Google Executive: “You Cannot Devalue Music. It’s Impossible.”

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The following speech was delivered Monday, October 28th, 2013 at the Future of Music Summit in Washington, DC, by Tim Quirk, Head of Global Content Programming at Google Play.  The speech was first published on Digital Music News on November 1st (original discussion below).

“So I had a whole paragraph telling you who the hell I am and why you should listen to me, but [Future of Music co-director] Kristen [Thomson] just did that, so I’m gonna skip that part.  I will say I have been watching the music business respond to the perils and possibilities of digital distribution for a good long time from a variety of different perspectives and I’ve become pretty opinionated on the subject. But I before I spout some of those opinions, I wanna start with one I don’t share.

It’s a typical and to me typically depressing reaction to the recent explosion of online music services. A blogger for The New Yorker posted something last year that made me sadder and sadder each time I saw someone retweeting it approvingly.  It was supposedly about the tyranny of choice and how on-demand music services have made it harder to fall in love with music by making it too easy to listen to anything you feel like.  But the piece was really about how much fun the writer used to have spending hours in record shops that are now closed, hunting for LPs he could take home and slowly fall in love with, and how much he misses the experience.

In other words, it was soaked in nostalgia. If the writer were 80, I’d give him a pass, but I’m pretty sure he’s younger than me, so fuck him.  I mean that.

I’ve been spending more time and money than I could afford in record shops since Jimmy Carter was president.  And I’ve been getting paid to figure out what aspects of that experience can and can’t be replicated online since Bill Clinton was getting impeached.  And you know what that means?  It means I’m old.  That doesn’t mean I don’t consider my experience important; it is.

If nothing else, it’s convinced me of one invaluable rule that everything else I’ll say today flows from: Don’t fetishize the past.

I’m pretty sure that’s just good advice for living a happy life, but it’s also my rule number one for the 21st century music business in general and for digital music merchandising in particular.  Don’t waste time trying to find online analogues for offline experiences.  As I mentioned, I’ve been in the online music business since there’s been an online music business and that article exasperated me so much because the writer was just repeating a Chicken Little cry I hear regularly and I heard it all morning long.

“We’re devaluing music!”

It’s amazing how often people invoke that word ‘devalue’ as if it means something.  It doesn’t.  You know why?

Because you can’t devalue music.  It’s impossible.  Songs are not worth exactly 99 cents and albums are not worth precisely $9.99.

When I hear people complain about discount pricing in online stores or fret about on-demand services such as Rhapsody and Spotify, I rebut them with another rule of mine that makes me sound like a hippie but I promise I’m not:

Music is priceless.

I mean that literally and I believe that even more than I believe old people should shut up about how much better things were in our day.  Here’s why.  The same song will always be worth different things to different people at different times.  The online music revolution hasn’t changed that.  It’s simply made the fact glaringly obvious.


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You can sketch this dynamic with a simple pyramid showing lots of people spending little or no money at the bottom and fewer people spending lots of money at the top.  If you’re a new band, you begin at the bottom of that pyramid, but no matter how popular a given artist gets or how amazing her latest single is, there will always, always, always be more people in the world who don’t care than who do.

So the goal for every artist and every song has always been to climb this pyramid, convincing as many people as you can to part with something in exchange for listening.  At first, you just want their attention.  The next step is to get them to give you some money for the privilege of hearing your song whenever they happen to get the urge and as you keep climbing the pyramid, you find yourself with fewer and fewer listeners but each one who remains is happy to give you more and more money.

These fans— the best fans— they’ll buy alternate versions, deluxe editions; they’ll come to every show; they’ll get buried in a Kiss coffin, etc.

None of this is new.  What’s new is that the casual fans no longer have to buy if they don’t want to.  And while there is a lot of very real and quite justified angst that there’s not enough money coming in from everyone else to make up for that loss, those casual listeners are also exhibiting an unprecedented hunger for more and more music.  That is not automatically a good thing, but it is a massive opportunity.

So what exasperated me about that New Yorker article was the writer’s seeming contention that because he no longer has the same experience digging through crates and falling in love with a hard-won find, he’s stuck at the bottom of the pyramid of everything forever.  His worry doesn’t only bother me because I have a very low tolerance for nostalgia; it also upsets me because if he’s right, it means I’m failing at my job.

That job has gone by different names on different business cards for different companies over the past decade.  It’s variously been called editorial music merchandising or content programming, but whatever you call it, the object’s the same.  We’re here to help you through that maelstrom of musical choice.  We’re here to pull people up each level of that pyramid.  But we don’t do it the old-fashioned way by anointing a handful of artists geniuses and declaring selected albums masterpieces. We do it by building services that let thousands of potential masterpieces find their ideal audiences.

That’s one reason my job’s name keeps changing– it didn’t really exist before 1998.  We’re not exactly record store clerks, we’re not exactly critics and we’re not exactly DJs, although our ranks include people who learned what they know doing each of those things.  But in order to do whatever this job is well in the 21st century, you need something none of those professions are particularly known for.

You need to be very very humble.

Well, you need some arrogance.  You still need to think you know more than the average radio listener about the history of at least one genre of music; who’s influenced whom, which of them ruled, which of them suck ass and why.  But you also need to recognize just how little that matters anymore.  It doesn’t matter the way it used to because now that anyone with a laptop and an internet connection has a global airplay and distribution network at her fingertips, there’s no such thing as a gatekeeper and everybody’s a tastemaker.

At the same time though, that explosion of content has created a new, less sexy need.  Telling the entire world what it should and shouldn’t listen to has become far less important than simply making this overgrown musical jungle navigable.  Online music services need bushwhackers carving paths from one starting point to another.  We’re not gatekeepers.  We’re not tastemakers.  We’re park rangers.

Being a park ranger means our job isn’t to tell visitors what’s great and why.  Our job is to get them from any given thing they like to a variety of other things they might.  We may have our own favorite paths and being park rangers we probably even prefer the less crowded ones, but our job is to keep them all maintained so visitors to our park can chose their own adventure.  They might not feel our hand on their backs as they wander, but it’s there.  It’s just subtle.

So how does that work in practice? Here are three guiding principles:

  • There should be no dead-ends.
  • There should be different recommendations for different people
  • Context is more useful that opinions.

Principle number one means that wherever a visitor lands, there should be multiple trails leading someplace else.  Principle number two means you point each visitor to the trail he or she is most likely to enjoy rather than the trails you wish they wanted.  And principle number three basically means that no one cares what you think.  It’s more important to give people some background information on what they’re listening to, than it is to tell them whether you personally like it or not.

Now those are my principles, not every music service uses them and it would be a boring universe if they did.  But I think those three are the best for making the abundance of choice liberating rather than paralyzing, without precluding the chance that anything can happen.  Imposing order on chaos is particularly important at the bottom of the pyramid, [which] I’ve labeled that the free tier.

And it’s true, that’s where unlicensed peer-to-peer services operate.  But free in this context doesn’t have to mean copyright owners aren’t making money, it just means the listeners themselves aren’t paying.  The free tier of Spotify lives here, as does YouTube, sites like, Pandora, broadcast radio, NPR’s music website and numerous other music discovery blogs.

I could’ve put anybody there, but NPR Music is my favorite.

[…fast-forward several minutes…]

So whenever you hear someone pontificating about music’s new world order, including me, ask yourself if the stuff they’re insisting on is going make capturing that attention and turning into something lasting easier to do or harder. But also make sure they’re not just trying to wish the present away.

Capturing people’s attention and holding on to it is the fundamental challenge for artists and labels and their managers in the 21st Century.

That New Yorker writer was lamenting the ease of discovering new things and while that makes me very impatient, it’s true that unlimited shelf space is both a blessing and a curse of digital distribution. The internet stocks everything ever recorded, including not just every single out of print record and LP, but all kinds of music that’s never been commercially available before.

So you’re not just competing with your contemporaries. You’re competing with the entire history of recorded music as well as a yearly infinite present.  That’s scary but can also be exhilarating. If you’re an artist who tours incessantly, changes up the set list every night and has a fan base eager to hear every minute variation as a given tune evolves night after night, we can put that on our shelves and we can do it in something very close to real time. Not every fan wants that of course, nor does every artist. But again, no two fans are alike, if you want to treat them all the same, you still can. It’s a mistake, but you can.

But if you want to embrace the new ability to engage different types of fans in different ways, people like me are here to help however we can.

If you’re self-released, you can upload your music directly to Play and set your own price.  If you’re on a label, make sure they’re delivering to us, make sure your metadata is pristine, and reach out to me to figure out how we can get creative together. Whatever we do together, please understand that music is never just a commodity to us; we’re fans first. Our mission is to turn average citizens into crazy music nerds like us. Digital distribution in general and Play in particular give us unique power to make that happen, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

Thank you.


Audience Member: So I agree with actually quite a bit of what you had to say but it sounded like dangerously close to implying that music hasn’t been devalued somehow. Do you care to elaborate on that part, because you were pretty clear on the rest of it, I think.

