On Nov. 3 Taylor Swift pulled her entire catalogue from the music streaming site Spotify, the latest battle in a long line of publicized finger pointing that has been taking place since I was downloading Backstreet Boys songs with Napster in 1999.
At the centre of the issue, as usual, is cold, hard cash. Swift says music is art, and didn’t feel Spotify was compensating her enough to host her music online. As it stands now, she’s right. The latest number in the back-and-forth statement swapping between Swift, Spotify founder Daniel Ek and CEO of Swift’s record label Scott Borchetta, is $496,044. That’s how much Swift’s label has received for domestic streams in the last 12 months through Spotify.
Half a million dollars is nothing to shake a stick at, but Taylor Swift (according to the numbers) is one of the most successful musicians out there. Her latest record 1989 has sold over 1.5 million copies and some critics are calling it the last platinum album ever.
If Taylor Swift is having a hard time getting a fair shake as the music industry tries to cram itself in to the digital age, what hope is there for anyone else?
The music industry is never going to be what it once was. Times have changed, but this isn’t a new problem, just a more complex one with no answer in sight.
Musicians have been getting the short end of the drumstick with record labels since the invention of record labels. It’s the age-old artists struggle. It’s easy to think they get to play their songs for a living or they’ll make their money touring or if you’re Gene Simmons ,‘it’s the millenials fault,’ but as complex as the situation is, the answer seems simple.
Growing up I remember two very distinct phases of my life. Pre and post Internet. I remember being far more engaged when picking out a CD at the record store or buying a movie pre-Internet. I valued the art more because paying for it was the ONLY option. Well, there was a guy named Derrick who sold burned CDs behind the bowling alley, but he was unreliable at best.
Peer-to-Peer file sharing (see: Napster) opened Pandora’s box to a cultural attitude that feels they deserve art for free, mostly because they can get it.
I don’t claim to have the solutions to the entire industry’s problems, but two important words come to mind — limited release.
I’m an avid moviegoer and usually those words pain me, revealing that it isn’t likely I will see that particular film anytime soon, but it also plays on some reverse psychology, making me want to see it more than before.
Creative marketing could be the key to bringing the music industry back up on its feet. Instead of making millions of CDs for every Walmart in North America, make 100. You’ll likely see them on eBay in a matter of hours for a handsome sum. Randomly insert autographed memorabilia into every hundredth album.
Either way, the old system is dying and it’s going to take some creative thinking to bring the public attitude back to a place where it values the musical art form, instead of taking it for granted.
Dale Boyd is the arts and entertainment editor for the Penticton Western News