Frank Black: “I Don’t Have F*_*ing Time to Worry About Spotify Royalties”

frankblack

Spotify royalties suck.  But are you wasting your time worrying about it?

______________________________________________________

The Daily Beast: What do you think about streaming services from a financial aspect?

The Pixies’ Frank Black: I can’t worry about that. It’s like, how many things can I fucking worry about, you know?  I’ve got a lawyer, I’ve got an agent, I’ve got a publisher.  They can worry about that stuff.  I don’t have time to fucking take a stance on everything.

There’s an opportunity for my music to be heard and potentially paid for? Great, do it.  Is it the best that I can be paid? Is it the worst that I can be paid?  I don’t know.  I don’t really have a lot of options.

All you can do is play your cards, and hopefully it all works out.  Right now all I can really focus on is making music and trying to make sure whatever is owed to me from a financial point of view is collected by those agents who are authorized to collect it for me.

Beast: But don’t bands make exponentially less money than they used to?

Black: I can get all involved and take a stance and develop an opinion, but at the end of the day, I’ve got too much to do.

I’ve got five kids. I just want to fucking play music and make art.

I’m not criticizing other people who have highly developed opinions about all this, but I just don’t have time for it.  I don’t have any interest in it.  I just want to play music, and fortunately I’ve got my t-shirt money, I’ve got my concert ticket money, I’ve got my commercial usage money.

It’s no different than when I started out.  Technology changes and formats change, but it’s basically you generate creative content, you try to get it heard, you try to get it paid for, you try to collect what is due to you, and, you know, file for your taxes (laughs).  What else can I do?

Read the full Daily Beast article here.

Image by Angie Garrett, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

31 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    And in a nutshell, that’s why musicians don’t get paid.

    Reply
  2. Chris H

    It comes off like “I’m late for my job, so I don’t have time to care about my music royalties.”

    Reply
    • Name2

      Let’s make a deal: let FB spend his time making music, and you can spend yours making comments on DMN.

      The Free Market will respond accordingly.

      Reply
      • Chris H

        Since I do this for fun at my job in the music business, that seems to be more lucrative, Deal.

        What do you get out of this?

        Reply
        • Name2

          Since I spend $45/mo on streaming services, I pay your salary. Get back to work.

          Reply
  3. Me2

    Must be nice. I’m sure he sticks up for his fellow artists in other areas. Hope so anyways.

    Reply
  4. No, Actually...

    It sounds like he’s saying:

    “It’s no different than when I started out. Technology changes and formats change, but it’s basically you generate creative content, you try to get it heard, you try to get it paid for.”

    Which is what he actually said. (see what I did, there?)

    He’s realistic. He has accepted the inevitable and isn’t investing in the losing gambit of saying: “But we USED to make X, and now, we only make X – Y$. Streaming HAS to make up those lost Y$!!!!!!”

    Digital changed a LOT of businesses, not just music. The post office delvers significantly less physical mail now, because we all use e-mail – even though personal written communication is WAAAY up. There is no “Digital Music News” magazine to be bought at the newsstand because it’s here, in digital format, on the web. Kodak and Polaroid are out of business even though more photographs are being taken than ever before, because everyone uses their cell phone (or a digital camera) and not film. etc., etc., etc.

    This is what happens. It is inevitable.

    Some day, there will be enough subscribers to music services that the industry will level off, like they all do.

    Reply
    • DavidB

      The difference is that in the cases you mention – mail, newspapers, cameras, etc – existing businesses have been disrupted by (mainly) fair competition from new products or delivery methods, not by new competitors stealing their own products. If someone invented a technology for stealing cars from car dealers with impunity, you can bet that the car sales industry would not just sigh and say ‘never mind, it’s inevitable’.

      Reply
      • Dumbest Response Everrrr...

        DavidB

        No.

        The cases mentioned included alternative delivery/storage methods.

        Spotify, Pandora, et. al. are not new competitors that are stealing any products.

        They absolutely pay royalties for the music they use.

        Your response is unsupported and asinine.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          hahaha

          Weirdos that try to win arguments by pretending piracy isn’t a thing are funny.

          Reply
          • mad at the internet

            Somebody needs to crack down on this piracy thing pronto!

