Must See Documentary: The Way the Music Died: Why You Should #DitchSpotify

Big thanks to Jon at Camden Live for posting about this really important documentary about the deep, down and dirty effects of Spotify on music, musicians and the creative process.

It’s always been a hard road for musicians to make money from their songs. Nonetheless, selling tons of singles and albums was at least a target and something bands could dream about.  Of course, there were many ways the labels could work the sales figures to get their shares out first, and only then the bands might see something. Despite the conflict between the often industrial-strength labels and the upcoming artists, there was at least hope that money was flowing back to the content creators.  Now though in the age of streaming music, the connection between making music and making a living is profoundly broken.

This schism is the subject matter for Lightbringer Production’s documentary film “The Way The Music Died” featuring insights from musicians and industry pros, including Mishkin Fitzgerald from Birdeatsbaby.  The film probes the spirit of artists determined to keep writing songs in the face of the meager payouts from the giant and ever-growing music stream service Spotify. Find out why this is ripping-out the heart and soul of new music.

#DitchSpotify

@artistrightsnow Op-Ed: Spotify’s New ‘Discovery Mode’ Is Just Payola

Getting discovered in the music business has never been easy. Before the pandemic, artists could at least rely on the industry’s historic mainstay to break through — playing as many gigs as possible and hoping to build a following. But with that path closed for now, artists and their label partners are increasingly dependent on Spotify, the undisputed king of music streaming, and its black box algorithms.

That’s why Spotify’s cynical decision to use this moment to launch a new pay-for-play scheme pressuring vulnerable artists and smaller labels to accept lower royalties in exchange for a boost on the company’s algorithms is so exploitative and unfair. Artists must unite to condemn this thinly disguised royalty cut, which apparently has just been released in “beta” mode and is soon expected to enter the market in full force. 

Read the post on Rolling Stone

Another One Bites the Dust: Bandcamp acquired by Tencent’s Epic Games and still no fairness for session musicians

Bandcamp has been a safe haven for independent artists for years and throughout the pandemic. When asked by fans where fans can go to engage in fair commerce with artists outside of the downward centrifugal force of the big pool maelstrom, many said go to Bandcamp.

Now that Bandcamp is acquired by Epic Games, the cats paw of its 40% owner (that we know of) the Chinese surveillance company Tencent, the bloom may be off the rose. Tencent, like its affiliate Spotify, uses music for data scraping in the music-driven streaming data honeypot.

An example: Spotify has integrated “neuromarketing” into its advertising sales efforts.  “Neuromarketing” is an ethically controversial area of research; the literature tells us, for example, that “…recent opinions on ‘neuromarketing’ within the neuroscience literature have strongly questioned the ethics of applying imaging techniques to the purpose of “finding the ‘buy button in the brain’ and …creating advertising campaigns that we will be unable to resist.”).  In other words, “neuromarketing” marries quite well with the addictive qualities of social media and the endless playlist of the celestial jukebox designed to keep “users” connected to Spotify, or what I call the “streaming data honeypot.”

The Bandcamp sale raises a number of competition questions, however, and also some business ethics questions if nothing else. First and foremost is the ability of platforms like Bandcamp to follow in the steps of Google, Facebook, Tunecore and Spotify and skim the cream off of the artist’s efforts to drive traffic to their platforms for years that adds tremendous value to the firms’ valuation, yet does not share in that value with the artists when they cash in on all the years of work. This is particularly insulting when it comes to session musicians, or the “nonfeatured artists,” who get zero from streaming and less than zero on platform payday, be it an acquisition like Bandcamp or a public offering like Spotify–or Tencent.

Doing the acquisition through Epic Games allows Tencent to hide its hand and the other activities it engages in like surveillance of international users for the Chinese government through its WeChat messaging app.

How does this all jibe with the Bandcamp ethos? Well, it certainly wasn’t mentioned in the Bandcamp founder’s groovy message about “joining” the Tencent ecosystem. A target describing getting acquired as “joining” the buyer is Orwellian Silicon Valley-speak for “cashing out on your hard work and giving you nothing” as opposed to “I took twenty pieces of silver.”

Was there any discussion of what happens to fan data going forward now that it’s partly owned by someone who has real problems with surveillance? Or any protections from what happens when Tencent buys a majority stake in Epic?

Nope.

What it does tell you is that streaming is now becoming a game of market share, largely driven in my view by the tension at the heart of the market-centric royalty model. That algebra boils down to this: Your Streams ÷ Total Streams = Your Royalty. When the number of recordings on streaming platforms like Spotify increases at a rate of tens of thousands a day, there will be an impact, even at the margins, on the number of Total Streams. If Your Streams does not increase at a rate that is greater than the increase in the rate of Total Streams, what happens?

Your royalty declines over time. It is math. It will happen–unless–unless you find a way to slow that decline by increasing Your Streams (which was the plan). The fastest way to do that is to acquire catalogs. Note that even if you have hits and build careers, it may not do that much long term to increase your streaming revenues quarter after quarter, which translates into month after month, week after week, day after day. And as streaming is becoming the dominant distribution configuration…that only left platforms like Bandcamp as a place that artists could get a fair return and sell in configurations of their choice. We’ll see how long that lasts.

What it does mean is that the industry got a little more concentrated and choices got a little narrower and achieving escape velocity of the streaming tractor beam of death got a little harder. And another one bites the dust.

Daniel Ek’s Edifice Complex: Millions for tribute, but not one red cent for royalties as Spotify buys naming rights to biggest football stadium in Europe

If screwups were Easter eggs, Daniel Ek would be the Easter bunny. Right in the middle of Spotify’s crashing stock price, billion-dollar stock buy backs, shenanigans at the Copyright Royalty Board (which grows more chaotic by the day), the Joe Rogan controversy, and an investigation by the UK competition authorities after an investigation by the Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee of the UK House of Commons, here’s another Easter egg that Little Danny missed.

According to Marca, the sport site based in Spain, Ek is soothing his (so far) failed bid to buy the UK football club Arsenal by acquiring the naming rights to Barcelona FC’s super-stadium, Camp Nou, the largest football stadium in Europe. According to Marca:

Sponsorship seems to be the way in which Laporta hopes to get the Blaugrana out of the red and into the black.

An agreement with music streaming platform Spotify, which is expected to be confirmed imminently, will see the club receive 225 million euros.

In turn, Spotify will sponsor the men and women’s shirts as well as their training wear. Furthermore, Spotify will have the rights to the stadium for the next three seasons- which has received mixed reviews from fans of the club.

Barcelona expect annual income of 20 million euros from Spotify to sponsor the Camp Nou, which is estimated to be more than Manchester City‘s deal with Etihad – who sponsor their stadium for 15 million euros per season.

That’s right–not one red cent for artists (or songwriters) but millions for tribute. And how did this deal come about do you think? Well, realize that Barcelona is also shopping for a rather large loan to renovate the Camp Nou stadium and they turned to…Goldman Sachs, which happens to be one of Spotify’s investment bankers. So which came first?

Does Goldman think there’s anything unethical about a company that screws creators all the livelong day but spends hundreds of millions on naming a soccer stadium after itself? (OK, I got that out with a straight face, but you can laugh now.) Evidently not, because in the catechism of Goldman, you stop at the fees novena.

And speaking of fees, what is the source of funds for Daniel Ek’s latest self-aggrandizement or whatever you call it? Perhaps a loan from Goldman before interest rates spike this year if the Federal Reserve really does say goodbye to the easy money era that has bubbled up assets around the world?