Tim: Yeah, I meant what I said very very literally:

You cannot devalue music.

That doesn’t mean that the perceived value of music hasn’t changed and the value to artists of the creators of particular music in particular contexts isn’t different today than it was yesterday, but that’s a wholly different thing than changing the value of music.

Audience Member: So I understand what you’re saying. I would be very careful to say that lamenting or moaning, it’s very easy to say that if you work at Google. If your livelihood depends on recorded music having value, you have to focus on that bottom tier especially for independent artists. The top tier, the big money winners, that’s very different.

Tim: The top tier, look, I’m not just a guy who works for Google, right.  I’m an artist and a creator as well.  As Peter Jenner said the majority of his artists were unsuccessful artists.  I was, I mean, by my standards I was a successful artist, you know, we had a nice publishing deal, we had a major label deal, we toured a lot, we sold a bunch of merchandise, we had more fans than I ever thought we could, but it wasn’t gonna put my daughter through college.  Google is helping me do that.

I would love; I would trade in a heartbeat, the ability to start my band today versus starting my band in 1987.  I just think the opportunity is vastly superior.

158 Responses

  1. andreasilenzi

    Glad this was transcribed! Watch out for that extra N in cannot!

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Aw, you rock! Thanks for catching that.

      Actually, this IS an abridged version. There are a few more minutes that I chopped, it’s largely about metadata, UI, ‘the pyramid,’ on and on. If people want it maybe I’ll post the entire section I chopped as well.

  2. Yves Villeneuve

    You can’t devalue music in cultural terms. But the perceived financial value of music can be lowered by price discounting like 99 cent or 7.99 digital albums and 9.99 physical copies.

    • DUDE

      I think what he’s trying to say is that its not really appropriate to talk about music as if its a commodity like wood or rice or something… I’ll still cop a CD of something I really like even though I can get a download for cheaper, or stream it for free, not because ‘music’ is worth that to me but because that particular artist and album is worth that to me

      There’s also a lot of music that I’ll listen to occasionally, or just wanted to check out, but that I would in no circumstance drop 15-20 dollars on because those acts and albums have some value to me, but not enough to be worth that. There’s a lot of music that I hate and that is worth absolutely nothing to me but might be really meaningful and well worth purchasing to someone else. To talk about all of it in one breath like its all a bunch of interchangeable grains of rice is a bit stupid, and I think that’s what this guy is getting at when he says ‘you can’t devalue music’

      • Yves Villeneuve

        It is possible to lower the average price of music through price discounting. Also, packaging, medium and audio quality are very important in the determination of perceived music value.

        He admits Google pays him a salary so he can put his daughter through college. He probably isn’t making a living as an artist if a major label owns the masters and he’s not touring.

        Read the QA. Don’t get caught up in his preceding corporate/employer paid rant.

        • GGG

          Yes, music’s perceived value can be changed. As it should. Very few people find your music, for example worth anything, let alone $10. So let’s say 100 poor souls bought it at $10. But let’s say 250 would have bought it at $5. What would you rather have happen? People tend to overvalue their work way too much far too often. A new artist with 300 “fans” should not have their shit on iTunes for $10. Try 8, or 5 or whatever. Nobody knows you, nobody cares. Why does that have a $10 value? Because of your pride? Because Steve Jobs said so? It’s not a bad thing to think your music is worth $100, you just have to understand the people who are going to give you money might not think so at first, or ever.

          • Yves Villeneuve

            Well let’s see:

            100 x $7.00 = $700 profit

            250 x $2.00 = $500 profit

          • Yves Villeneuve

            How about I use iTunes because most digital sales are occurring there. Why would I limit my target market. If you want to get picky, there is no guarantee music sales will double if the price is slashed by half. A higher price gives the perceived valued of quality which can create more demand while a lower price can do the opposite and appear as prostituting for fame goals.

            In the USA, the average price of a digital album is $10. Why mess with anything else. I assume at this price point, as a combination, both sales and profits are maximized. My CDs are priced higher and more accurately at 13.97 than the industry average because CDs are heavily discounted by big retailers as a loss leader.

          • GGG

            I thought your fans are all super respectful and do whatever you say because they believe in your message so much and respect the great artist Yves Villenueve? Asking them to buy from a store with a better payout for you is right in line with your message so why wouldn’t they all listen?

            You gain nothing by arbitrarily assuming anything. Also, a higher price gives only morons a perceived value of quality. Every asshole on the planet is a “musician” nowadays and they are all $10 on iTunes. The only perception a no-name artist like you, or some artists I work/have worked with, gives off by lowering the price of their music is “Hey, I’m a no-name artist, I acknowledge and accept that, and I’m cool with selling my music at a cheaper price.” If all of a sudden you gain popularity and your music has a higher perceived quality, raise the price? Why not? So mess with it because you have no idea. Or feel free to post your album sales to prove me wrong once and for all that you actually sell any substantial amount of records.

          • Yves Villeneuve

            You can think whatever you. Doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

          • Bard

            The problem isn’t that new artists need to charge less, the problem is that useless middlemen will rationalize themselves into this market and claim that the artists don’t maybe deserve to be there, when in fact the “skills” that they add to the value is minimal. Anyone can get a mastering degree online these days, they cost about as much as ONE top end synth. A new era of music production is already here, large studios are quickly being replaced by smaller home studios, but heres a little fact for you GGG, because musicians are not making as much start up as they used too because of services like spotify, they will be more likely to cut studio costs for illegally downloaded VSTi music production software. The more that happens the less money real synth shops like moog or dsi make, which means less new instruments being produced, which actually will slow down the global production of new music. Also the more that happens the more listeners will have to hear the same instruments over and over again. Example… Massive… FM8 are some of the most used instruments to date, not because they are the best but because they are easy to crack. So my problem with spotify is that it is undermining the artists ability to distribute music without giving useless middlemen money they could have earned, and if you don’t if you don’t think they’re useless, just look at all the responses fervently defending their position, in this thread… instead of I don’t know.. actually making music and earning your position in the music industry. This mentality is spreading around quite a lot on the net recently, as mainstream top 40 is replaced with former underground EDM, just read something like this about how EDC promoters now think that the “music” is only 10% of a show. What musicians really need is a union, that limits managers, recording companies, and distribution companies to help the musicians themselves, because as long as there are going to be useless middlemen, then they might as well work for the artists.

          • hippydog

            @ Bard

            Sorry, but just the cost of having to professionally sound proof a room keeps people from starting a ‘home recording studio’
            Sure, things are a lot cheaper, but things havent changed that much (in the big picture)

            The problem isnt the “middle men” as that was always around, the problem is scores of tech companies trying to sell how they will “help” the artist..

        • DUDE

          You completely missed the point there dude… Ill grant the packaging and audio quality thing, not that its at all relevant

        • Anonymous

          “He admits Google pays him a salary so he can put his daughter through college. He probably isn’t making a living as an artist if a major label owns the masters and he’s not touring.”

          Well, here’s the really interesting part: Mr. Quirk claims that he was a successful artist, but the truth is that HE WAS AN ABSOLUTE FAILURE AS AN ARTIST!

          You can read his impressive cv here! 🙂 🙂 🙂

          Now, I’m sure many of you have asked yourselves why Google hates artists.

          Could envy be the answer?


          • DUDE

            Most artists are & always have been financially unsuccessful dude, and I dont think it was his intention to pass himself off as a financially successful artist… the ‘success’ he was referencing was more about getting further with his band than he expected to than money. They did get signed and tour for a while, which is more than a lotta bands ever accomplish

          • Anonymous

            “I dont think it was his [Quirk’s] intention to pass himself off as a financially successful artist”

            Hm, let’s hear what he said about that:
            “I was a successful artist, you know, we had a nice publishing deal, we had a major label deal, we toured a lot, we sold a bunch of merchandise, we had more fans than I ever thought we could”

          • axgrindr

            Where in the quote you posted does it say he was financially successful anonymous?

            I think you’re being a bit of a prick here.

    • Anonymous

      “the perceived financial value of music can be lowered by price discounting like 99 cent or 7.99 digital albums”

      And it’s devalued even more, when the world’s biggest Piracy company shows its users where to steal our music.

    • visitor

      Nice Tim. Your advice to artists – quit making music and work for Google. Funny and Ironic that Google is making the money from Piracy that should be paid to artists to make music.

      Google = Borg

      • Anonymous

        “Ironic that Google is making the money from Piracy that should be paid to artists to make music”

        Yes — we need a study to show us how much Google makes from giving access to stolen music.

  3. low tolerance for self-serving blowhards

    My Lord is there an abridged version of this rant?!?! Tim’s an ok guy but I’ve a few of my own “rules” to live by and one is to be suspicious of anyone who takes so long to say so little. He’s working so hard to tell this story and all I can think while reading it is, of course an employee of Google is busy telling us not to worry about music being devalued – while tying that concern to “old” and “nostalgic” and “fetishizing” – since his company is hard at work devaluing all content so that they can pay as little as possible for that which is the primary catalyst for the profits his company reaps. As I said, Tim’s a good guy doing his job but really, no artist, label, songwriter or publisher should give a rat’s ass what he has to say about how Google, YouTube, or others are impacting the value of music.