        • Sad

          Morons that try to win arguments by pretending royalty paying music services are ”piracy” are stupid.

          Reply
        • DavidB

          I was making a general comment on ‘digital’ music supply, which conspicuously includes massive piracy. I did not say, or imply, that Spotify and other licensed services were ‘stealing’ music. (YouTube is a borderline case.) But inevitably the price of the ‘product’ is affected if it is widely available from illegal free sources. Daniel Ek himself has said somewhere that with a streaming service people are paying for convenience, not for the music itself.

          Reply
        • Here's a Tip: try to Be Clear

          When leaving a comment about Spotify, in a thread that is entirely about Spotify, in response to a comment that is ONLY about legitimate paying services, like oh… Spotify, if you want to make a “general comment on the digital music supply,” you should probably make that clear.

          …and then we can all more easily tell you why your ill-informed comment is off-topic and largely meaningless to the discussion. Instead of having to call you out for seemingly baldly confusing royalty paying services (which is what the discussion is about) with “pirates” (which you, individually, might want to announce your misguided views about).

          Just sayin’…

          Reply
      • Anonymous

        fair competition

        If the end result is I lose my job and my house from it, does it really fucking matter what kind of competition it is?

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      Maybe read the article? It says “The Pixies’ Frank Black” like 4 lines down. Or do you really not know who the Pixies are?

      Reply
  5. HansH

    “Spotify royalties suck. But are you wasting your time worrying about it?” That line was not part of the interview as far as I can tell. Paul can turn any article into an anti Spotify rant. It’s a rare gift.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    “Dear Frank: you got your start in music at a time when people got paid for recording music. If you want those 5 kids of yours to have the same advantages, maybe you should take some time.

    perhaps if record sales hadn’t collapsed 60%, we wouldn’t all be stuck on the road, and might have a bit more time: for making music, and for seeing our kids?

    I’ve been taking the time to find out what’s going on, and i’ve found we’re getting screwed.
    And i’ve taken the time to join the Content Creators Coalition to do something about: because getting screwed is NOT inevitable, and because i care about whether MY kid grows up in a world where, if she makes something people like, she gets paid fairly for it.

    I hope you’ll find the time to stand with others who are speaking out, instead of helping rationalize and relativize our exploitation.
    m ribot

    Reply
  7. F Black

    Dear Marc:

    Please elaborate on how you think you’ve found out we’re “getting screwed.”

    Who is screwing us? How are they screwing us?

    What exactly do you mean about a world where people are paid “fairly”? What is a “fair” amount? Who decides what is fair payment? You? Me? The Content Creators Coalition? The people we hope to sell our music to?

    F Black

    Reply
    • Marilyn Carino

      I guess it depends on what conditions constitute “screwing”. Spotify values itself at $5.7 billion. It makes money selling advertising and subscriptions. While their per-stream payout math is dubious at best, it is definitely unsustainable to the creators of the content which constitutes its bread and butter. You definitely couldn’t feed your kids on what Spotify pays you.

      Yes, there is new media now, new ways of monetizing content and that can shift business models. But does that have to mean musicians are now completely shut out of the profit sharing? Consider how most people believe it “unfair” for megacorp McDonalds to not pay its employees a “living wage” – neither did they pay bands to perform on their SXSW stage (they offered the chupacabra “exposure” and free McDonalds “food”). And how were the bands supposed to afford to travel to and stay in Austin? You can’t pay for a hotel room or gas for your van with “love of performing”. Musicians are being flat-out denied their share of the profits they generate for these companies. This state of affairs has nothing to do with new media per se and everything to do with corporate greed.

      Frank, if the Pixies started out in the last five years I’ll wager you would be in the same boat as most of us actual working musicians (you’re great, but lots of us are great too), and something tells me you’d be pissed about it. Unless you come into this super lucky (19 years old, major label, huge marketing budget) or with family money behind you, it is extremely rare that even the hardest-working musicians who work social media 12 hours a day are able to recoup their recording, production and touring expenses and earn even a meager living, as they were able to do in the 80s and 90s. Most of the bands I know of that make a living either have publishing deals or, um, they come from families with money (do you think only 1%-ers should be able to make music?). Or they have day jobs and do music far less frequently than you do. None of my friends with kids (besides M Ribot) can tour, they can’t afford it. Many gigs in New York don’t even pay anymore. And that continues because musicians have such a love of playing music that they just eat sh*t and take no bread cuz if they don’t they can’t play out.

