How digital music streaming keeps creators dry

Remember when public protest was a real thing? When did people who passionately believe in something come together in droves to express their rejection or support in meaningful ways? And by signifier, we have to understand that a result has been achieved, that a change has taken place or that an impact has been felt.

Amid the docile acceptance during this era of whatever is being forced upon society as a whole, there has been a significant example in 2021 of people coming together and bonding together to express resistance, rejection and opposition with a unified voice. It was not in politics – where acquiescence, indifference and silent consensus have been exploited by the powers that be to protect and promote the interests of the few; it certainly wasn’t for or against religious dogmatism, climate degradation, corporate domination, or the tyranny of social media. Strangely enough, it was in football. It was football that aroused an almost universal voice of indignation and condemnation of a stratagem and the supporters, loyal supporters of the “beautiful game”, gathered and made themselves heard.

When the plan for a football “Super League” was announced, the fan community saw it for what it was. Immediately, they smelled a rat.

The loathing of such a transparent power play – transparent in its selfish greed and naked, corrupt and muscular exploitation of players, clubs, fans and the heart and soul of a game that was already almost obscene to market – was more than the football world could handle. In harmonious and unambiguous rejection, the world came together, said “No F ****** Way!” and in less than a week the whole desolate and scrupulous idea was dead and buried and its architects were putting as much distance as possible between them and the whole rotten enterprise.

People cared. And that was a – much needed – reminder of the power of a united voice, a reminder that there is power in union. This is an example from which music lovers and music creators, in a less docile, more involved and engaging world, could learn a lesson.

The current configuration of music, its depreciation, its definition by streaming services and new corporate controllers, is founded and motivated by the unwitting complicity of consumers and artists. The environment in which the DSPs [Digital Streaming Platforms] to function is, in essence, that of a Super League. The loot is shared unfairly among the biggest players who each year allow a handful of new approved members – regularly healed – to advance to the ranks of high reward.

Having successfully propagated and perpetuated certain lies and myths, streaming services – looser than the worst record companies of the past, which, at least to some extent, invested in, recorded, marketed and distributed music (and counted on a return on that) investment) – wear the mask of “accessibility”. Accessibility by and to consumers and artists. They have the “freedom” to record, market, market and make their music available to fans who pay for it, but not in a way that benefits their favorite artists, but rather the platforms and their organizations. giant fiscal allies.

A prime example: Apple’s current AirPods business generates more revenue than Apple Music, Spotify, The Orchard, and Tidal combined. The genius of this is complemented by an array of other mythologies – one being that “all” is available, on demand, anytime, anywhere. Another being the mistaken pride that every artist after artist after chamber Beethoven declares with undisguised, shameless, and dangerously uninformed pride – as if they’ve just won a lucrative recording deal – that their “latest outing is on. Spotify “.

Access to and availability of music is a wonderful thing – democratic even if not truly liberating – but the cost is borne by its creators. No doubt many will find it romantically naive to think that his plunder should be exposed, or that passions similar to those which have joined the chorus of anti-Super League football, could be aroused by music fans. But stay. The music is sort of important and nourishing and not just basic.

This is how the recent determination of the United Nations that “streaming kills music” must be welcomed and taken seriously. After conducting relentless, non-hysterical research on the matter, the world body has concluded what is patently true, but has eluded anyone who genuinely adores music and cares about its future. According to the UN position, exploitation constitutes a violation of human rights, a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “guarantees” creators “fair remuneration”. It is no exaggeration to suggest that musicians are currently on the bread line, that their livelihoods in particular have been destroyed.

But unlike other crises we have had to face where bellies sit empty because there is simply no money to spend on the problem, the problem of digital music streaming and crumbs of revenue that musicians are fed is resolvable. In short, there are mountains of money. Marauding digital streaming platforms with their stellar ratings only need to adjust their model by a tiny fraction in order to have a profound impact. The alternative is the continuous strangulation of musical creation. You have to let a little air in before everything flies away.

And it’s not about nostalgia or a return to a “better” time. It’s not about the stars – just as it wasn’t about Chelsea or Manchester City or Arsenal or Barcelona or any of the other FCs who almost got bamboozled by big money. money in the Super League – these are the new and new talents, the up- coming talents who need to be nurtured, the new and old fans and to protect the health of the “good noise” for now and forever. DM / ML

Jay Savage is an entertainment and media consultant and specialist. He worked as an African music expert at MCPS in London, at Gallo Music, headed independent publishing companies, was managing director of Sony Music and EMI Music South Africa for 16 years and served on boards of directors collection companies SAMRO and NORM. He has represented composers as diverse as Lucky Dube, Johnny Clegg and Sibongile Khumalo to Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, Felix Laband and Beatenberg. He is on Spotify (@savagekind) and compiles playlists that have been called “among the greatest in recorded history.”

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