  4. JamesPopik

    His words re: bottom of the pyramid – “And it’s true, that’s where unlicensed peer-to-peer services operate. But free in this context doesn’t have to mean copyright owners aren’t making money, it just means the listeners themselves aren’t paying.” Huh? How are copyright owners making money if listeners aren’t paying?

    • Anonymous

      “How are copyright owners making money if listeners aren’t paying?”

      It’s all about the long fairy tale, ya know.

      Wait a few hundred years…

  5. Anonymous

    Not sure what an old Google fatcat is doing in this context.

    • low tolerance for self-serving blowhards

      As he never forgets to mention, he’s there because he’s an artist himself. Another “rule” to live by – NEVER trust any music exec who uses his status as a musician – current or former – to give credibility to the BS they’re about to “sell” you. Rather than tell me stories about how he’d much prefer to launch his band in today’s climate, I’d like Tim (and all of his kind) to tell me specific stories about the current artists that his platform has played a direct role in bringing “up the pyramid”.

      • Anonymous

        “As he never forgets to mention, he’s there because he’s an artist himself”

        Hahaaa, I missed that part!

        Priceless… 🙂

    • Biobarus

      [T]ell me specific stories about the current artists that his platform has played a direct role in bringing “up the pyramid”.

      Excellent question. Answer: none.

  6. Edward Jennings

    Thank you for this valuable transcription Paul. I respect Tim Quirk’s knowledge a lot. His 20 minute presentation proved invaluable especially the pyramid (I’d like to see the revised pyramid with the companies shown on the levels).

    Metadata is imperative. As one of the presenters at The Future of Music Summit pointed out, assigning a GUID, globally unique identifier is paramount to tracking and coordinating data for the music industry.

    The GUID is at the heart of the architecture of Microsoft’s Windows Server, Active Directory Database which 100’s of millions of companies use today to manage their organizations. The music industry should follow suit and RIAA should be on that bandwagon.

    If we had a GUID assigned to every recording product that artists could query then the record labels, cloud music companies could be held accountable for “accurate” reporting of sales and artist remuneration for music subscription.

    I have little faith in the record labels accounting and accuracy practices. I suspect collusion between the labels and Spotify with the labels having equity ownership in Spotify. Who is monitoring compliance here as we have in the financial services sector with the securities and exchange commission and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. There may be compliance management going on but what “entity” regulates the music labels? In house accounting firms? My perception is that the record labels squander these monies and pay their artists through and eye dropper…(perhaps someone more in the know could correct my (and others) perception here)

    The three main metadata systems I am aware of today in the music industry are Gracenote(Apple iTunes uses their metadata), The Echonest and Google Play. Imagine if they were interoperable and you could query all three at once 😉

    I wonder what the metadata architecture will be for BeatsAudio (my guess is The Echo Nest, why reinvent the wheel…)

    • Edward Jennings

      I just saw on AllMusic that there is a fourth music metadata id. The industry should standardize on one as technology companies forge universal standards with the Internet Engineering Task Force for the InterWeb.

      It looks like Rovi Corporation is supplying a GUID, Rovi ID for 3 million album releases and 30 million tracks worldwide

      AMG Pop ID

  7. Yves Villeneuve

    I don’t buy his pyramid argument that independent artists have to receive little to no value for their creations. If the music is valuable consumers will pay for it. There is no reason an independent/unsigned artist can’t behave like they are at the top of the pyramid and earn a living from the sale of music recordings. He’s kinda of telling artists to follow establishment/gatekeeper guidelines for success and not independently replicate the major label model of making a profit from music recordings.

    • Read out-of, not in-to

      He’s not telling them how to do it, he’s just commenting on what he’s seen for the past 20 or so years. I’m not going to criticize his experience, but it was clearly enough for him to get a job with a multi-national corporation’s bid at digital music distribution. As far as the pyramid goes, maybe its an over-simplification, he’s certainly not saying that artists have to receive nothing, simply that many of them have been receiving nothing from that pyramid base. The point is, try not to read too much into it, take from it what you can, and contemplate it beyond a narrow view. His stint about not being able to devalue music was about the variable value of music with a changing social context. It’s an abstraction, not a comment on the changes in rates or revenues. Price and value are based in different social constructions, don’t equate them.

    • skierpage

      If the music is valuable consumers will pay for it. You are a deluded fool. Consumers search for ” free download” or “watch” entire albums on YouTube, through the magic of technology get something for nothing, and only Google gets paid.

      • anonym

        I for one, pay for a lot of the music I consume. It’s one of the few ways to support independent artists. Research also brought out that free downloads can be a precursor for a financial transaction:

        more research need to be done, and the big record companies are blurring the facts, because it threatens their current and costly distribution networks/deals.

        I live in Holland, how come that there is music I can’t buy in Itunes or beatport or whatever, while someone else in the States can? By keeping their old ways the same, the industry creates unnecessary barriers, and are therefore also responsible for encouraging illegal downloads.

        My point is, it’s very simplistic to blame it on downloaders and criminalize them. The business is changed and that means that the old models are no longer valid. Try to find new models. Good luck 😉

        • FarePlay

          You have that wrong and right.

          First. It definitely isn’t the RIAA and the MPAA that are blurring the lines, it’s tech and those who support piracy. The problem with the industry groups is that they invest primarily in going after the problem through the courts and have lost out on the court of public opinion.

          Second. Your survey about piracy selling product has pretty much been debunked over the past decade and the undeniable decline of revenue to the industry and the artist.

          Three. You do have a valid point in regard to availability in all markets.

  8. And so?

    So if Tim has such a great handle on the changing music eco-system then why does Google Play SUCK SO MUCH? I respect Tim as a smart guy who has a really good handle on digital music, however Google Play is the most hair-brained, half-baked music offering. Much like Google+, Play is simply a market grab and placeholder to combat their main rivals. Lame, ineffective and completely irrelevant in the digital retail discussion.

  9. TuneHunter

    Well, he is absolutely correct! I agree with Mr. Quirk.

    If it is FREE “zero is zero” you cannot deflate zero.

    Google cannot listen sycophants at the labels if they want to save the industry and make some major money at the same time.
    For incremental growth ( Google always looks for that!) you need to restart sales of music. Discovery Moment Monetization with radios and normal radios converted in to the music merchants is out of the box big time but it is logical and easy to implement.
    YouTube as a supplier to DJs converted to salesmen would become the biggest music hub. At that point it would be easy to convince them to stop free streams at 50K, 100K or whatever level desired by the creator.

  10. Anonymous

    It’s funny… Mr. Quirk not only talks like Mr. Dotcom, he also looks like a bit like him.

  11. Unindicted Co-conspirator

    Nice. A guy who “plays the part” of resident Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, complete with rock t-shirt costume, while parasitically introducing a drag coefficient on the entire music economy, gets to tell us what is and isn’t valuable about music. What a fraud.

  12. bloviation

    “you have to be very humble.” something he clearly knows very little about.

  13. Home Gramophones Are Killing Sheet Music

    I love Google services. I ran a bunch of Tim Quirk’s comments through GoogleTranslate, here’s what it gave me:

    “You can’t devalue music. It’s impossible.”
    >“I don’t want to talk about the economics of the industry I work in. So let’s talk aesthetics.”

    “What’s new is that the casual fans no longer have to buy if they don’t want to. “
    >”What’s new is that no-one has to buy if they don’t want to. If you really love the artist, you’ll feel guilty enough to send them a donation.”

    “Whatever we do together, please understand that music is never just a commodity to us; we’re fans first.”
    “After meeting “their” A & R guy, the band will say to themselves and everyone else, “He’s not like a record company guy at all! He’s like one of us.” And they will be right. That’s one of the reasons he was hired.” [- Steve Albini, “The Problem With Music”].

    “We had more fans than I ever thought we could, but it wasn’t gonna put my daughter through college. Google is helping me do that.”
    >”Joooooiiiiiiinnnn ussssssssss”

  14. WhoCares?


    It’s all just crafty rhetoric out of his mouth. Who cares?

    Here’s the most telling part of his little self-indulgent pontification : “None of this is new. What’s new is that the casual fans no longer have to buy if they don’t want to.”

    EXACTLY. Just stop there, Price. You don’t have to say anything else. That’s all that needs to be said.

    Bottom line: Musicians should and must be allowed to say “If you don’t pay, you don’t get to listen.”

    That’s what IP is there for. If you break it, you screw artists. Plain and simple.

    • skierpage

      Exactly. There’s always been a free tier of music, where you asked the record store to play a song, or ask a friend to make a copy, or listen to random songs on the radio. Now the legitimate free tier is vast with lots of bands offering free downloads, the Internet Archive offering thousands of live shows for free, etc. It’s a golden age!