      We’re saying that we think it’s fair to share the wealth we generate. Lots of people are making tons of money from music, just not the musicians. And that is not “just the way things are”, it’s by design. And the only way that will change is for musicians to stand up and demand our fair share, or else, like many great musicians I know, despite their tremendous talent and love of playing, they will have no choice but to to either give it up or relegate themselves to be hobbyists, and what happens to the culture then?

      Reply
    • Marilyn?

      Marilyn Carino

      “Spotify values itself at $5.7 billion.”

      No. They don’t “value themselves” at anything. Investors in Spotify have said that they hope to get a return of somewhere around $8 billion on their investment. No guarantees of that. Do you know how private investments work?

      Marilyn Carino

      “You definitely couldn’t feed your kids on what Spotify pays you.”

      You also can’t – and could NEVER – feed your kids on record company advances. Or performance income. Or likely just record royalties, or just t-shirt sales. That’s why artists pursue MULTIPLE income streams from their work. Do you know how the music has always worked?

      Marilyn Carino

      “But does that have to mean musicians are now completely shut out of the profit sharing?”

      Artists NEVER engaged in profit sharing. They get paid royalties. Do you know how the music business has always worked?

      Marilyn Carino

      “This state of affairs has nothing to do with new media per se and everything to do with corporate greed.”

      Well, you got ONE thing right. This has NOTHING to do with “new technology,” or Spotify. Spotify is just the newest way for people to hear music. That’s it. They ALREADY pay way more than broadcast radio.

      Marilyn Carino

      “It is extremely rare that even the hardest-working musicians who work social media 12 hours a day are able to recoup their recording, production and touring expenses and earn even a meager living, as they were able to do in the 80s and 90s.”

      Wait…. You’re actually claiming that all, or even most – or even many – musicians were able to recoup their recording, production and touring expenses and earn even a meager living in the 80s and 90s?

      Now it is confirmed. You have NO IDEA how the music business has EVER worked.

      Marilyn Carino

      “Many gigs in New York don’t even pay anymore. And that continues because musicians have such a love of playing music that they just eat sh*t and take no bread cuz if they don’t they can’t play out.”

      But somehow, Spotify royalties are supposed to remedy the lack of paying live gigs in NYC? How – and why?

      Marilyn Carino

      “Lots of people are making tons of money from music, just not the musicians. And that is not “just the way things are”, it’s by design.”

      It’s called “business.” There should be absolutely no surprise, there.

      You know where else people are making tons of money? In music publishing. Music publishing companies take the work of their signed songwriters and turn that into tons of money. Tons of money that they don’t “share” with the songwriters. The songwriters get an agreed royalty – regardless of how well the company does, or what it’s market capitalization is.

      Record companies. Record companies take the work of their signed artists and turn that into tons of money. Tons of money that they don’t “share” with the artists. The artists get an agreed royalty – regardless of how well the company does, or what it’s market capitalization is.

      PROs. PRO’s like ASCAP and BMI and SESAC take the work of their signed songwriters and turn that into tons of money. Tons of money that they don’t “share” with the songwriters. The songwriters get an unknown royalty – with very little relation to how often their individual songs are actually performed.

      You know where else people are making tons of money? In insurance. Insurance companies take the labor of their workers and turn that into tons of money. Tons of money that they don’t “share” with the employees. The employees get a set salary – regardless of how well the company does, or what it’s market capitalization is.

      Also in auto manufacturing. Auto manufacturers take the labor of their workers and turn that into tons of money. Tons of money that they don’t “share” with the employees. The employees get a set salary – regardless of how well the company does, or what it’s market capitalization is.

      Aerospace, computers, software….

      Do I need to go on? Do you get the point?

      If you think that anyone on the music business – or any other business – was interested in “sharing” their wealth with artists, you’re deluded.

      I can’t be bothered with this sudden “realization” by Marc Ribot and others that digital music services, uniquely, are undercutting artists. You need to talk about your record company and your PRO WAAAAAY before you need to talk about Spotify. Spotify represents your only hope of having anyone hear your stuff – and pay whatever for it – in the future.

