Sting: “I’m Glad I’m Not Starting Out Now In the Music Industry”

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…from an interview with Bloomberg TV, December 2nd.

Sting: The model is changing obviously, and I don’t think the model we have at the moment is necessarily the one that’s going to be there in five or ten years.  We need something that’s a little more equitable for musicians, I think musicians need to be paid for their work.

It’s fine for me, you know I  —

Betty Liu (Bloomberg): Well you’ve made your money —

Sting: — I’ve made my money and I’m well off.  But young artists beginning their career, the idea of making a living out of this business is tough, and increasingly so.  So whatever model is created needs to be equitable.

“I think the streaming model is a good one, but we also need to be paid.”

Betty Liu: So you are on the streaming services, you haven’t opted out of those. So in some ways, do you support these models?

Sting: In a way, I think they’re evolving.  I was interested in Taylor Swift’s stand, because I thought it was a brave stand and she also brought it into public debate.  So it was good.  People need to talk about this.  What is good for music?  Music is important to our society, and it mustn’t die out, because it’s a vibrant part of society.

Liu: So you agreed with her move, then.

Sting: I thought it was good to get the debate out —

Liu: OK —

Sting: — whether she goes back to Spotify or not is up to her.  But I think to raise the debate was a good move.

Liu: Well it’s interesting because when that happened that definitely created some seismic changes —

Sting:  “– well a lot of people have no idea that there’s any issue.  But musicians need to be paid.”

Liu: But on the other side, I hear people that say, ‘why should artists feel that they have any right to make tons and tons of money like they did in the past?’

Sting: It’s not tons and tons of money, it’s making a living.  In this industry you can make a killing, but it’s hard to make a living, and I think it needs to be more equitable.

Liu: So do you think more artists should push back, like Taylor Swift?

Sting: I think the streaming companies have got the idea now, and that they’re working as best they can I suppose to make it better.  But it’s evolving, you know every day is different and I’m intrigued where it’s going.

“I’m glad I’m not starting out now in the music industry.  That would be a tough one.”

Liu: So do you think you’d be able to make as much money as you have, if you started out now today –?

Sting:  — No.

Liu: Okay.

Sting: No…


29 Responses

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Why not? The topic is artist compensation and streaming.

    • Anonymous

      “Why is Sting talking about Taylor Swift?”

      Everybody’s talking about her — and for good reason, too. Her impact is huge, she’s rewriting all the rules.

    • Anonymous

      I believe Sting was pertaining to the issue regarding music royalties and streaming media, in which Taylor Swift took a stand.

      “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” – Taylor Swift

  1. Name2

    Betty Liu is the DMN mindhive in drag:

    “Praise Taylor Swift! Do it! Agree with her!! Do it NOW!”

  2. Anonymous

    This could all be stopped tomorrow if it wasn’t for the fact that Google owns the politicians.

  3. Name2

    Like Billy Bragg, Sting knows the difference between

    1) an honest discussion of the future for EVERYBODY, and
    2) the current 600lb. gorilla in the zoo wanting more than everyone else because their biggest act is such a special snowflake.

    • Anonymous

      Well that’s good, because lord knows more music is bad for our society.
      wait, oh shit.

  4. Chris H

    “Why do we feel we should make as much money as we did in the past”?? Come again? Business models change yes, but in no industry where business models have changed, have the owners of the product/good/service come us less well off than they went in. The people who say that (i.e. the tech business people), have a lot of balls and want the artist community to take a surrender monkey like attitude that we should be grateful for what we get, not a participant at the table as we were in the past.

    • Clara Bellino

      So with you Chris, why is being an artist / musician the professions where consumers / folks feel it’s their place to weigh in as to whether and how we should get paid? Equitably! The stance of most of these comments stands on treating music and the arts as icing on the cake
      . Using a few super financially successful artists to disregard the plight of the majority of artists is like telling bankers that they should be happy to go work for free cause a few of theirs made it big. We work, we provide value, we want to be equitably paid, we don’t do what we do and can’t do what we do just for the love of it, unless we are hobbyists, which is fine but all together different. Saying “oh Taylor Swift is rich and did it for publicity not only changes nothing, it doesn’t address the real problem. It’s a distraction. If the world wants music musicians and creators who make it have to be compensated. I don’t care about the opinions of those who want to either line their pockets or save themselves a buck. If we don’t start putting our money where our mouth is then we might as well stop handing crayons to kids, engaging their imaginations and talking about the importance of dreaming big, and playing instruments. What a sad world that will be. The resentment of those who have opted out of their creative lives is palpable, we shouldn’t let it stop us from standing up for ourselves and the joy we bring to the world. It’s ironic to me that so many corporate greedy folks have designated artists as the folks to make money on. How low. And how revealing.