      But consumers don’t want “Rosemary Krust”s free performances, they want popular professionally-made songs by known artists. They’re all out there cheaper than they’ve ever been, high-quality and DRM-free, on Amazon/Google Play/iTunes; it’s a golden age! But instead consumers search for ” free download” or “watch” entire albums on YouTube, through the magic of technology they get something for nothing, and only Google gets $$$$. It’s disingenuous to call it “don’t care to pay” when you enable and profit from flattening the pyramid into a pancake where everyone but a few die-hard music fans finds whatever they want in the “don’t HAVE to pay” tier, *regardless of the wishes of the artists!*

      So ultimately he’s a hypocritical disgusting prick.

      • Esol Esek

        People have murdered each other for the ‘good of their kids’ otherwise known as their bloodline, their clan, their possessions, their immortality. Plenty of dirt has been done in the name of one’s children, so my answer to that is BFD. Google is slaughtering photographers, authors, and ripping off people who post to Youtube for which there is no independent verification of plays and no solid fee structure. It’s basically all up to Google to decide. This kind of power makes for defensive, overspoken clowns like this one in this interview, who blather on for eons sidestepping the basic question of money. As Eazy E said “all of this shit without money ain’t jack” in response to getting booked. Of course, this is always up to the band and their manager, and, sure, only a handful of bands deserve to be rich. However, Google doesn’t deserve to pad their billions off of content creators. And to those who are talking about $5 vs $10, we’re talking pennies here. That’s what these ripoff services pay. $5 would look like a bonanza to most indies.

        Getty and Corbis are sucking every photograph they can get into their whirpool of declining fees. They still make obscene profits, and they pay their employees a wage that they can send their kids to college on, and the content creators get screwed. It IS the reality that you have to accept before you can strategize a response, whether through how you sell work, and deprive these online thieves, or try to get political, if there’s any hope there, and there probably isn’t.

        Some online trade orgs are trying to form, and they are desperately needed to fund legal attacks on Google, who is the most nefarious of all actors, because of Youtube, and ad sales to pirate sites, as well as rumors that they freely strip copyright metadata from photos and other content.

        Use Duck Duck GO or some other search engine and buy a Vimeo account or post elsewhere. Google has to be boycotted immediately, also for their anti-democratic activities. Throw Yahoo in as well for their bootlicking to power.

  15. Jimmy D

    Better to start a band now than in the 80’s???? Is he crazy? My band and I have been struggling for years now. Transport me back to the 80’s where record companies have multiple-record deals and actually care for the bands they signed. Sigh. My career will more than likely entail years and years of touring with little financial success. Thank you Google.

    • GGG

      How many fans do you have? When people see you play for the first time, what is the general reaction? Do many people sign your mailing list? Do many people return to see you live? If your music is streaming anywhere are the plays fairly even, is there a hit or two, and/or do plays nosedive after the first couple tracks? How many CDs/DLs have you sold? Do you interact with your fans on a regular basis? Do you keep a fairly consistent output of music/videos/random shit? Are you local, regional, national, international?

      In other words, are you 100% positive the music is not any of the problem?

      • Blame the victim

        They guy is running a band in an era where there is literally no reason why anyone needs to pay for music, and you ask him, “are you 100% positive the music is not any of the problem?”

        Even if his band is mediocre (something that did not use to necessarily be a barrier to financial success), that’s still not the MAIN part of the problem. Your questions has something of the “How were you dressed when you were raped?” about it.

        • GGG

          No, it’s not at all “how were you dressed when you were raped.” Just because this guy has a band doesn’t mean ANYONE is pirating it. This is the problem. It’s NEVER artists/music fault? Every shitty band would be millionaires if it wasn’t for piracy, right? No, that’s fucking stupid. You think the majority of mediocre bands lived off their money before 2000? Are you serious? Do you have any idea how many failed bands, not to mention one-hit wonders/other artists who were successful briefly and went through their money, there have been in the world? Do you know how many signed bands have not made a dime? You really think pre-2000 was this utopia of bands making big bucks as long as you had a few fans? Gimme a break.

          I’ve seen bands play the same venues in NYC for a decade. That obviously means their fanbase is not growing. Nothing to do with piracy. I’ve seen bands sell hundreds of records as a nobody band, get on a indie label and wallow on the cusp of success for years. Maybe they lost a thousand bucks to piracy at that point, but certainly didn’t lose a career for anything other than lack of interest. I know everyone is a special snowflake because our moms said so, and I know everyone’s art is special and we can’t make fun of it because we’re all undiscovered geniuses, but for fuck’s sake, sometimes people just fail.

      • skierpage

        GGG, you’re the problem. If just *ONE* of Jimmy D’s band’s songs is any good, stop being an entitled ass, and PAY for it. All that other crap you tell his band to do is just a smokescreen around the sad fact that your parents raised you badly, and like Jane’s Addiction says “When I want something, I don’t wanna pay for it.”

        The Trichordist’s letter to Emily is so true. “On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation. Except for one thing. Artist rights.”

        • GGG

          Hahah, hold up…”How many fans do you have, how many records do you sell, how many people come back to your shows, etc” are smokescreens? How the fuck do you measure a band’s success then? What other metric do you possibly use?

          I buy plenty of music and pay for Spotify premium. I’m not the entitled one. Seems like too many people on here want to make a living making music no matter how shitty/undesirable they are. I’m glad your mom thinks your music is great, but if nobody else does why do you deserve money again? Simply being a musician has NEVER guaranteed money. If nobody gave a shit about you in 1975 you weren’t going to make any money either.

  16. Sebastian Hartmann

    Advertising. Are highway billboards harmful? To an american this must question sound strange, but as a european I am not willing to take ads with my landscapes and music. Because it is devalueing by experiences.

  17. Anonymous

    …And with free online streaming, you can hear this kind of thing BEFORE EVERY GODDAMN SONG. Sign up now!

    • GGG

      Or you subscribe. I just listened to a full album without one commercial. Amazing, isn’t it.

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Hilarious. Your responses are the only reason why this spam hasn’t been eliminated.

        • GGG

          Sorry, I’ll try not to promote spending more money on music in the future?

          • Blame the victim

            Respect to Paul Resnikoff for keeping this part of the thread up. I’m a newcomer to your site, brought here by a FB share of your “13 Most Insidious, Pervasive Lies of the Modern Music Industry”. I will certainly be returning.

            GGG. Your (doubtless well-meaning) reply to a spambot and some pass-thru snark creates an interesting microcosm of the whole situation here. We are all now, however inadvertently, encouraging the pirates right here. Thanks to your intervention, a link to a seller of fake Oakley sunglasses is now a relevant part of the conversation. I just clicked that link btw, they’ve got really cheap sunglasses. Maybe I’ll buy some.

            I really, really hope you work for Google.

          • GGG

            I didn’t respond to a spambot, I responded to an anonymous human. Though, I’m flattered you think my commentary is so subversive that an inane comment can make even a spam message relevant.

            Though, you do lead into a good point; in that Paul is enabling sunglass piracy by not removing the link… Digital Eyewear News will have an article up soon.

          • Blame the Victim

            It’s true, dude, you’re the most subversive commentator on here 4 realz.

            Now, how about being a nice chap and offering Paul some expert insider advice on the best way to monetize that piracy-enabling link?

          • GGG

            Wait, I’m confused, you seriously think I’m a Google plant because I alluded, correctly, that streaming subscribers don’t hear ads before songs? Weird.

          • Blame the Victim

            Nah, I made that assumption because of the way you posted what looked suspiciously like pre-prepared corporate-line talking points under a remarkably wide range of comments. Was I wrong?

          • GGG

            Examples? But no, sorry, I am not a Google plant. I’m pretty sure they’re doing well enough to not need anonymous commenters defending them…

          • Blame the victim

            Examples: pretty much everything you’ve posted here, really. And Google Play music service is in more desperate need of a concerted PR offensive than any cargo cult cash-in product since Google Buzz.

            However, I will apologetically withdraw my accusation on the basis of your “I’m desperate to be taken seriously!” comment below: I fear I may have confused a mere kool aid enema victim with an actual shill. I fear this industry will likely eat you up and shit you out like yesterday’s corn on the cob. Please accept my genuine sympathies.

          • GGG

            So I guess you’re new to the internet if you can’t spot that sarcasm from a mile away. So we were both confused. I was confusing you with a moderately intelligent human being. My bad.

            Anyway, still waiting for any reply from you with any sort of substance. I rebutted your first post toward me, and it’s been crickets since. And I’m still not sure what I’m shilling for? I haven’t said one positive thing about Google or this guy in all my posts here. So I’m a pretty shitty Google shill. Not sure why stating the fact there are no ads with a streaming subscription is shilling, but ok.

            Also, been in this industry almost a decade and can pay my rent and eat everyday in one expensive ass city, so this industry is going to have to try a lot harder to eat me up and shit me out. So, sorry man, can’t pass your own deep-seeded pussy mentality off as mine.