      Reply
      • Marilyn Carino

        Anonymous Dude/Dudette:

        Thee: “No. They don’t “value themselves” at anything. Investors in Spotify have said that they hope to get a return of somewhere around $8 billion on their investment. No guarantees of that. Do you know how private investments work?”

        Me: Semantics – the latest (granted, a few months back) info I saw was that Spotify valued (quantified its worth, whatever) at $5.7 billion. Regardless of that being $5.7 or $8 billion, they rake in plenty of money, that’s the point.

        ———–
        Me: “You definitely couldn’t feed your kids on what Spotify pays you.”

        Thee: “You also can’t – and could NEVER – feed your kids on record company advances. Or performance income. Or likely just record royalties, or just t-shirt sales. That’s why artists pursue MULTIPLE income streams from their work. Do you know how the music has always worked?”

        “The way music has always worked” is that musicians produced a commodity that was monetized. They made an investment in recording and production and then recouped that investment by selling (or licensing) that product for a relatively transparent rate (album/CD/mp3 sales), of course with varying results, but if I sold x amount of downloads on iTunes I knew exactly how much I made. Not so with Spotify/Google/Youtube. So now we’re expected to find money to invest in recording, touring that doesn’t net any money and relinquish our hard-earned product to a new business model that has our product essentially devalued to zero? This is definitely NOT the way music has always worked. Musicians got ripped off while everyone else made bank, true, but does that mean it has to not only remain this way but that we are to now accept that revenues will be even further stripped from we who make all the investment and the product? I’m glad people didn’t feel that way about rights for gay people and minorities, people used to say that was “the way it’s always been” too.

        I’m not going to go into how the labels are trying to work around streaming rates by getting big upfront licensing fees – its a total sh*t show and while this scheme seems to get around the problem for now, people on small labels and independents have no such option. And if Spotify continues to offer their free tier it’s arguable that the whole thing will collapse in on the weight of its own inability to sustain itself. That’s another whole discussion.
        —-
        Me: “But does that have to mean musicians are now completely shut out of the profit sharing?”

        Thee: “Artists NEVER engaged in profit sharing. They get paid royalties. Do you know how the music business has always worked?

        Um, semantics again. Share the wealth, share the profit, get a slice of the pie. Working people have always had to fight for that and it has been considered a noble pursuit. Why are musicians considered to be the only working people who are just pissing and moaning and should just shut up about it? Spotify/Google/YouTube make a crap ton of money off our content and give us next to nothing. I, and more and more working musicians say we should get more of that money. Your mileage may vary.

        Me: “This state of affairs has nothing to do with new media per se and everything to do with corporate greed.”

        Thee: Well, you got ONE thing right. This has NOTHING to do with “new technology,” or Spotify. Spotify is just the newest way for people to hear music. That’s it. They ALREADY pay way more than broadcast radio.

        Spotify and streaming companies are THE standard for consumption of music, there is no competition or alternative, and labels will not allow you to pick and choose where your music does and does not get distributed. Frank Black was basically saying he can’t be bothered to think about making nothing from Spotify, but many of us don’t have that luxury. Gee whiz, broadcast radio pays ZERO performance royalty, and gosh Spotify pays more than the thieves who run pirate sites too (who make millions on ads brokered by, and who are thus supported by GOOGLE), sorry if I don’t dance the hoochy coochy with joy that I get $.0004-ish per stream from Spotify and even less from YouTube – but hey, it’s not ACTUALLY ZERO, right?

        Me: “It is extremely rare that even the hardest-working musicians who work social media 12 hours a day are able to recoup their recording, production and touring expenses and earn even a meager living, as they were able to do in the 80s and 90s.”

        Thee: Wait…. You’re actually claiming that all, or even most – or even many – musicians were able to recoup their recording, production and touring expenses and earn even a meager living in the 80s and 90s?

        Now it is confirmed. You have NO IDEA how the music business has EVER worked.

        Um, yeah dude/dudette, I do. I’ve been a working musician since the late ’90s and until about 2005 almost everyone I knew was making most of their living doing live dates and selling CDs. You must not know any jazz musicians.

