Music streaming hits sour note with artists
Once hailed as a saviour of the music industry, the model is under attack for what it pays to musicians
Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, pulled some of his material from Spotify and said the service was bad for new music.
The music industry has been going through a rough time lately. First it was illegal downloading, blamed for the decline in record sales and revenue at labels, doing countless artists out of their earnings. Industry groups, backed by the labels, have put a lot of time and effort into blocking sites and taking down services that they deem responsible for the copyright infringement.
Now, the music industry has a new bogeyman: streaming. Specifically, low-cost and free services that pay artists and labels a small amount of money every time a track they own is played.
Once hailed as the saviour of an industry that failed to move with the times, streaming has suddenly found itself under attack. The target for the bulk of the ire is Spotify, the commercial streaming service that was founded in 2006.
And it seems that people are lining up to knock the service down. Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, pulled some of his material from the service, including his solo album and material from Atoms for Peace, and said the service was bad for new music.
Bandmate and producer Nigel Godrich announced the decision on Twitter, calling it a “small, meaningless rebellion”. “Someone gotta say something. It’s bad for new music,” he wrote.
“The numbers don’t even add up for Spotify yet. But it’s not about that. It’s about establishing the model which will be extremely valuable. Meanwhile, small labels and new artists can’t even keep their lights on. It’s just not right.”
The two were supported by Brian Molko of Placebo, who was quoted as saying the service was only interested in making money at the expense of others.
Spotify isn’t alone in offering streaming services. The Napster name was well known several years ago for its contribution to peer-to-peer sharing, but these days, the company is owned by Rhapsody and offers a paid-for streaming service. Available in Ireland since June, Napster has one million paying subscribers with access to more than 16 million songs.
Deezer, meanwhile, has a total of 26 million users across its various offerings, including a free discovery mode which offers unlimited streaming on a laptop or PC for 12 months and limits it to two hours a month after that.
The subscription model has about four million users, offering ad-free access for a flat fee per month. It uses editorial curation to offer suggestions for users, to promote new bands and new releases, rather than depending on algorithms. Crucially, it also links to online stores such as iTunes that allow the user to buy the track outright.
Spotify may not be the only streaming service out there, but it is the biggest globally. More than six million subscribers pay each month to access its catalogue, which includes everything from major established bands such as Metallica and Coldplay to up-and-coming artists, including Irish bands such as Kodaline and The Coronas.
Taking to Twitter to explain why, Yorke said the band was standing up for fellow musicians.
“Make no mistake new artists you discover on #Spotify will no [sic] get paid. Meanwhile shareholders will shortly being rolling in it. Simples.”
The main argument is over the amount of money that services such as Spotify pay per stream of a track. The exact amount paid for each stream varies from service to service and according to the deals that are hammered out with rights owners. Deezer said its terms are confidential, but it pays market value.