technology (e.g. drum machines & synths, or maybe streaming your music on Twitch, or maybe TikTok) that's suddenly getting people's attention. Like with a startup, you'd be better off taking advantage of a landscape shift of sorts rather than making photo sharing app #57365 in 2020. Still won't guarantee success, but at least will improve it.
1M * $15 * 0.1 = $1.5M
The CEO shows a concerning misunderstanding. Some music is timeless. Some songs remain landmarks even decades after their release.
I abhor it when people force their own music preferences and beliefs on others. As other people have said, Mr. Ek can go fuck himself.
Perhaps it was a less competitive industry at the time, but certainly less efficient (and relatively more expensive) production tools were available compared to today.
I'll just leave this here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa_discography
If I pay my £10 a month and only listen to whatever 5 indie bands I like, I’d expect them to get £2 each from my listening.
But they don’t. Lady Gaga will get most of my money despite me never listening to her music, because all they do is put everyone’s money in a big pile and divide it up depending on who got the most listens.
They have to do that because otherwise Lady Gaga wasn’t put her music on Spotify.
The question then becomes, when I already know other valuable professions, why would I want to? Then the income would have to rival the other work I can do. I mean, I do get more pleasure from making music, but only because I don't overdo it. Work, on the other hand, is work. If I made music into work, I'm not sure I'd like it anymore. So then whatever I produce is intermittent.
But, if I wanted to make music a secondary activity, that doesn't need to be my main source of income, then yeah, I'd probably keep pushing music to places like Bandcamp. And I guess that's the beauty of it, because now there finally is a niche for us who don't want to be slaves to the art. Or to Ek's platform. So while Ek makes these outrageous claims, I'll be doing something completely different. And when I do decide to make love to my guitar, the music that comes out of it, will be a love child, and not the work of a mindless slave.
This is why I think "working musicians" never have to become slaves of the stupid and oppressive ideas of people like Ek. I just don't buy into that crap. There's a market. And that market has alternatives that also works for us who "just" want to release stuff intermittently. In fact I don't even use his platform to listen to music. Why, when there are so many great alternatives, that are also much more fair to the creators? (I guess an Ek fanboi downvoted. Hey if you've got something to say, say it, coward!)
Many of us in the music industry have been doing more single-based releases than album-based, because there really is no point to albums anymore. If you have a couple of tracks that all fit together, by all means, release them at once. But music isn't album-driven anymore, it's track-driven, and has been for a very long time.
In the corners I'm familiar with (metal, rock, a bit of punk, various niche crossovers), the album is still king. Most artists will drop an album every couple of years and maybe an EP or two in between. Some of the most beloved and admired artists have released maybe 3 or 4 albums over a multi-decade career. They put together concept albums that work as a whole. Some will put out 40+ minute albums as a single track, because it's meant to be listened to in full, and needs you to take the time to do so.
There has been a slow change more towards EPs, especially for the more underground and independent bands. There's no reason to make a full album if you have 3-4 tracks that stand up on their own as a cohesive whole. In the old days, label's would often force artists to pad out those with filler tracks, just to produce a "full album".
These artists make their money through merch sales and touring, and it works because of a dedicated fanbase.
Popular music may be singles-driven and I would say that it has always been so. Thankfully there is a lot more out there than popular music.
For all I care, every single one of the big labels and streaming services could disappear tomorrow.
This is exactly the problem: the technological advances changed the music consumption and music, unfortunately, follows. So instead of empowering the artists with more creative freedom it forced everyone to follow the same route. It's appalling.
Be more iterative, experimental, and user driven by releasing an album's worth of content over the course of a few years. Seems like this reduces the risk for musicians publishing music that doesn't have an audience.
Getting caught up in a "rapid release cycle" means a race to the lowest common denominator in search of popularity.
My heart has fallen at the thought of agile software development invading the creative process
No more albums every 3/4 years means no more singles leading to the hype of an album nor more meaningful shows around one theme. No more albums means no more ways to put something on for an hour of development and feeling like you're (re)living something that has a beginning and an end while having consistency.
During this quarantine, After Hours by the Weeknd and The Slow Rush by Tame Impala have been my best partners. Sure I've listened to playlists, but the delusion of The Weeknd and the tempo of Tame Impala's album will stay in my mind as elements of this period, not single tracks. Asking musicians to constantly release is like removing the concept of books to only satisfy ourselves with news articles and tweets. Maybe it makes more money, but what a depressing artistic world.
I really only listen to whole albums. Especially Tame Impala, Father John Misty, Mac DeMarco, Lana Del Ray, Fleer Foxes, St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, and on. Those type of artists won’t change because of whatever the Spotify CEO believes. There is still a place for thoughtfully-crafted full albums and they’ll continue to exist.
