Are Music Lovers Hurting Musicians When We Stream?
I’m always on the hunt for new music and I continue to explore the world of online music. I was an early user of Pandora and have found lots of new musicians that I wouldn’t have heard since the demise of record stores with listening stations.
I’ve seen a number of fantastic concerts in the last couple of years: Rhiannon Giddens, Patty Griffin, Lake Street Dive, Arlo Guthrie, Daniel Lanois, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, David Bromberg, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Lindi Ortega, Chris Thile and Bela Fleck, Amy Helm, The Deslondes, Margo Price and even Barry McGuire (remember – “Eve of Destruction!”). And lots more I’ve missed.
Now, I’ve started to wonder if I’m hurting the very musicians whose music I want to support by using Spotify? If I can find it on Spotify, why buy it? If we don’t buy it, will they be able to continue to make new music?
On one hand, Spotify allows me to find lots of music — new music, old music I haven’t heard in many years and other music from artists I like but hadn’t heard. For example, after Ornette Coleman passed away, I was able to find many of his albums and get re-introduced to his music. Same with Jean Ritchie.
On other hand, it’s so easy to use Spotify that I might be shortchanging the artists I want to support. Music lovers have a responsibility to music.
So, I decided to email directly one of the artists whose music and politics I admire a great deal. It was a cold email across the transom and I didn’t know if I’d get a response.
I got an answer just a few days later that’s worth sharing. Here’s the response:
“The short answer is this – the best way to support the musician financially is to buy their CD at their show; next is through online and real world record shops. A distant last is Spotify – the revenue is negligible. What I do is research with Spotify and figure out what I really want, and then I go buy it, either on iTunes or at the show; it can be a great tool to discover music. But can we live off Spotify? Definitely not. That’s my two cents as a full-time musician!”
My response: That’s exactly what I’ll do.