Grammy President Attacks Streaming Services for Threatening ‘Viable Careers’

Neil Portnow Criticizes Streaming Services

And what about the next generation of musicians?

That was a question posed last night at the Grammys by Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy, who took to the stage with rapper Common to fire attacks at free streaming services like Spotify.  Portnow is widely known for his strong views on fair compensation for artists, and encouraging fans to support their favorite artists by buying albums as opposed to streaming them.

“But we also have to make sure that artists grow up in a world where music is a viable career…”

The message followed a brilliant performance by 12 year-old pianist Joey Alexander, someone whose future is far less certain than previous prodigies.  “Isn’t a song worth more than a penny?” Portnow questioned the audience. “Listen, we all love the convenience, and we support technologies like streaming, which connect us to that music.  But we also have to make sure that artists grow up in a world where music is a viable career…

This isn’t the first time Portnow has spoken out about paying artists correctly.  Or, his distaste for music streaming services that offer free streaming options (or streaming services of any kind for that matter).  Last year, Portnow launched the Creators Alliance, an activist group that aim to ensure artists receive fair pay for their work.

At the Grammy ceremonies last year, Portnow also took a direct dig at Spotify, saying “remember that music matters in our lives, and that new technology must pay artists fairly.”

That stance was easily disregarded against the glitzy Grammys backdrop, a stage that probably reinforces stereotypes about complaining, bloated artists.  That’s a serious tactical error by the Recording Academy, though it’s becoming increasingly difficult for artists to generate significant from the music they create.  And to generate serious, long-lasting opportunities for artists like Joey Alexander.

 

Image by Basheer Tome; licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

 

 

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24 Responses

  1. You mean Spotify, right??

    Apple Music isn’t free, in fact it’s one of the few services that doesn’t have a freemium model. You can only trial the service for a limited amount of time and then you must opt-out of your subscription if you wish to no longer continue the service and subsequently be charged $10/month.

    Also, what does that Apple & Sonos collaboration have to do with pissing off Neil?

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      That was for an earlier draft, but yes, you’re completely correct that Apple Music is paid only (and probably less the subject of this criticism).

      Reply
    • Remi Swierczek

      Apple music also KILLS music monetization!
      All inclusive subscription based streaming CANNOT make music industry.
      Big catch 21 with no light in the tunnel. 500 million subs we need will never happen – if it does they will average $3.99.

      Reply
      • Johnny Gagnon

        Apple and the industry corporations made streaming deal so low that it shut out all the small guys

        Reply
  2. Versus

    The music image problem is an important point. Music industry still promotes and image of a glitzy posh star lifestyle. Almost no musicians can afford to live like this; most are struggling to survive month to month, and are seriously in debt. Yet I hear over and over that piracy is a “victimless crime” and that musicians are all so rich that they won’t miss any lost income.

    Reply
  3. Yo

    “That stance was easily disregarded against the glitzy Grammys backdrop, a stage that probably reinforces stereotypes about complaining, bloated artists.”
    Yep, that’s a very good point, and if you scour various forums, is a major reason why most people are very insensitive to this issue, while being more sensitive for example to the pleas of software developpers against piracy. The latter are just not perceived the same way.

    It always amazed me that the music industry ( and most musicians ) don’t seem to understand this.

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      Isn’t this the Tidal problem all over again? Every performer at the Grammys, or, a large percentage, are in the music industry top 0.1%. Glitzy performances, high-priced stage setups and performances by wealthy artists… then a plea of poverty at the hands of streaming?

      Neil Portnow is a smart guy, but was this message delivered in a smart way?

      Reply
      • Yo

        @Paul : that’s the paradox . For people and the media to hear your message, you have to be in that famous top 0.1% group. But if you are in that group, you are not hit as hard as the rest of the group, the Joe Blows of the artist world. But then if you are Joe Blow, no media gives you the time of the day and no one will hear your plea.
        Ironically, you have to be rich and famous to be able to defend the poor and unknown…

        Reply
        • Paul Resnikoff
          Paul Resnikoff

          Seems like there’s a more innovative way to deliver the message. What’s wrong with more ‘Joe Blow’ artists delivering the message, instead of Common? The reason why no fans care is that it’s always a lecture from an artist choking on caviar. It doesn’t work.

          Reply
      • New Age

        Here’s the problem with more ‘Joe Blow’ artists delivering the message, instead of Common:

        Services like Spotify and Pandora and YouTube are helping create more “Joe Blow” artists – a potentially viable musician “middle class” – than the traditional record company gate-keepers ever did.

