Streaming services are legal, but are they ethical?
This is a question of morality that keeps resurfacing, in bigger and bigger ways: Last month, the New Yorker posed the question, ‘If you care about music, should you ditch Spotify?’ Elsewhere, top executives like former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard have accused companies like Spotify of exploiting a highly-disorganized artist class, while artists like Pink Floyd have publicly accused Pandora of blatantly tricking artists to maximize their own profits.
This time around, it’s NPR, which is the latest mainstream outlet to pose a serious question related to the morality of streaming.
The question was sent by a listener, and author Stephen Thomson first drew a bright line around US law.
But it’s just not that simple, which is why Thomson then waded into the tricky, gray waters of right and wrong.
So how does the socially-conscious listener achieve that balance? Thomson offers a number of perspectives that may help you feel like a better person.
(1) Streaming = discovery.
Streaming services are highly-effective discovery vehicles that should set the stage for future, more meaningful support of an artist.
“You can’t discover a new favorite band if you’ve never heard its music, so take advantage of the many different ways to stumble upon great stuff and then make purchases as an informed consumer. If you love a piece of music you find, then don’t hesitate to buy it.”
(2) Streaming = access.
In many cases, artists want listeners to have access to their recordings, despite abysmal payouts.
“From samples made available for streaming through online retailers to pre-release album streams on websites such as this one, a good deal of free online music listening is not only ethical, but, for the artists involved, highly sought-after. In addition, sites such as Bandcamp are set up in order for musicians to sell their work directly to fans, but they allow for and encourage free previews — in effect, an on-demand streaming service the artist has not only authorized, but encouraged.”
(3) Real fans buy premium stuff.
Stream if you must, but real fans take action to pay your favorite artists through better revenue-generating platforms.
“Dig into the tremendous array of ways to sustain the livelihood of musicians whose work sustains you. Contribute to their Kickstarter campaigns if they exist. Go to their concerts and encourage your friends to join you — and, while you’re there, buy a T-shirt or music directly from the band itself.”
(4) Artists frequently want to give their stuff away.
“…you can often get a definitive answer to your own ethical quandary by simply asking bands what they think. “How do you feel about fans streaming your music for free online?” is a perfectly reasonable question to put out there. More often than not, the musicians you love are themselves circulating ways for you to hear their music without paying for the privilege.”
Make sense? The full article is here.