Because as Long as Fans Aren’t Stealing, It Must Be Okay…

Welcome to the new, twisted logic of the music industry.  Because after getting ravaged by theft for more than a decade, somehow, anything that isn’t technically stealing must be okay.  Even if it basically pays the same in the end.

  • Save

For example…

(1) Spotify is free for most users.  And payouts from ads are horrible.

But at least they aren’t stealing anymore.

(2) YouTube is free, and pays little to rightsholders.

But at least they aren’t stealing anymore.

(3) Actually, YouTube is by far the biggest platform in the world for watching and listening to content, yet few make substantial money off it.

But at least they aren’t stealing anymore.

(4) Apple’s iCloud and iTunes Match will validate billions of illegally-acquired MP3s, and shoot them into the cloud for multi-device access.

But at least they aren’t stealing anymore.

(5) Pandora’s listening volumes are surging.  Yet Pandora’s payouts are paltry, and they want to pay far less.

But at least they aren’t stealing anymore.

(6) Large percentages of music fans will never pay for recordings.  Instead, they’ll stream and probably never attend a show, buy merch, or purchase a premium product.

But at least they aren’t stealing anymore.

(7) At some point in the future, music consumption will likely shift entirely towards streaming.  Which means downloads, album purchases, and even vinyl will be virtually non-existent.

But at least they won’t be stealing anymore.

(8) At some point in the future, there will be little-to-no value left in the recording at all.

But at least they won’t be stealing anymore.

“Your album’s getting shared en masse over BitTorrent, over YouTube. It’s there, right now — but you decide that it’s the paying, loyal music fans that should lose out. It makes no sense.”

Daniel Ek, Spotify CEO, lashing out against subscription streaming holdouts in February, 2012.

22 Responses

    • (9) SoundCloud

      (9) Soundcloud usage is surging, but they don’t pay anything for streams – zero. In fact, they are charging rights holders for storage of their songs in a world where storage is free everywhere else.
      How is this model winning, and when will rights holders figure it out and demand all of their music be removed from this service? What are the cannibalization costs of rights holders allowing their music to be on this site instead of sites that pay?

  1. Spotify needs to go away- FAST

    It’s not OK. We the writers oppose.

  2. Spotify needs to go away- FAST

    It makes no sense that you’re the billionaire in the outcome.
    You’re no different than the limewire scumball.

  3. c∆ve-b

    While I agree with most of these points – particularly regarding payouts to rightsholders – I still feel like this is just another article complaining about the reality of what’s currently happening…

    I understand it’s uncomfortable for many. I do. But I don’t want to ignore change in favor of being left behind, do you? Everything is changing, constantly. The music business is no exception. Things will never be the same. You can argue it’s worse or it’s better — but it simply IS.

    “(6) Large percentages of music fans will never pay for recordings. Instead, they’ll stream and probably never attend a show, buy merch, or purchase a premium product.
    But at least they aren’t stealing anymore.”

    –I agree with the first statement but the latter is a bit far-fetched; perhaps you need to further analyze the value of attending a show. Those experiences can never be accurately re-created or simulated via digital transmission. Streaming live concerts does offer an entirely different and unique value to it’s consumers but it will never be the same as attending a show. ever.

    And unless you see the general population adopting digital clothing in the near future, people will still want to buy merchandise from the artists they connect with – because it’s more than just “buying merch” or “attending a show”.

    “(8) At some point in the future, there will be little-to-no value left in the recording at all.
    But at least they won’t be stealing anymore.”

    — There will always be value in the recording. always.

    value = benefits/cost

    Monetary value is dwindling, or perhaps shifting, depending on how you choose to look at it, but there is most definitely value in great recorded art. You may not realize it, but one of the biggest costs for consumers is the amount of time it takes to find GREAT music now! The market is absolutely saturated. You must be remarkable. Your art must be remarkable. Do you think it’s easy being a listener?


    • Me

      I wholeheartedly agree with everything said above. The industry has changed/is changing, and won’t be going back to the way it was.

  4. A-J Charron

    Great article! Thank you!
    I’ve been learning, my current album is streamable, etc. But the next one won’t be…

    • Champion

      I just listened to it on Spotify, because it was easy.
      I guess I won’t have the same opportunity next time? Seems like a dumb decision, honestly.

  5. Visitor

    It’s easy to complain. Now what is your solution Paul?

    • Visitor

      “what is your solution”
      Remove the cause of the problem.
      Next question.

  6. Visitor

    Mainstream piracy is the problem.
    If you love music, this is where your focus should be.
    Everything else is a waste of time.