        Tori Kelly herself has said that she had been “put through the ringer of the traditional record company business” before finding and audience, and fame, through YouTube.

        Reply
      • DENNY D

        IMAGINE IF ONLY THE TOP 3% OF HOCKEY PLAYERS GOT PAID. … THE REST HAD TO DO IF FOR FREE..

        Reply
    • Versus

      “Big” software developers do seem to be treated in the same way, easier to rationalize stealing from them, since they are “rich” and “won’t miss it”.

      But people also steal from the small developers. Even (hypocritical) musicians, who would cry murder if they didn’t get paid for a gig or had their work stolen. They rationalize with things like “I can’t afford to pay for it now; when I make more money I can pay for it”. While sipping a $5 crappucino.

      Reply
    • Bevan Manson

      Many musicians do realize it. You are talking about a very small minority of one kind of musician: a few pop artists who have been heavily marketed to the public by their labels, and overly played again and again on vast systems of radio and TV that leave out many talented, hardworking musicians: other pop musicians, not to mention jazz musicians, classical musicians, folk musicians, music teachers, and many others. The Grammy producers are misrepresenting the majority of working musicians by visually creating a glitzy image, but the glitz only applies to a few in reality. The public also should be aware of this. I am not sure they are, unless they go to hear their local symphony, a free-lance local singer or classical chamber group, or their favorite local rock band, an occasional foray to a jazz club, etc….i.e. live music of some content. If they just go a few times a year to hear heavily marketed pop stars in giant venues, they are just going to get the wrong impression. Just as government and society are not just heavily media-exposed politicians in ads on TV or film stars (It is also the hard workers who are the first responders, those who check and research our food to make sure it is safe, high school and and college teachers, people who do road repair, soldiers and the people who take care of them, etc.) , so is music not just the province of a few singers massively promoted by networks and labels.

      Reply
  4. Jeff Robinson

    *cough* Meghan Trainor *cough*

    Best new artist? NOT. A direct result of Streaming services.

    Reply
  5. Name2

    I see in the Guardian that Poindexter referred to ISIS. Do they offer free streaming, too?

    Reply
    • Name2

      “Every time terrorists kill a music fan, that musician only sees a fraction of a penny. Is that really fair?”

      — Grammy spokesmodel.

      Reply
  6. Versus

    I propose a new rule for the Academy.

    In order to qualify for “Best New Artist”, the person question must actually be…an artist.

    Reply
  7. Concerned

    As soon as the world honours and respects copyright treaty’s and the rights of the copyright creators the problem dissappears and all will be fine. That is the single fundamental action that has to happen BEFORE anything else. I am sure that drug companies get paid on their formular and COKE makes sure no one can copy its formula so why is it so hard for this to happen in the music world ?

    Reply
  8. Hail Satan!

    The Grammy President better be able to operate heavy machinery, because that’s what he’ll need to excavate his head from so far up his own arse – I haven’t read this article, but anyone who thinks that people should pay for music can go suck a fat one. Sure, maybe we paid for music back in the stone age, but that just ain’t how things work in the age of piracy. I’m not giving you a nickel for your shitty plink-plonk noises. Let me get this straight, you want *me* to pay the money that I earn at a job I hate so some looser can *not* get one and toss around doing what they enjoy? Fuck that. These wankers want careers? Go to college, get some qualifications, stop pissing around with kid’s toys that make pretty noises, and get a real job. Maybe then they’ll appreciate how much a penny is worth.

    Reply
    • OH THE HUMANITIES

      Clearly you don’t appreciate the arts as a viable part of society. As an engineer and a composer who has made plenty of “real” work with “kids toys”, you sir, have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m sure you’ll be the first to be bitching when robots and automation come to take your “real job”. And when they do, your soundtrack will be the ringing in your ears of heavy machinery shoving your head up your ass.

      Reply
  9. Joseph Nicoletti Global Village Music

    The public has been given a Mind-set that if you can Get it for Free & technology lets you have it what is Wrong? the Entertainment business must Correct this not the Public. a good First step is for the Courts to Up-date the Fair use Laws from 1976. if Fair Compensation is not put back into the Arts, there will be less Passion to Create it, I never thought I’d Ever hear the Expression the “Creative” poor.Neil is not Half Wrong. he see the Magic Fading…….

    Reply

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