          • Blame the victim

            Sigh, okay then, a proper rebuttal. [CTRL+F GGG]

            Your extensive comments on this thread were, in order:

            1. A fairly clear statement of support for Google Play’s pricing model, and a dig at iTunes
            2. An objection to someone’s hypothetical income calculations, in the form of an assertion that the pittance you believe they could receive is actually slightly higher than the pittance they believe they could receive
            3. Another endorsement of the Google Play pricing model
            4. An agree-to-disagree
            5. A suggestion that the reason a complaining artist who posted here isn’t making any money is probably that their music simply sucks.
            6. A further, swearier statement also amounting to the reason a lot of bands don’t make money being that they suck.
            7. A sweary rebuttal to someone’s suggestion that you were being patronising, aand some hype for Spotify.
            8. More hype for Spotify
            9. A sulky response to a comment making fun of you which was posted by the article’s author.
            10. This sub-thread
            11. “I’m desperate to be taken seriously!”, which in the context of all the above still does not strike me as being meant ironically.

            Now that I have punished myself by reading it all in one go, I have to admit you sound more like an entitled coked-up label PR than a Google Play PR. My apologies for the Google slur.

          • hippydog

            I thought he was a shill for spotify.. or was that pandora? oh well.. 😉
            Cant be Itunes, not enough of a feminist… (joking… pleasing dont have me killed Apple people)

          • Big Swifty

            You really need to get some perspective if you want people to take you seriously

          • Blame the Victim

            Good lord, man. I’m a pseudonymous troll making fun of a painfully obvious Google PR plant, what on earth made you think I wanted to be taken seriously?

            But still, do please tell more about this perspective I need to be getting…

          • Blame the Victim

            Oops, sorry, you mean the other guy. Ignore my last cock, I suck replies.

          • GGG

            This was responding to me, correct? In which case, perspective of what exactly? I’m a few months shy of a decade of perspective working the the industry so how many more do I need. I’m desperate to be taken seriously!

  18. Anonymous

    In other news, both the RIAA and BPI has been caught distributing copyright infringing JavaScript code via their websites.

  19. I hate phonies

    Can you believe the absurd logic of this prick? “we had more fans than I ever thought we could, but it wasn’t gonna put my daughter through college. Google is helping me do that.”

    I was an organic farmer helping sustain my community and environment by creating the best produce I possibly could. But that wasn’t going to put my daughter through college, so, fuck it, I’m going to work for Monsanto.

    • sensical

      Probably a smart move. What’s their market cap…50 billion?

  20. I hate phonies

    …and another thing. “His worry doesn’t only bother me because I have a very low tolerance for nostalgia; it also upsets me because if he’s right, it means I’m failing at my job.” Bullshit upon bullshit. Here’s a quote from the extensive “exclusive Clash documentary”, in his own words “if you already love the Clash, watch and listen and we guarantee you’ll hear something new. If you don’t, you’ll hear why you should.”

    So, forget about the meta-problem of the fact that they are still doing documentaries on the Clash, instead of promoting all these new bands that are supposed to make a living selling merchandise instead of music — how about the intergalactic hypocrisy of shrewishly crying against nostalgia, and then claiming that everyone “should” love The Clash. What an embarrassing, teen-age sentiment from someone claiming to be so above nostalgia.

    • Big Swifty

      It’s all just marketing to make himself look cool.

      If Google developed an app that monetized music nostalgia he would change his public opinion immediately.

  21. Djam

    OMG: What an idiot. The fact is that HE is now totally De-valued and has shown himself to be totally clueless – It this the new standard for Google employees?

    He totally has this mixed up: There is a “value” that is “to regard something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.”

    The there is a Market “Value”: “estimate the monetary worth of (something).”
    These are called nouns and verbs.

    So Google stock should be worth $1.00 per share. BUT oh wait it’s priceless, tell that to your bank. Are they telling him to go out and preach this? You can always frame your stock and hang it on the wall as “ART.”

  22. coffin

    oh, i see. as an indie, what i really need to do is make 5,000 dollar coffins for people to bury themselves in, that’s the solution.

    here’s the point: google made huge amounts of money in ad sales on pirating sites. they could have easily have blocked those sites from the very beginning. they didn’t, because they were making money.

    (and to all those people who insist on saying that you can’t make money on sales now, and never really could be a successful band — always implying that as an indie there’s only a few hundred people who are even pirating your stuff — everytime i see 20 or 30,000 downloads on a pirate site (i can only ever manage to check one or two every so often it’s so depressing) i don’t think “wow, maybe i can sell them t shirts” i think, “damn, how easy it would have been for them to spend a dollar.”

    another, say 30K in my pocket would have enabled more music to have been made.

    • DUDE

      Yea but do you actually think that ALL 30,000 of those people would’ve paid for your track? That’s wildly optimistic, even if you toned it down to a quarter of those people paying for it Id still probably say you’re being wildly optimistic

      There’s a ton of music that I mildly enjoy but would definitely not pay for, even if that meant I wouldnt get to hear it at all. I buy shit that really grabs me and that I know will bear repeated listens, and I always have even when streaming didnt exist yet… the only difference is that now I can listen to stuff thats mildly interesting but not worth buying without coughing up 15 bucks

      • wrong

        there is no optimism — the point is: they ALREADY downloaded it. obviously they wanted it; if they want on their mp3 player, they should pay for it. (they can hear previews at all the paying sites, even hear some full tracks at various locations before deciding to buy.)

        also, as an indie band with 0 marketing budget, it means they had to search specifically for it, meaning they’d heard something already somewhere and took the time.

        also, that’s just one site among many, not counting lockers and other means that don’t show up on the web.

        analogy: i sneak in to a movie theatre, watch the movie. i get caught afterwards. i say ” i wouldn’t have paid for that movie anyway.” should i get away with that?

        • DUDE

          They wanted it bad enough to get it for free obviously… but did they want it bad enough to pay for it? My guess is no in most cases

          Also, we were talking about track downloads, not albums here unless Im misreading the post, so 5000 * $0.70 artists share = $3500, optimistically

          • wrong

            it’s amazing how much you’ve missed the point: that google owes much (or at least billions) of it’s existence to piracy… (search engines, ads on piracy sites), as have high speed internet providers, etc etc… all of which could have been stopped (or even paid for in some manner) by those same companies (blocking websites, or some type of royalties paid by ISPs, etc.)

            instead, they actually paid money to “copyright free” promoters, think tanks, and legislators.

      • wrong

        and dude, 1/4 of 20K is 5000, at 10 bux for an album, that’s 50,000. i undercut it way more than you did.

        (hey, i could’ve said 30K x 10 sites x 10bux for $3,000,000… but i didn’t.)

    • blahblahblah

      As Carly Simon said, “These are the good old days.” I take this to mean that shit just keeps getting worse.

  23. TonsoTunez

    Tim, Google shill that he is, is absolutely right … you cannot devalue music … As a matter of fact, music is more valuable than it has ever been … Without it the Internet would probably still be stumbling to get off the ground. Without it criminals and tech companies – mainly Google – wouldn’t be rolling in billions of dollars of illicit earnings. Without it aggregators like TuneCore, CDBaby, Spotify, Pandora and all the rest who live off the fat of the ever expanding musical landscape wouldn’t be prospering, participating in outlandish IPOs and generally becoming obscenely rich overnight.

    Unfortunately, the there IS one segment of the musical food chain that is being devalued, forgotten and kicked aside … the people (let me repeat that, PEOPLE) who create it!

    • TuneHunter

      Today music industry is like world taken over by fascism – it is wrong politics or wrong religion taking over the business!

      Free or near free Streaming and orgasmic iRadios of all sort are in more advance stage of music takeover than Germany , Japan and Italy ever got with their global pipe dream.

      The biggest problem is that the labels do not fight.
      The representatives of the music world became collaborators of this stream to nowhere rat race.

      At the best, current monetization politics will deliver just 35 billion dollar industry by 2025 – which will be more less 60% of inflation adjusted 1999 sales!

      In the meantime we have well established discovery services like Shazam, Soundhound, or Google lyrics ID with over billion users.
      We also have similar tune suggest services deserving mega monetization – no need to be free – Mr. Ek is wrong.
      We also have technology to convert all radio operators (both iRadio and normal radio)
      to conventional music retailers and all streamers to no subscription pay per stream (or stream to own) businesses.

      Honestly, only blind man is not able to see 100 billion dollar industry around us.
      Labels and RIAA have to wake up and revamp monetization to basic and simple sales.
      All current players will gain financially – including Spotify.
      39 cents for purchase or addition to the play-list will do the job.

  24. quack

    there is a big demand in people market. it is called free stuff. if you can provide free stuff, if you can give them a free stuff and they likes it, then you can take opportunity from people who loves free stuff. im wondering why google company providing free food for their own employee, it is attracitice strategy to stop the good employee goes away. example ,and then why Jesus are so phenomenal even tstill today, because he sell something that called FREE after life…you know what…people demand something free. and there is BIG demand and big market in it.

