Sasha Frere-Jones writes about streaming music and its effect on new music / young musicians for The New Yorker:
The issue beneath all the complaints about micropayments is fundamental: What are recordings now? Are they an artistic expression that musicians cannot be compensated for but will create simply out of need? Are they promotional tools? What seems clear is that streaming arrangements, like those made with Spotify, are institutionalizing a marginal role for the recordings that were once major income streams for working musicians—which may explain the artist Damon Krukowski’s opinion that music should simply be given away, circumventing this entire system.
The piece was born out of Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich’s recent announcement that they pulled their music off Spotify. But it also explores Krukowski’s argument mentioned above — namely, that music should be given away if only to strip corporations of their ability to profit from it.
I should probably write an update to this post, as my current music streaming service of choice is no service at all. I came to the realization that the musicians in this piece do: if I’m going to pay money for music, why pay it to parties not involved in the actual creation of it? A typical Spotify user who listens to streamed music in his or her car is paying money for (1) the smartphone, (2) the smartphone’s data, (3) the Spotify service, and (4) the ability to use that service on their phone. The artists get pennies despite all of the money changing hands.
Krukowski’s extreme solution actually makes a lot of sense to me. If I were to track how much money I’ve spent on music in my entire life, the peak would come in my early 20s — during and immediately after college, when free music (at least in my life) was at its peak. Why? Well, I wanted to own music I loved. I wanted to see good music live. And sometimes I’d even buy some ancillary product — like a print, or a shirt — because I had such a good time, or loved the way it looked.
As unlikely as it sounds, I think free music would generate more music business — at least the type of business that is likely to benefit the musicians themselves.