  5. Reality Check

    Taylor Swifts 2.5 million album sales are not impressive for an artist of her stature and indicative of how tough the music business has become.She should be at between 8 and 12 million worldwide.
    I recall in the ’80’s that because the cost of launching a new band was so high, if a major label didn’t see at least 1 million units sold on the first release, contracts would be revisited and bands would be dropped.
    Artist revenues are now being re-directed to the tech companies. Hopefully the future will strike a balance.

    • Anonymous

      This isn’t the 80s. Music is stolen on the internet with no fear of punishment. okthnxby

  6. FarePlay

    Sting. For a well educated man producing plays on Broadway and writing insightful lyrics, how can you allow Ms Swift to ‘Dance Alone’?

    For someone walking through ‘Fields of Gold’, how can you be simply an ‘Englishman in New York’. After over a decade of cruel piracy, ‘History Will Teach Us Nothing’? Do you require a ‘Message in a Bottle’?

    Would you have travelled for a year in this country in a van to ‘The Wild, Wild Sea’ with your band if you didn’t think there was the possibility of a payoff?

    You can do better and I paid for your CDs to prove it.

    Will Buckley

    ‘Song Titles’: Sting

  7. Guest

    Question – if they provided full song lyrics, wouldnt that cost them more in publisher royalties. And if they sync the lyrics to a streaming song, wouldnt that require a sync license.

  8. ZOG

    Sting is correct, Swift got the publicity to get the conversation going streaming services,record company’s ,managers,lawyers are all going to have to partner together in the future for everyones sake.What kind of business “art” survives if the artist is making 10% 0f 100% because everyone has to get their cut? Very few until
    one has some leverage to even have a say in the conversation.I’m sure Sting is learning his lesson’s with his Broadway show ,Paul Simon knows, it’s all about filling seats at least he knows the risk and has the ball’s to believe in his soul. All the musicians who play within Sting’s bans have there own careers ask them?

  9. Willis

    Today’s artists definitely have it tougher. Jagger has said the same thing that Sting did. While the real issue is about getting artists paid what they are owed, another point has to come up – to make a fortune or to make a living being able to do what you enjoy?

    • Name2

      Jagger has flat out put a date on it: that no one’s made money selling music since 1997. (Coincidentally the year of their next-to-last studio album).

      They’ve pretty much been putting out aggressively priced videos since the four-disc “Four Flicks” was a Best-Buy exclusive. Also, complete concerts for $5 on Google Play, and a series of long-held video archives with Eagle Rock (also aggressively priced).

  10. Paul Resnikoff

    Sting’s comment is somewhat inaccurate, because I’m not sure that the percentages of artists that ‘make it’ is any lower or higher than the pre-Napster era*. It’s what happens next, and the path towards getting to ‘success’ and everything that surrounds it that is different.

    But, for the extremely talented artist that is also extremely lucky – take for example, Sting – the results were far better back then. Sting was signed, Sting was given large amounts of investment and the benefits of a more controlled media distribution environment, both in terms of promotion, marketing, touring, and the eventual sale of the product.

    Who knows, maybe the Sting of today would be losing $11,000 on a ‘successful’ tour, instead of being a millionaire. That is, if he got lucky.

    *It doesn’t exactly help my argument here, if I’m making one, but I theorize that the chances of making it — as defined by living off of one’s music as a baseline — is probably lower today than before.

  11. Mike C.

    ..would have to disagree with you there, mr. editor. Perhaps it was a little easier back then for the extremely talented to “make it big” than it is today, due to the controls on media & distribution. But it was also an All/Nothing game, where if you weren’t signed and supported by a label, you had pretty much no chance of making a living off your music (due to the controls on media & distribution).

    Today, there is much more in-between ground and plenty of examples of artists who make a living without major label support.

    right, Ari?

    • FarePlay

      Don’t agree. In today’s music business someone like Bonnie Raitt would never have made 9 marginally successful albums for a major label, WB, got signed to Capital and became hit artist with Nick of Time.

      These artists today just languish in poverty. Many of today’s mid-level artists are solo acts, because the expense of supporting a band makes no sense.

      • Clara Bellino

        i agree Will. Mike who are the plenty of examples of artists who make a living without the support of a major label? Really curious how they support themselves, thanks for elaborating and backing it up with specifics.

    • Bub

      The existence of underground rap, dance music, indie rock, and metal refute that point. In the pre-napster era it was possible to make a living selling music and playing shows on an independent level. If you don’t have crazy overheads, a $10 CD that cost 40 cents to make can be really profitable. 3,000 CDs at $9.40 each is $28,200 worth of revenue. Add in shows and the reselling of back catalog for every new album you release and you can make a decent life. You won’t be a millionaire, but you won’t be starved out of the business either.

  12. John Dudley, Esq.

    Taylor Swift is making an impact on our industry; but NO ONE writes all the rules – NO ONE.