    • Jr565

      f you want to sell YOUR stuff free. But if you’re giving away other people’s stuff for free, there’s a problem. If you’re profiting by advertising illegal downloads without paying the artist for distributing his work, then its not really free is it? If Google profits, its not free. They’ve just shifted the profit from songs to advertising. And didn.t pay the artists one red cent when Llowing for their work to be distributed.

      I notice on Google play they charge for stuff. Why is that? Shouldn’t it all be free?

  25. quack

    the question is, how you can makes some cash from people who loves free stuff??? or at least discount. and why disney can be so big?? because the main point in disney, they sell fairy tales, they selling dreams to people. so peoples can trust and believes in it. and when people believes in it, the disney company makes a lot of cash from those “believe” people. even google try to sell “dreams” company to their best employee, so they can stay as long as they can and not be able to hijacked by their competitiors. well….the main point is, u cant only sell music, you must sell dreams too…..and for sure the cash will flown to your bank account easily.

  26. quack

    anonymous quote : you want to be rich? go sell your dreams, make people believe in it and then money will arrive soon.

  27. Erik P

    I remember playing w/ Tim’s band back in the early 90’s. If I remember correctly, he was a pompous know-it-all back then too.

  28. blahblahblah

    Yeah, sorry. Not buying that a guy his age, who has been in a somewhat successful recording and touring act, really thinks that the music discovery experience today is superior to any time before the internet. That’s his paycheck talking. Hey, I don’t blame him. College ain’t cheap.

  29. Bill Rosenblatt

    I saw Tim give this talk in Washington last week. It struck me as smug and condescending on the one hand, and on the other hand reflective of the difficult task he faces as someone who is supposed to make actual money from a product to which his employer would rather ascribe zero value. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one. To me the phrase “xyz is priceless” really means “it’s not my responsibility to value it.” Not exactly appropriate words for someone who is supposed to be selling it. It seems to me that if he worked for Amazon and were caught saying things like that, he’d be fired.

  30. matt milton

    He claims that you “literally” can’t devalue music because different people charge different amounts for MP3s and albums at different times. It hasn’t occurred to him that, d’oh, this applies to every single sellable product in a free market! You have only to replace the word “music” with “water”, “guitars”, “shirts” or “beefburgers” to appreciate what an idiot he is. If were Head of Comms at Google Play I’d want him muzzled: I wouldn’t want the world to know the company was employing self-contradictory morons, who don’t understand the concept of prices.

  31. matt milton

    I mean, really, do they not veto what this guy says? If music is “priceless”, what the hell are all those prices underneath all the albums on Google Play then?

    Is he seriously suggesting Google Play don’t monitor what their competitors are charging for music? How does he feel about competitors that charge less than Google Plus per album? What word would he use to describe that activity?

    If it’s possible to put a price on something, it’s possible to devalue that something. Simple as. A schoolkid knows that. How much is he paid to spout this nonsense?

  32. River Waters

    Economic “Value” is what someone is willing to pay for it. Music that must be given away has no economic value. What is this guy talking about?

  33. hippydog

    Wow, I am so on the fence on this article..

    I agree with many things that he stated..
    on the other hand, some of it is BS..

    The premise of “You Cannot Devalue Music. ”
    Is technically correct..
    Its art, and the value of that is set by the artist.. We know artists sell their stuff directly all the time to commercial and private and get great value for it..

    The exception is when you want to mass produce it (and follow our current ways of mass releasing music). Thats when the bottom drops out.. IE: the pirates do it for free..

    So we KNOW music is being devalued, but only because we are doing things the same way as before and it affects the area where artists made most of their money (selling albums)
    I am also enough of a geek to realize the reality that though we can somewhat mitigate the pirates, THEY CAN NEVER BE COMPLETELY STOPPED. (the issue is inherent in the internet, so unless how music is released changes, the problem wont change)

    so ya..
    i lot of what he says rings true..
    Who made up the fact that all songs, their entire lifetime, are worth $1 each? The real world never relflected that..

    ” Don’t fetishize the past.”
    i agree with that.. on the other hand, if you dont KNOW your past you end up making the same mistakes..

    “What’s new is that the casual fans no longer have to buy if they don’t want to.”
    thats the crux of the matter right there.. So why are artists still trying to sell to these people? or why are they giving them the same quality/catalog?

    “there’s no such thing as a gatekeeper and everybody’s a tastemaker.”
    thats also the major problem.. and I REALLY don’t think Google has a solution for it..

  34. Whooizit

    It’s interesting to hear the idea that lowering the price of music to 9.99 or 7.99 is “devaluing” it. When the industry switched from albums to CDs, they artificially raised the price of CDs, presumably because the cost to produce CDs at that time was higher. Years later, when the actual cost to produce CDs was lower than the costs to produce vinyl records, they never gave that money back to consumers. Since the dawn of the recorded music industry, the price of music has been set arbitrarily, with no connection to its underlying value.

    • Faza (TCM_

      I hate to be that guy, but since when is “giving money back to consumers” a part of doing business?

      If a consumer paid $X for something, it means it was worth at least $X to them. With music especially we cannot claim that they were somehow coerced into buying (as we could with essentials, like food, water or shelter), so if they paid the asking price, they must have thought they were getting an acceptable deal.

      What it actually cost to produce the CD is pretty irrelevant. We could equally well argue that since the album cost a million dollars to record, the consumer should be paying a million dollars for it. In comparison, even $20 seems like a crazy bargain.

  35. Dick Money

    Nothing but another wolf in sheep’s clothing from the tech industry. Artists know your enemy!

  36. jr565

    “I mean, by my standards I was a successful artist, you know, we had a nice publishing deal, we had a major label deal, we toured a lot, we sold a bunch of merchandise, we had more fans than I ever thought we could, but it wasn’t gonna put my daughter through college. Google is helping me do that.

    I would love; I would trade in a heartbeat, the ability to start my band today versus starting my band in 1987. I just think the opportunity is vastly superior.”
    What absolute crap. If Tim was starting out today Google would be exploiting his work and devaluing it. And he’d then have to deal with his music being played on Spotify and making next to no royalties, and then having his songs given away on Megaupload.
    What a hypocrite.

  37. jr565

    Google and megaupload derive plenty of value fromartists music. THey’ve built their business off of exploiting artists by not paying them royalties for said exploitation. So, the value has shifted from the artist and/or record company to the internet company. Who had no hand in the production of said music.
    So Tim’s company is exploiting artists in ways far worse than the music companies ever dreamed.
    At least when the record companies robbed you they signed a contract and then violated the contract. Google just exploits, no contract necessary. No hint of royalties being paid.

    I wouldn’t buy Tim’s albums if he paid me with his own money to do so.

  38. musicFIRST

    Thanks Paul for posting this for those of us who missed it. musicFIRST blogged in response to it and tweeted our response. We received a rather gracious reply from Mr. Quirk.

    He wrote “I agree with almost all of this, actually” and retweeted the piece.

    Here’s our take: “Nostalgia or Appreciation”

    And an excerpt: “As a former record store clerk, I imagine I could be accused of “fetishizing the past” at times. I certainly have good memories of those days and the connection they forged between me, music, and other fans. Tim Quirk, in his own words, would say “F— him” to all that I suppose.

    But there’s nothing wrong with being nostalgic about the tangibility of music, of riding the bus to the record store, and forking over some hard earned one-dollar bills for an album. There’s nothing wrong with having happy memories of a kid coming to a record store with nickels and pennies to buy a vinyl or cassette single. Or a fan asking for an album that wouldn’t be released for a month, and then showing up again on “rack day” as you unboxed it.

    And there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that, as the world changes and those things go away, we lose something that had real value – even as we gain amazing new things as well. That’s not gauzy nostalgia, it’s an honest look at the trade offs of modern life.

    Tim Quirk doesn’t like it. But it is really beside the point…..”

  39. Anonymous

    I have been very fortunate to have had a relatively successful career in the music business for the last 50 years. I look back on most of those years – up until Napster – as the greatest time in the history of popular music. … Just think of the amazing variety of fabulously inventive and creative music that has been poured into our ears since the rock revolution – a revolution that liberated genres of music that broke down racial, cultural and international barriers and had the power to change the world …and did!

    It was a time when people who created music could dream, could hope and could commit their hearts and souls to what they believed in because for some – who, through hard work and a little luck – there could be a future.

    I look, with great sadness, at those who would like to continue the traditions of the past utilizing these amazing new technologies and see how hopeless their plights are thanks to the Googles and Kim Dotcoms of the world who pounce on every little success today’s creators achieve and suck every dream and ounce of opportunity out of them simply to fill their bank accounts to overflowing while the creators starve.

    Honest to God, people who exploit creators for their own personal gain are despicable in the worst possible connotation that can be heaped on that word.

    I would really like to know what Tim Quirk, and others who work for these soulless predators, tell their families they do for a living.

    If I were one of them, I’d be so ashamed.

  40. Blame the victim

    @GGG, for some reason I can’t post a direct reply on the sub-sub-sub-thread above, but I’m sure you’ll find it here since you’re spending a lot of time on this thread.