  7. Oryx

    It might not correspond to everyone’s personality, but i found Amanda’s testimony very enlighting :

  8. Tyler


    When can we step back and just say, “Hey, we fucked up. The way we consume music is a giant dick move and it’s been sounding worse every day”? Will it be when the very last studio closes up shop? We’ve been compromising our entertainment out of our own laziness. I don’t think anyone actually prefers the cloud-based way things have become. You have the power to do different shit.

    • steveh

      Unfortunately it is not nearly as simple as you suggest.
      Because creating recorded music of a marketable standard is not at all a cost free exercise. It’s quite expensive actually.
      And it’s not very easy to make an income from live gigging, due to huge costs involved in that also. Certainly not at all easy to make excess income from live gigging that can recoup the costs of the recorded music.
      In traditional music business terms, records subsidise live touring – not the other way round.
      You logic is 2+2=5…

      • GGG

        Well obviously it’s not that easy or simple or everyone would be a working artist. Recording music is only as expensive as you make it, though. I have worked with artists who have recorded incredible sounding records for free, here in NYC. Took a long time (over a year), sure, but it was still free. And I’ve worked with artists who have spent anywhere from $3k to $20k recording. If you know people, and know what you’re doing, and you do some research, you can record for as much or as little as you want.
        I also think this conversation needs to be separated into bands who can actually draw crowds, and random no-name bands. The assertion seems to be there was a time any band regardless of size could make a living on the road because of record sales. I find that hard to believe. Yes, gas is absurdly more expensive now, but I hardly believe people were buying CDs of every shitty band that drove through their town. They still made no money. There are a number of bands out there than can fill up 500+, or hell 2500 seat rooms because up to 75% of the audience probably stole their music. The trade off is not they’d be that much richer, the trade off is they’d probably still be struggling to fill up small clubs.
        Lastly, I never said live touring should subsidize recording, I simply said touring (along with non-album merch, licensing, etc) are the new major revenue streams. I also think arguing “traditional music business terms” is one of the main reasons we’re in such a shitty place.

        • steveh

          You are just regurgitating the Tshirt argument.
          Like a stuck record. There is absolutely nothing new or imaginative in what you say.
          So you think Bowie recorded his new record for $3k to $20k?

          • GGG

            Uh…no I’m not. It’s about everything being equally as important now, not record sales being 90% of all the money you make. It’s not ideal, I’m certainly not and never have said that. But it’s unfortuanately getting more and more true as time goes on. Complaining about the problem definitely won’t fix it, adapting might.
            I also never remotely said anything I was saying was revolutionary, I simply stated an opinion to start a discussion, which I was successful at despite you not really giving any substance in your responses.
            And of course not, that’s a dumb thing to say. Bowie 1) has plenty of money 2) has plenty of people/labels/managers willing to back him if he didn’t want to spend a dime (which he probably didn’t). The point remains, though, if Bowie asked me to set up recording sessions on a budget of $10K, I could do it. And before you jump all over that statement, I’m obviously not saying he could make the exact same record for 10K. But it would still be a professional recording. If you come prepared, don’t mess around, and are good enough musicians that you don’t require loads of studio magic, it’s not impossible to make fantastic recordings on a budget.

  9. GGG

    I think, very unfortunately, people just need to start looking at recorded music as marketing in a sense. And musicians need to start making sure they are good enough to translate their music into a worthwhile live setting. Whether that’s following trends and being a dance DJ or just being skilled beyond simple musical competence and actually being able to put on a show people will want to come back to over and over, it’s up to you.
    Now, I don’t WANT this to be the case, but the cheapening of recorded music has pretty much already done this. A huge swath of indie artists who can make any sort of living owe much of their success to piracy, whether they want to admit it or not. To turn around and complain about it after the fact is sort of silly. Now, it’s certainly not bad to say “hey fans, now that you love us, it’d be cool to buy our next release.” That is definitely a valid request to make. But at the same time, you can’t just be good in the studio anymore, you have to be fantastic live, as well. More work, but you want this to be a job, right?

  10. Visitor

    sounds like a great song to sing at the Passover table, Paul!

  11. me

    “(7) At some point in the future, music consumption will likely shift entirely towards streaming. Which means downloads, album purchases, and even vinyl will be virtually non-existent.
    But at least they won’t be stealing anymore.”
    Some facts:
    1. EC report shows increase in streaming clicks correlates to increase in digital music sales.

    2. Vinyl sales continue to grow, year on year.
    From you’re very own Digital music news:

  12. JTV Digital

    Hi there,
    I somehow disagree with items 6,7 and 8.
    Yes it’s true music has less value in people’s mind, however there is a clear trend of sales increase when it comes to premium products like vinyl, merchandise, CD with special packaging…etc.
    Fans want something more than just a standard download or a simple CD.
    IMHO a good strategy for a new or established artist is to bet on digital distribution + premium offering for fans.