Why Spotify is going to ruin music
Think about that amount. In data from a few years ago, a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan cost $1800 a month. Your electric bill is somewhere around $150 to $200. Internet. Phone. Cable or satellite. Food. And, most expensive of all, gasoline.
How far will $167 go? Or more importantly, who will the money go to?
In this case the answer is Lady Gaga, the biggest star in the world at the moment. It was given to her by Spotify as songwriting royalties on a song that had garnered millions of plays. I think it’s a safe bet that your average independent artist is getting far less than that.
Back in 2009, Swedish recording artist Magnus Uggla opined that “I’d rather be raped by The Pirate Bay than shafted by Hasse Breitholtz and Sony Music.” (While many are hailing this as an end to the music industry- and I hate the industry as much as anybody- and a victory for independent music, Spotify is, in fact, owned by Sony and other major labels.)
Oh, and Spotify is also, based on what I’ve heard from tech people, nearly impossible to use.
All of this wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself. Online music piracy has been an issue for years and the only difference here is that Spotify is making you pay for it and acting as if they’re a legitimate business. The problem is that they are a streaming service and if this catches on it will be the single worst thing to ever happen to music.
I’ve experimented with streaming services before, back when Google had Lala and I have found that you end up listening to far less music. Allow me to walk you through an average streaming session.
“I think I’ll check out that new punk band my friend was telling me about…..This is pretty cool, but if I want punk, I’ll listen to Black Flag…Hey, I wonder if that’s on here….Black….whoa, cool. They have Black Sabbath….I think I’ll listen to that instead….”War Pigs,” what a great anti-war song…..Let’s find some Phil Ochs. I’ll come back and listen to this later….Damn, I love Phil Ochs. I think some of his songs were every bit as good as…..Dylan! Yeah they have Modern Times on here. That was a hell of a record sort of like old school blues mixed with….wait. Let’s hear some Junior Wells……Love that harmonica…..Which reminds me. Mickey Raphael is a great harmonica player. I’m gonna go listen to Willie. Red Headed Stranger. Don’t you love this old West theme? Hey! I wonder if they have Marty Robbins on here…..”
All of that in a span of 10 minutes. You rarely complete a single song, let alone an entire album. That is what this modern ADD world has given us. More music, but less listening. Tom Petty said, way back in 2006, “”I was up until the middle of the night sequencing [Highway Companion]. And I am starting to think, ‘Who cares? ‘Cause they’re just a bunch of button pushers.'” The album is quickly becoming a lost art and not only will Spotify end it for good, but it will also eventually destroy independent music in this country.
And Lady Gaga’s getting $167 out of it. What’s Fifth on the Floor getting? They are easily one of the best bands out there right now, melding together old school rock and roll with real honky tonk and a touch of blues. And they are constantly touring. If streaming takes over and nobody- even those who happen to click on them- hears their music, what happens? And they are not alone. I predict here and now that, if Spotify succeeds, 99% of the artists covered here will not be able to afford releasing an album in 10 years.
But what the hell? There’s a lot of good music there. Let’s go listen to it now and screw the consequences.