    Okay then, the proper rebuttal you requested. [CTRL+F GGG]

    Why did I assume you were a shill? Your extensive comments on this thread were, in order:

    1. A fairly clear statement of support for Google Play’s pricing model, and a dig at iTunes
    2. An objection to someone’s hypothetical income calculations, in the form of an assertion that the pittance you believe they could receive is actually slightly higher than the pittance they believe they could receive
    3. Another endorsement of the Google Play pricing model
    4. An agree-to-disagree
    5. A suggestion that the reason a complaining artist who posted here isn’t making any money is probably that their music simply sucks.
    6. A further, swearier statement also amounting to the reason a lot of bands don’t make money being that they suck.
    7. A sweary rebuttal to someone’s suggestion that you were being patronising, aand some hype for Spotify.
    8. More hype for Spotify
    9. A sulky response to a comment making fun of you which was posted by the article’s author.
    10. This sub-thread
    11. “I’m desperate to be taken seriously!”, which in the context of all the above still does not strike me as being meant ironically.

    Now that I have punished myself by reading it all in one go, I have to admit you sound more like an entitled coked-up label PR than a Google Play PR. My apologies for the Google slur.

    • Paul Resnikoff


      Some comments got munched last night and early this morning by our new spam filtering system, so please re-enter if you don’t see your comment. We’re refining the process, with a few snags here and there.


        • Paul Resnikoff

          In some senses, though I’m overall pretty happy with the system. And really happy/lucky I have a great team to implement and maintain an upgrade (huge props to Steve Hindle and Rochell Abonalla). I’ll spare you the mini-misery, but you hit a certain level (ie, one of the largest sites in the world) and your site gets utterly bombarded by spam and bots, and everything in between. There are a number of reasons for this, many of them totally nefarious (on the good side, bots from every last search engine and RSS aggregator are generally just crawling our site ad nauseum, it gets a little gray when they are blatantly bypassing our robots.txt…

          enough of my weeds. Enjoying the discussion.

    • GGG

      Yes, I’m a loser because I spend so much time in this thread, yet here you are…still responding to me…

      1-4. Actually, just about value of music in general, nothing about Google. Yves and I have a history of arguing on this site, article becomes irrelevant half the time. But want me to change that to 100K vs 250K to make it bigger numbers? Do you need big shiny things to understand concepts? Is Google’s pricing model even explicitly talked about in this speech? Zero mention of Google in any of my posts. If anything, I’m a shill for Bandcamp in those first posts.

      5-7. Yea, so? As I said in those posts, I’m sorry your mom told you you were a special snowflake, but chances are you are not. You make mediocre music at best that barely anyone wants. If you’ve got 700 Facebook fans, shitty Spotify payouts are the least of your problems. But I apologize for saying “shit” and “fuck.” If I had known I was talking to someone with skin as thin as my 80 year old grandma, I would have toned it down some.

      7-8. I’ll give you a pass on this one since you’re new here, but yes, I often defend the fundamental idea of streaming under the blanket term Spotify since that’s what I use. Since you’re proving yourself not to be the sharpest, this means I defend the whole concept of Rhapsody, Deezer, Rdio, etc but just say “Spotify.”

      9. Sarcasm. Really, if you’re going to be on the internet, learn how to pick up on that or your blood pressure is going to go through the roof. This has been a PSA from GGG.

      11. See 9. And if you still don’t believe me, I dunno what to tell you, man. You can go on with life thinking me posting anonymous comments on a shitshow message board is my actual perceived path to relevance, but that goes hand in hand with also knowing that you’re a moron.

      I don’t work for a label either, sorry. Actually work directly for artists/myself, with a partner. Not sure why someone can’t just have opinions without being a shill for something. I’m sorry you’re a weak-minded little pushover. And since we’re playing the guessing game, let’s see; you’re obviously super bitter so I’m thinking failed musician. You seem entitled to just having money for making sounds come out of something, so I’m guessing shitty punk and/or pedal-mashing guitarist. Or better yet, “experimental” laptop musician.

      • Blame the victim

        Hahaha, ok, disclosure for disclosure: No, I’m not a failed musician. I’m PR hack who left the music industry for another industry that actually has a viable future. Yep, the person who accused you of shilling is in fact a professional shill IRL. Teh ironiez.

        I now realise that you do actually have a seriously thought-out position on all of this, hidden amongst all the 4chan internet hero swagger. So do I, and I’ll offer it here in all seriousness:

        Re: Tim Quirk’s main point. Hell yes you can devalue music. Or rather, you can devalue recorded music, because recorded music is a commodity. Quirk’s attempt to duck the economics of this by turning it into a philosophical discussion of aesthetics is comically disingenuous, not least because to do so is to speak as an artist rather than as the business representative that he is. For that move alone, he deserves every piece of abuse that’s been heaped upon him in this thread.

        Recorded music has been devalued, and it’s been devalued to zero. There was a period of about 100 years where a recording of a piece of music had an economic value in and of itself. Like every other product, its economic value was tied to its scarcity. The internet has made recorded music a post-scarcity commodity. As an industry, it’s over.

        Not completely over, of course – there are still niche markets, like film and TV licensing, and the manufacture of bankable mass-market teenage fantasies, and being the last generation of middleman vultures able to scrape a decent living from the greater carcass. But for the most part, it’s over.

        Your suggestion that most bands don’t make money nowadays because they’re mediocre has a great deal of truth in it, but it also completely misses the single most important point about the decline of the music industry:

        The best indicator of the economic health of the music industry was and is the number of shitty, low-talent bands getting ridiculously overcapitalised by an investment sector whose business model from the 60s onwards was never more complicated than “throw tons of money around in the expectation that some of it will hit an ultra-recoupable New Beatles”.

        In the post-scarcity music world of the internet, this model is laughable. No viable alternative whatsoever has emerged, nor can one emerge.

        Musicians are back to passing the hat around. This is sad, but completely inevitable.

        For me personally, this means I’ll download pirated music, stream on youtube/soundcloud/etc (which amounts to pretty much the same thing as far as the artist’s pocket is concerned), buy a few downloads of songs I really like and want at 320 (usually via Bandcamp) and throw some money into the hat at the concert merch table. As far as paid streaming services are concerned, I’ll assume we’re both fully aware of just how little of the money goes to the artists. Personally, I’m far more comfortable with pirate downloads than I am with paying what is almost entirely a subsidy to the latest, and quite possibly last, major wave of parasite middlemen riding on the backs of talented artists. But maybe that’s just my “own deep-seeded [sic] pussy mentality.”

        Good luck with your career. I hope you can continue to “pay my rent and eat everyday in one expensive ass city.” Actually, I’m not sure if I hope for that at all; you do come across as kind of an arrogant dick. But whatevs.

        • GGG

          I mean, the fact it took you this long to even understand one word of my argument means you’re an arrogant dick, as well. I’m sorry I’m one of the few people who doesn’t join the woe-is-me circle jerk our sorrows away crowd that comments on this site.

          Anyway, I don’t disagree with most of what you said, I’ll be sure to have Paul track your IP address and pass it on to the authorities to track your piracy, and I hope you fail at life, as well.

  41. FarePlay

    I think the headline is correct:

    You can’t devalue music………anymore.

    We’ve already done it. Big time.

  42. FarePlay

    Well Paul I guess you have some work to do on that spam blocker. Open Source, wild west.

  43. mdti

    What happened in the last 30 years is exactly the contrary:

    – Music sales price have gone-up non-stop (so value goes up: meaning, it can go down).
    – In fact sales prices follow inflation and innovation (a single mp3 in 2012 is worth almost the double price as a single 45 rpm in 1982).

    It means that “MP3” price is overvalued in economical terms, because it use much less material (paper, vinyl) than a solid record. In fact, in a perfect market, an MP3 should cost less than a record in 1982, this is not the case.

    – Perceived Artistic value (non financial) has remained exactly the same: worth a lot for some, worth nothing for other (subjectif artistic value)

    The question to ask is NOT wether music can be devalued, because IT CAN BE devalued (companies can decide that they will sale their files at 0.00000001 cent for example)

    The question to ask is whether artists and their work can be devalued ?
    and of course it is yes, and it happens everyday, and it happened, and it will happen. It is called subjetcivity of tastes.

    What is being deva

    • mdti

      delete the last bit of sentence 🙂

      This debate is totally stupid in my opinion, and I feel it is only a rethorical justification of past or future action, without any implication in reality…

  44. Ben

    2 points here. Barriers to access, ltd editions etc all added “value” to music in pre digital days by restricting supply. So our presenter is false there. But he’s right to say that’s all gone in the digital world. it’s not coming back for recorded music.

    He’s also partly wrong about the pyramid. The people all unknow artists want to connect with are the BIG spenders first… those that seek out new sounds…
    the taste setters. Thru their social networks and store activity these trend setter choices can be bubbled up leading DOWN the pyramid to those with similar tastes.

    The killer is… some artists will always be niche. They won’t make it down the pyramid. And because recorded music is so cheap they won’t make any money either. That’s when a job a google is needed.