        Me: “Many gigs in New York don’t even pay anymore. And that continues because musicians have such a love of playing music that they just eat sh*t and take no bread cuz if they don’t they can’t play out.”

        Thee: But somehow, Spotify royalties are supposed to remedy the lack of paying live gigs in NYC? How – and why?

        Um, I didn’t mean that, funny how you read that! I’ll type slow… musicians… need… more… money… from… EVERYONE… who… profits… mightily… from… our… labor. Frank said he didn’t care about Spotify because he makes his money touring and he’s satisfied to live on love and good vibes (and the money he makes from other sources, der). My point was that even gigging doesn’t pay anymore so Spotify’s fencing of our content matters indeed. Sorry to talk over your head.

        And lastly —

        Me: “Lots of people are making tons of money from music, just not the musicians. And that is not “just the way things are”, it’s by design.”

        Thee: It’s called “business.” There should be absolutely no surprise, there.

        Yeah, and the strong subjugate the weak and slavery happens and there will always be poverty and war. Whole Foods’ starting pay is $20/hour, a living wage. And they are doing really well, huge profits and high employee satisfaction. Where is the law that says “business” needs to jerk working people around and not compensate people equitably for their labor? I am ADVOCATING FOR A BETTER WAY. Yes it’s a complex issue, yes labels and PROs are part of the problem – but your apologia for Spotify in the face of that is a straw man. It’s bait and switch. Just because Spotify is but one part of the problem doesn’t mean it’s not a big problem. And Taylor Swift totally pwned them and showed everyone that the only way to make real money is, yes, to have alternative revenue streams but those must eliminate Spotify completely from the equation.

        The way things are is bad for everyone. Read up on what’s going on with the labels and Google/YouTube. Read the Trichordist. Watch Jonathan Taplin’s video. Musicians are workers and like all courageous working people they won’t be cowed by a corporate system rigged against them. You’ll see.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          I don’t know where you got the idea that Spotify is raking in plenty of money. I mean, it is raking in money, but it’s actually paying out more than it rakes in, and hasn’t made a profit in three years.

          Reply
        • Marilyn?

          Marilyn Carino

          “Me: Semantics – the latest (granted, a few months back) info I saw was that Spotify valued (quantified its worth, whatever) at $5.7 billion. Regardless of that being $5.7 or $8 billion, they rake in plenty of money, that’s the point.”

          And your point is ENTIRELY wrong, misinformed and baseless.

          It’s not just “semantics.” Spotify does not “rake in plenty of money.” Indeed, they have yet to turn a profit. They exist entirely on investor injections of capitol.

          Try to figure at lease SOME of this out, before you embarrass yourself with these uninformed tirades. You’re doing us musicians a great disservice.

          Really.

          Marilyn Carino

          “The way the music business has always worked” is that musicians produced a commodity that was monetized. They made an investment in recording and production and then recouped that investment by selling (or licensing) that product for a relatively transparent rate (album/CD/mp3 sales), of course with varying results, but if I sold x amount of downloads on iTunes I knew exactly how much I made.”

          Again, you have NO IDEA what you are talking about.

          Musician’s made an investment in recording and production – of their OWN music – and then recouped that investment? From themselves?

          Did you mean to say that RECORD COMPANIES invested in producing recordings and then tried to recoup?

          Marilyn Carino

          “I’m not going to go into how the labels are trying to work around streaming rates by getting big upfront licensing fees – its a total sh*t show and while this scheme seems to get around the problem for now, people on small labels and independents have no such option.”

          Why not? Why won’t you go into that?

          You’re basically saying: “I’ve lived in an business/economic sewer my entire life, and I know that. New ways people access music now means that some elements of this business/economic sewer I’m in are changing. I still don’t want to talk about – the real problem – trying to get out of the business/economic sewer. I just want to talk about how other stuff about it has changed.”

          Why?

          Marilyn Carino

          “Um, [the difference between profit sharing and a straight royalty are] semantics again.”

          As long as you keep dismissing your inability to understand very important concepts and distinctions as “semantics,” quite frankly, you deserve to have your lunch eaten for you.

          Figure some of this stuff out. Stop saying that every concept that you don’t understand – that actually makes a BIG DIFFERENCE – is “semantics.” Or risk being left behind.

