Why buy the cow when I can get the songs for free?

Posted via iMedia Connection

Recently there has been a spate of artists and labels pulling their music from on-demand services like Spotify, Rhapsody and others. A sign of things to come? The beginning of the end? A bump in the road? Perhaps it’s too soon to tell, but I think isolated instances will continue in the foreseeable future. In my opinion, there are two components eating at select artists and labels.

Art.

Many artists, for example Coldplay and Tom Waits prefer that their albums be consumed as a cohesive whole. A piece of art. By uploading their songs on demand, they are practically ensuring that they will be listened to as one-off songs. Just when I thought I couldn't love Tom Waits any more. From what I gather, he's a guy who thinks in terms of a complete work with a specific musical and story telling chronology. So, it makes perfect sense then that he wants his work "consumed" in a prescribed fashion. I get it. Try going to a Michelin Five-Star and ordering dessert first, then salad, then aperitifs and finally a main course. Not likely. The same theory works here. For works created in this fashion, seemingly fewer and fewer, I think artists should have the right to say how their work is presented.

Commerce.

I recently read that the Black Keys didn't want their new album on Spotify either, but for different reasons. Theirs was straight-up benjamins. They just didn't understand the financial model. They're in good company. I've asked Stephen Hawking to explain it to me. No answer yet. 

Until the royalty situation gets worked out equitably, and I believe it will, there will be rough patches. Everyone needs to be paid fairly or else the system doesn't work. Until that time, however, I think the Pandoras and Slackers of the world are at a big advantage. They're not on-demand. They're just a digital version of the curated radio model with a little more choice worked-in. These types of services play an invaluable role in introducing millions of listeners to Coldplay, Tom Waits and Black Keys in the way that FM once did, and still does in some cases. My guess is that this is why many of Spotify's new offerings look a lot like Pandora's. 

So, let's not paint all services with the same brush. Some aim to replace iTunes, others radio. Different models. Different implications.