  45. aa

    What is with the font size being so inconsistent?? makes it so annoying to read!!!

  46. Anon

    Google dude. You are either incredibly naive or joking.
    Who pays you google salary?
    Who supplies the content that pays you google salary?
    Consider a career in standup comedy.

  47. Will

    The problem isnt that artists arent making enough money from their music. The problem is that theres like 6 layers of rich Jews ABOVE the artists who ARE making tons of money from the music, and not giving any of it to the artists.

  48. David Taylor

    Well …
    I think that iTunes does not return back the money he owes to us.
    in any case, is not acceptable to have a song, on top-selling, (and this, iTunes itself, it shows the grid of the songs more ‘known), and then, to be paid… , 9 pounds!
    This is a fairy tale , not reality .

  49. Poems ala carte

    He is being literal when he says you can’t devalue music. In that music is sentimental to the buyer it is not the same type of purchase of that which is perishable. Each generation has an experience from the day they are born to the day they have children of their own, the generates a passage of time travel through music exposed to in those early years of our beginnings, we know the music our parents played and though we grow and choose the music that is of our teen years, as be become mature and have children, we live with music in our lives as if we were on a see-saw, with what we heard our parents playing and what we hear in our current time of our teens that becomes our music. So we balance these two experiences. When we become parent we also pass onto our children what our parents heard and what we call our music, sometimes our children will adhere to the older of the two they are exposed to and the third which is of their teen time. That is the pyramid that he really has identified as music being timeless and not being able to be devalued. The culprit of the issue is that there is so much good music out there presented in this new way of the child owning the candy of music and can get it whenever he wants unlike those days where you heard a song on the radio for free, but you had no control over when you could hear it. You had to have your radio on all day to the station that played it the most, to get your music high. Then, to give yourself the ultimate end to that merry-go-round, you had to go out and buy the music and do so as soon as you know you like it for fear that the limited amount in the stores would have it that you would be left out of owing a copy of the song. The electronics companies in a way though they are the best friend of music at times they can be it’s worst enemy, because they try to solve the problem of you not getting the song in the store by making a tape recorder and tape available to you so you like the studios could make your own copy from the radio. So they sold a radio and a tape recorder and tapes to you. So you spent more money for those items than you did to just go buy the record. If you bought the record you felt better, still. So you eventually get tired of your do it yourself studio and buy the records at the store. NOW today how to you get the ball rolling with so many little balls in each hand, and still catch the big ball. The hands with all the little balls have no real problem, but the big ball which is the record labels is the one that has to worry about if the two hands holding all the little balls, will be able to catch them and keep them in the air on top of it all. If there are any extremely good jugglers out there I think they might have the answer.

  50. Anonymous

    But Google Play has already removed 3 songs I’ve distributed because they received approximately 57,000 streams.

    Too soon to tell if they’ll pay for the songs having been streamed 57,000 times, but doesn’t removing the music devalue it? Or does it actually give it value Google can’t afford to pay? Straight up streaming royalties should be around $2300 owed for these songs at 4.5 cents a stream.

    How do tech companies get away with this shit?

    • Dave 5000

      That is an extremely fair criticism. Something that a lot of people need to be aware of is that these giant tech companies are basically taking the role that the major labels use to have. In that case we have to be conscious of the idea that these giant tech companies, much like the major labels, are not going to look out for you. Especially if you are an independent artist.

      The only thing I’ve found that helps the artist when it comes to defensive measures against these giant tech corporations is to make sure your music is copyrighted and figure out multiple ways to make money off your music. One very important advantage that artists have over companies like Spotify and Google is that you get to control how and when your music is released. You have the option not to release your music on any streaming service for how ever long you want. So for instance if you want to release it for paid download then google and spotify can’t do anything about that. It’s not like they can just take your song and put it on their service.

      So if you can manage to build up a very core fanbase that will follow you to hell and back that means you have a huge advantage in the market place. With a fanbase you can fund the album through crowdfunding before the album even comes out and way before any giant streaming music tech company sees a dime.

      Even though giant tech companies are taking the role of giant labels we have to understand that they don’t control the content the way the giant labels do. This gives independent artist a giant advantage that they didn’t have before.

      • ATMP+

        Great post! comments and additions

        As much as everyone discusses how the industry has changed on the “suit” side it really hasn’t changed that much (same as video). When asked, I tell every artist that one of the most important aspects of success is owning and controlling your intellectual property – that’s value. There is a whole giant world of need out there that your music can be channeled but instead of spending 20 minutes arguing on here (btw this is a great site Paul – not trying to take business away) I would recommend reaching out to, say, folks who will provide a good network in every channel of music distribution. There are many musicians I know that pay their bills with video or game soundtracks. Do you know anyone who licenses these? What about folks at good indie labels? etc. etc.

        Also, IMO, an overwhelming amount of musicians should not put an “album” out. Put out a song you and your fans really like, market the heck out of it – do a video – do everything you can do to make this as big as possible. Sure, it would be great to have more, but your focus is much clearer, plus, there can be more on the website. If it happens then you have a decision to make, but a good one – how to extend your catalog. One of the biggest advantages these days is that an artist controls what gets released – no more having to fill 75 minutes of a CD, a majority of which (honestly) is filler and will not help your audience appreciate your talent

  51. Dave 5000

    I think overall what musicians need to understand in the market that exists today is that building up a core fanbase is more important than ever. I see a lot of musicians who just want to make music and not concentrate at all on marketing and branding because in the past a lot of musicians could just depend on labels to do that for them. Labels do not help musicians in the same way that they use to. If you just want to make music for fun that is fine, but if you want to make money and not just make music as a hobby you have to learn about marketing and branding or you have to hire a consultant or manager who understand new business models when it comes to new media economics.

  52. GGG

    Ahhh, this thread brings back some memories. Fun fights in here.

  53. Willis

    Tim Quirk is right – music is priceless and, as much as they is a “price” put upon it, the “value” of music is priceless. Unfortunately, there is very little value in many of the comments here.

  54. hippydog

    You know someone pissed off paul when he starts rehashing old articles 😉
    heck, its been almost a week without him bashing spotify 😉

  55. J

    Tired old rhetoric…

    Property prices have DEVALUED! When you can no longer leverage for similar returns, that provides an evidence of a devaluation of property, period!

  56. Dave Gulick

    In some ways I really like google and overall I think they are a decent company. Now stating that though we can’t just ignore the fact that Google is becoming a giant company. Usually the bigger a company gets the more dangerous they to a marketplace. I haven’t seen anything that Google has done so far that really shows that, but I’m also not going to close my eyes and pretend that it isn’t coming.

  57. Peter Holden

    Yeah, once it’s already at nearly zero hard to devalue it further

  58. Cord Pereira

    Intellectual property vs. technology. Tech is spamming music so it’s already devalued. These tech geeks don’t get it … But they will when artists and publishers figure out they don’t need tech – and can monetize their music in a premium way – just like sports marketers.

  59. Dave Gulick

    I think in a lot of ways tech and the music industry are becoming one in the same. Both industries are going to have to adapt to each other. On the music side artists need to learn as much as they can in how these tech companies work. If they don’t and just ignore the problem or just want the government to step in and “fix” things it isn’t going to end well.

  60. Mike Sherr

    he is brilliant… this makes total sense.. maybe thats why he works at google. a company for people who think.. just saying.

  61. Ainnagonna Tellituya

    If U can’t dazzle them with intellect, bafle ’em with bullshit…

  62. Tim Rutter

    I don’t think music has any less emotional importance, but it’s not special any more. You can hear anything you want, anywhere, 24 hours a day.

  63. Tim Chin

    ^that hardly makes it less emotional. Did you not read the article? Stop fetishizing the past.

  64. Tim Rutter

    Yes I read the article. I don’t fetishize the past. I don’t think things are worse now: just different. When things are acquired more easily they are appreciated less. That’s human nature. Music is taken for granted by too many people because it’s so easy to get.

  65. J

    Why anyone would listen to anyone at Google about Music Master Rights Property Value…

    The intrinsic value of music is priceless and hasn’t been devalued, the Master Value, the IP value has…

    They obviously need to perpetuate this rhetoric because they need to convince all the dreamers that their is still a prosperous future in music.

    Google makes a killing off people using their services and servers and giving them access to PROPERY. It is basic and simple propaganda to perpetuate their scheme of pillaging content creators and rights holders. Just another lie and everyone knows it…

  66. EDM America TV Google Exec Is On A Mission To "Revalue Music"... Let The BS'ing And Brainwashing Begin -

    […] last year, Google Play Music All Access executive Tim Quirk declared that devaluing music was absolutely impossible.  “I meant what I said very literally,” Quirk told an audience at the Future of Music […]

  67. Mike

    Well maybe he might feel different if he only got 10% of his paycheck from google. How’s that for “devaluing” one’s profession.

  68. defy

    The value of music has always been associated with tangibility. Something you can touch. A record is a tangible product. CD’s were tangible also. The moment the product lost that tangibility it became devalued from a consumer perspective whether Google man thinks so or not.