          Marilyn Carino

          “Why are musicians considered to be the only working people who are just pissing and moaning and should just shut up about it?”

          Please see above, re: laborers for insurance companies, auto manufacturers, computer manufacturers, software development companies, banks, landscapers, construction companies, etc., etc., etc.

          Why do you think musicians deserve some kind of special place in society and the economy, where they are the only workers who are granted like, some 50% profit share of any business that might use their work?

          Think you deserve a million dollars? Write a top 10 Hit. I GUARANTEE you, you will make more than a million dollars, not even counting Spotify money. Otherwise, quit complaining and quit acting like YOU know what your songs are “worth” to everyone else. Write something that EVERYBODY wants to hear – and let THEM tell YOU what it’s worth.

          Marilyn Carino

          “Spotify/Google/YouTube make a crap ton of money off our content and give us next to nothing.”

          Again, you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what you are talking about.

          Spotify has never turned even a dime of profit from “our content.” Neither has YouTube.

          It really doesn’t do the songwriter/artist community any favors to have people like you bleating on about totally fictional issues that are simply NOT reality.

          Marilyn Carino

          “Um, yeah dude/dudette, I do. I’ve been a working musician since the late ’90s and until about 2005 almost everyone I knew was making most of their living doing live dates and selling CDs. You must not know any jazz musicians.”

          Actually I’ve been a jazz musician since the ’80s.

          What does “almost everyone I knew was making most of their living doing live dates and selling CDs.”???

          Who are these pople? How many of them is “most everyone you knew”? what is “most” of their “living” playing live dates?

          I gave up gigging and recording in the ’80s because NOBODY I knew could make a “living” at it.

          Marilyn Carino

          “Um, I didn’t mean that, funny how you read that! I’ll type slow… musicians… need… more… money… from… EVERYONE… who… profits… mightily… from… our… labor.”

          And I’ll type this slowly, too:

          EVERYONE….

          wants….

          more….

          money…

          from….

          the…

          people…

          that….

          pay…

          them.

          ….EVERYONE.

          But guess what?

          Sometimes, you can’t get any more money from them!!!! It’s THIER choice what they want to pay you!!! Don’t like how much they are paying you? Ask for more and, if they don’t want to give it to you, MOVE ON.

          Marilyn Carino

          “And Taylor Swift totally pwned them and showed everyone that the only way to make real money is, yes, to have alternative revenue streams but those must eliminate Spotify completely from the equation.”

          So, you think T Swift “pwned” Spotify? And she “showed everyone” the real way to make money?

          Let’s see: a) T Swift removes catalog from Spotify, b) Spotify subscriptions immediately go up more than any other time in their history, and c) Spotify then raises another $350m in investor money.

          Yeah, she sure showed them!!!

          And if you think that Swift gave any of us the blueprint for “everyone to make real money,” then please, just follow it and STFU. Just take your stuff OFF of Spotify (good luck making your “real money” – just like Taylor Swift!!!) and please STFU.

          Finally, I read Lowery’s moronic Trichordist (just to see how pathetic it is), and Chris Castle’s echo-chamber, as well as this dumb site, too (obviously). But unlike you, I don’t just read these one-sided propaganda machines thinking I’m getting educated. I read them – along with a bunch of other stuff – and I realize how absolutely fucked we are as composers and musicians.

          If David Lowery is our spokesman and DMN is the place to get reasoned information about the plight of the artist, then we are fucked.

          Royally fucked.

          Reply
  8. BReivers

    Well, he is right. Musicians don’t have the time and while that is why they get ripped off, it isn’t wrong. Most people go to work and have no clue how the company makes money. They just get a paycheck. Expecting every musician to do what a large company used to do is ridiculous.

    Reply
  9. Bob Collum

    Firstly, Marc Ribot walks the walk and has my upmost respect. Secondly, I’m a small time independent singer songwriter guy and I’ve never suckled from the major label teat but I can tell you this.. in the old pre-digital days I could count at least count on my quarterly BMI royalties to pay my rent four months out of the year.

    Reply
    • Bob Collum

      .. and now I have loads and loads of Spotify plays that can’t pay for two pennies to rub together

      Reply

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