These are companies that spend millions of dollars to secure fluffy, mainstream press coverage. So what happens when that doesn’t happen?
Enter the New York Times, a publication now focusing on the dirt that used to get ignored: paltry artist payouts, support of illegal download sites, and extremely questionable business models. Last month, Times journalist Ben Sisario plunged into the sticky question of whether music streaming sites are, well, screwing artists, and this week, the topic was whether Google’s copyright-unfriendly policies are screwing record labels.
And, handicapping attempts to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon. “When it comes to the music industry, there are two Googles,” Sisario started. “And the difference between them leads to a complicated and fraught relationship.”
In other words, one of the largest publications in the world is suddenly saying stuff out loud. “But as the companies behind these digital services swell into multibillion-dollar enterprises, the relative trickle of money that has made its way to artists is causing anxiety at every level of the business,” Sisario called out in an earlier piece covering Spotify, Pandora, and other streaming offenders.
“In the new economics of streaming music, however, the river of nickels looks more like a torrent of micropennies.”
Back to the Google question, the Times deftly exposed the double-speak of DMCA takedowns and compliance. And perhaps more importantly, highlighted the very real drag Google’s infringement-rich results are having on flopping projects like Music on Google Play. “At the same time that the record labels are accusing Google of failing to deal with piracy, Google is also eagerly pursuing licensing deals to use and sell the labels’ music,” Sisario continued. “Those deals frequently need to be updated to keep up with industry trends, an area in which Google has lagged behind competitors.”
So what happens next, when all that dirty laundry starts wafting beyond the industry backyard? Others are also investigating the broader picture, including the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg. Which suggests more critical coverage from more gigantic outlets ahead — but let’s see how many people care, and what impact this ultimately has on these businesses.