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David Byrne is latest artist to express streaming concerns

By | Published on Monday 14 October 2013

David Byrne

If you, like us, have whiteboards in your office marked “Pro-Spot” and “Anti-Spot”, you need to add David Byrne to the latter. Because he is the latest veteran artist to express concern about the rise of streaming music services like Spotify in a lengthy piece for The Guardian.

Reviewing what various artists have said in recent months and years about the rise of the streaming music platforms, Byrne questions the role said services really have in music discovery, while arguing that the monies paid to artists once labels have taken their share are simply too small to be sustainable long-term. The major labels are OK, he reckons, because of the upfront advances and equity arrangements, and established acts have other revenue streams, but he worries about new talent, in music and across the creative industries.

He concludes: “The larger question is that if free or cheap streaming becomes the way we consume all (recorded) music and indeed a huge percentage of other creative content – TV, movies, games, art, porn – then perhaps we might stop for a moment and consider the effect these services and this technology will have, before ‘selling off’ all our cultural assets the way the big record companies did [with their advance/equity laden deals with streaming services]”.

He goes on: “If, for instance, the future of the movie business comes to rely on the income from Netflix’s $8-a-month-streaming-service as a way to fund all films and TV production, then things will change very quickly. As with music, that model doesn’t seem sustainable if it becomes the dominant form of consumption. Musicians might, for now, challenge the major labels and get a fairer deal than 15% of a pittance, but it seems to me that the whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind. Not just music”.

Although stressing that he really doesn’t want to be a Luddite, Byrne says that surely “taking a minute to think about the consequences before diving in seems like a pretty good idea in general”. Read the piece here. And although both lengthy and interesting, Byrne’s polemic probably doesn’t add anything new to the debate to change CMU Editor Andy Malt’s take on the matter from earlier this year.



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