Mog and Spotify do not help bands or labels or indie stores. Not shaming you, just stating the facts since someone asked
— Grizzly Bear (@grizzlybear) August 31, 2012
After reading the recent New York Magazine article on Grizzly Bear’s financial struggles amid indie rock stardom, the above tweet shouldn’t come as a surprise, nor is it necessarily unsympathetic. I get it, trust me, as someone who is trying to pay rent by working with incredible artists and selling their music, I get it. But that doesn’t mean it’s true.
There are a few scenarios in which Spotify, Rdio and other streaming services do help artists and labels. Here’s one. Every Tuesday many of the streaming users hit up the new releases page and add new albums to their queue for the week. Including ones they’d never have listened to if iTunes or buying CD’s were the only option. A model that charges for the individual ownership of each album or song does not stimulate music discovery as much as a model that applies a fee regardless of how many albums you choose to listen to. A la carte leads to cherry picking, prix fixe to sampling and discovery.
To spell it out: stimulating music discovery leads to finding new favorites, new favorites can earn their way into turning listeners into fans, fans will attend concerts and buy merch (including music).
Case in point, aside from “Two Weeks” I hadn’t much listened to Grizzly Bear (surprising, I know), nor have I seen them in concert. But I did listen to their new release “Shields” and quite liked it, which led to me adding their back catalog to my queue. I’m pretty sure I will try to catch them at their new NYC show I can get tickets too.
Streaming is what radio used to be. A discovery tool. Was it more lucrative for artists and labels when people were still buying CD’s en masse? Yes of course! Being financially successful in music is much harder these days with sales dropping and income streams drying up. And that’s hard and shitty. At the same time, music has become only even more central part of people’s lives as access grows. There’s little point in tilting at windmills. It’s on us, artists/managers/labels, to figure out how we can add more value to a fan’s life and grow that relationship so that we can make a decent living together. I see streaming as a great tool to help us with that.
UPDATE: I had to add add this Billboard quote where Daniel Glass, whose label Glass Note just released the new Mumford & Sons album which had the highest first week sales since Gaga.
Instead of cannibalizing album sales, streaming services helped Mumford & Sons score even more fans in “Babel’s” debut sales week. The album smashed Spotify’s records for streams from an album in a single week, with around 8 million streams. According to Spotify chief content officer Ken Parks, one out of every 10 U.S. Spotify users played a song from “Babel” in its first seven days of release. “Opening up the faucet and letting people hear it and stream is definitely very healthy,” Glass adds, “and I think people inherently want to purchase an artifact, a memento, so they have a piece of it now that they streamed it.”
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- Framing Piracy As A Service Issue (Or It’s Not About Price)
- Be Where Your Listeners Are (Or Spotify Year 1)
- What Music Can Learn From TED (Or The Importance Of Free Music Pt. II)
- The Tiny, Tiny Golden Age Of Selling Music (Or Think Like Jagger)
- Artificial Scarcity In Music (Or Be Where Your Customers Are)
- Music Transitions To An Experience Model (Or Focus On Community Over Content)