Sorry, the gig is up on free music.
It isn’t making bands rich, or even making ends meet, for that matter. If you need proof of this, check out this discussion thread about Spotify – it contains real numbers and testimonials about how paltry the payouts on free access are (https://digitalmusicnews.com/stories/012511pointzero). It’s not just Lady Gaga that’s getting the shaft.
The rest is also mostly a work of fiction. Because for the most part, free isn’t driving more people to shows, selling more t-shirts, or making real fans buy the album. Just talk to a band trying to make this work. It sounds good on paper or on a conference panel, but most bands are having trouble turning these theories into reality. Still, free is a necessary evil for any artist that wants exposure – you just have to live with it, like crappy weather. Otherwise you’re basically putting your music in jail.
Which is why it’s hilarious to hear YouTube talking about how free is now even better than paid. Except the only problem is that paid also sucks! “If you were to look at the numbers for Lady Gaga, the number of views she gets on YouTube versus downloads that she gets on iTunes, obviously, a single download on iTunes will pay her more than a single view on YouTube,” product manager Phil Farhi told Evolver.fm. “But when you look at the traffic — the number of people that are coming back and watching her videos over and over again, watching her videos before they download the song, or discovering them on YouTube — you can see how that scale can compete with a paid service.”
So, the fringe artist with record-setting YouTube views somehow proves the theory? Or, represents something even remotely typical for even well-supported artists? This soggy logic quickly falls apart, though another YouTube executive pointed to big-time earnings by big-label partners. “Our larger music partners on the site are making millions of dollars per month,” YouTube director of content partnerships Chris Maxcy offered. There’s also a bridge for sale on eBay.
And the best part? YouTube and Google are making billions per month! But this gets even worse, because separately, some music executives are wondering whether this freebie bazaar is really better than P2P, BitTorrent, or any number of protocols for illegal content transfer. “The argument that ‘at least we have them in a legal place’ [with services like Spotify and YouTube] isn’t making any sense,” one top-ranked major label executive told Digital Music News at Midem. “Because all of that is based on the notion that you can monetize this all somehow, which basically boils down to hope. It’s not a business model.”
Paul Resnikoff, publisher.