By Kristin Thomson, Co-Director, FMC’s Artist Revenue Streams project
The internet-fueled debate about the pros and cons of Spotify went another round last week, with contributions by David Byrne, Dave Allen, Jay Frank, Bob Lefsetz and Fast Company. I read them all, as I’ve done with the previous public debates about whether Spotify is a good or bad thing for musicians. As an indie record label owner and a long-time advocate for musicians, I care deeply about these debates and, more importantly, about ensuring musicians and songwriters are fairly compensated for their work.
Today, I posted a long-ish thought piece about this on Music Think Tank. Instead of focusing on the arguments about the fraction-of-a-penny rate per play, the article suggests some other changes to these music services that might make a substantive difference for musicians, songwriters and fans.
The article outlines six areas in which on-demand streaming services could improve their value proposition: better metadata display, using tools or apps to drive interested listeners to higher-value actions, giving artists and their managers access to anonymized data about listeners, empowering discovery through a more holistic treatment of metadata, the benefit of giving musicians more control over how they monetize their online presence, and encourgaing on-demand services to embrace transparency and equitable payments to rightsholders. Read the article for expanded thoughts about each of these.
Despite over ten years of development and growth of various on-demand streaming and subscription services, we are still at the early stages of these digital platforms. The music services that will win, in the long run, will be those that satisfy users and musicians. Platforms will transform and adopt new features to stand out in a busy marketplace and, hopefully, entice more customers. But it will also take continued pressure from musician and songwriter advocacy groups to ensure that services do not just treat music as a crowd-gathering mechanism. We need to work together to propose practical solutions that recognize musicians’ and songwriters’ value.
This is also why conversations involving lawyers, technologists, policymakers, labels, musicians and songwriters are so important. On-demand streaming is one topic, but there are many other policies and business practices that determine if, how and how much musicians are paid. Compulsory licenses, new business models, performance royalties, copyright reform, metadata and musician advocacy are all part of an artist-driven conversation that will be happening at the 12th annual Future of Music Summit in Washington, DC on October 28 and 29. Want a better music ecosystem? Join us.