The gist of it all - don't got dark for 4 years, unless you're planning to retire.
Recommendations from friends for movies and TV shows are usually very good, but not with music. My opinion of Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music recommendations is much worse. I find that I am better off randomly picking music tracks.
* go to the wikipedia page for an artist or album you like and look for
* reviews and ratings that line up with what you thought: you might find a critic or outlet with similar tastes that can provide new recommendations
* the producer or label: their other works might be similar to what you already like
* (on the artist page) the "associated acts" of the artist: you might like other projects with which the artist is involved
* any influences listed: you might like what the artist liked
* reddit has many music sub-reddits https://www.reddit.com/r/Music/wiki/musicsubreddits
* /mu/ is actually a pretty good 4chan board. The essentials wiki is a good starting point that doesn't require filtering through trolling: https://4chanmusic.fandom.com/wiki/Essential_Charts
When I craze the music often enough I go and purchase those tracks in bandcamp. This particular music mixer has a ton of content and clearly goes out of their way to sift through a bunch of music in that space they think is worthy to compile into a collection which they do a good job of.
Their mixes are reposted to soundcloud too I think.
Instead, I find albums I already know I like and look for well-written reviews on the album page. Then I click into the reviewer’s profile, see if I like/recognize any of the other stuff they’ve reviewed, and if so, I follow them. Boom, it’s like you’ve found a friend who actually enjoys the same music you do.
I think singles and smaller albums (5 tracks or less) are the sweet spot these days - for consumers and for artists.
At first I didn't really like this trend b/c I enjoy listening to the full album through on first listen. But I do understand why they are doing this to adapt to the streaming age.
Instead of releasing a 12-song album once every two years, they split that release into 3 every 6 months (5 song EP, 5 song EP, combined album + 2 bonus). As consumers we get the music earlier and more frequently. They get 3 release hype cycles for the same amount of creative work, which is what they need to be discovered in streaming platforms.
As a musician and someone who spent years in the "biz". Its never going to be like it was in the 70's. Those days are gone.
"We're not making enough money from you lazy idiots we stole from the main music industry, noses to the grind-stones!!!"
I'm pretty sure that paying a streaming royalty of $00.0038 per stream is an established fact and not a "narrative fallacy."
Only a small handful of artists in the world have ever been able to afford to take 4 years off between albums. These are the U2 and Cold Plays. These are also the touring acts that make a fortune on the road so it's highly unlikely that these people are complaining. The majority of artists are hard working. The only way they make money now is by going on the road. It's helps to sell tickets if you have a new release you are promoting that their fans are excited about. It takes time to write an album's worth of good material. Once that's done you have to record, mix and master the record. This can easily take months. Once the album is in the can its up to the record company to choose a release date. There's usually some strategy with the date that is chosen. It takes time to book a tour and tour dates have their own strategy so it's not uncommon for a record to be done but not release for another few months. Then the artists goes on the road - they will try to hit the festival circuit in the US in spring and the European festival circuit in summer and then a tour in the Fall. All of this take time. A lot of time. Maybe you could complete this cycle "write, record, tour" cycle every year and certainly band in the 70's did for a time but that's not sustainable. Certainly not for anyone but a young person in their early 20's. Even being able to complete the "write, record, tour" cycle every 18 months is a grind.
Does Daniel Ek really not understand any of the basic realities of being a musical artist in 2020? Is he that clueless or is he simply promoting his own "narrative fallacy" of the lazy complaining artist?
YouTube did the same thing to video content. The internet drives everything to the lowest common denominator.
They release every 3-4 years and I buy albums. Works great.
I don’t have any streaming music service.
A musician's job is to create music. Period. It's hard enough on it's own.
Hollywood accounting at its finest
Quality takes time, especially in music.
I wonder if that CEO has ever made any music themselves?
If you completely ignore your audience and don't work with them - who's going to buy your stuff?
Or am I too old for my own good?
Simples, but apperently so far :(
Otherwise paid performance amd commissions etc are always ways to generate more revenue.
No time for diatribution companies these days.
Artists are now competing in a larger pond. It would make sense (to me), that people move on from certain music quicker than they used too.
The Beatles only produced about 10 hours of unique music in their entire career. Can't coast like that any more!
I don’t think the article is that sensational, I just think that you might have a predisposed belief that news media is always (or at least most of the time) sensationalized.
The Angry People here seem to read it as him ordering musicians what to do to have a place in his world.
It's all about what tone you read the quote in.
What a time to be alive.
Is the hashtag for explication about what a crock of utter shit this is and the unbelievably bent deal that is streaming revenue.
no system can replace a good live concert, it's a high grade experience (sometimes religious even)
if the music industry goes toward absurdism, the "customers" will just find the real drug elsewhere
I was just taking a guess based on the obscene price.