Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anonymous Takes Down GEMA for a Day & Why I Don't Like Spotify

Although I'm a GEMA member, and in general appreciate the fact that GEMA does about as good a job as any organization in collecting licenses fees for performances, broadcasts, and recordings, I have to admit to taking some pleasure in Anonymous's take-down of the GEMA website today, if just as a reminder of GEMA's inability to deal — technically, legally, economically — with the internet and as yet another marker of the screwed-up state of musical rights (protection, longevity & orphaning, compensaton).


I was recently astonished to learn that someone had written a blog item identifying pieces from this blog's Landmarks list available in recorded form on Spotify. While I appreciate the research effort here, the compensation model for anyone involved in the production of recorded music at Spotify is just not a good one and if you respect musicians, please don't use Spotify. I realize that more and more people simply expect to get recorded music for free (& I'm personally indebted to countless recordings borrowed from libraries or heard on radio, back when there was interesting music on radio in SoCal, so I know the feeling, but those recordings were purchased by the libraries and those radio stations reported and paid license fees for those broadcasts), and I recognize that the wind is blowing in a direction in which, ultimately, only live performances will generate real income streams for most musicians, BUT, the Spotify model in which a composer gets paid only fractions of a cent (dollar or euro) for a streamed listening is — above and beyond the insult — simply not a sustainable one. Brian Brandt's (of Mode Records) article on this topic is well worth reading.


ulyssestone said...

I also wrote a post on Mode & Spotify:


I can't see why Spotify's model is not going to be sustainable. Please bear in mind that it's only v.0.5, iTunes is now v.10.5. Spotify's paying subscribers increased almost 7 times in the past two years, and the US launch would certainly double or even triple the subs figure in a year. The payment to labels and music makers is going to be more and more.

Even at current rates, 1/3 penny per stream stated by Mode, it's not that bad. I listened to Paul Hillier's 51-track Stimmung last night, and made the label $0.15. I have probably streamed that recording 10 times, and Spotify paid Harmonia Mundi $1.5.

I understand niche labels and contemporary composers have their own issues with Spotify. In the past they sell 2,000 records to a small group of fans and survive, obviously you can't survive now if you only stream to 2,000 fans. But as I said in my post, why don't you take the chance and spread the music beyond your 2,000 fans? With cloud service everyone can listen to your music, most of them will never buy your CDs before.

And I don't think Spotify cut into CD/MP3 sales. Streaming services has been around for about 10 years, Rhapsody has been offering exactly what Spotify offers in the USA for years. "any 'harm' is done", Naxos told me. Brian Brandt said CD sales dropped a lot in countries where Spotify operates, but CD sales dropped everywhere in the world. People simply buy less CDs, period. And an interesting trivia is CD sales in Sweden, Spotify's hometown, increased:


Do you also suggest people not to use Naxos Music Library or any other streaming service?

ulyssestone said...

I think there's little doubt that cloud service is going to replace CD/MP3 in a few years (when they stream in lossless, and offer booklets as well). So what do you suggest to niche classical labels? I can only think of two alternative opinions:

1, Pretending that they don't see the cloud in the sky, keep on selling copies to loyal fans.

2, Unite all the niche classical labels and start their own cloud service.

Both are doable, but I wonder why. Why this music is so special that it has to cut itself off from new technology? Why music fans have to switch to another service if they are curious about what Xenakis, "the guy who influenced IDM", sounds like? Why this music has to say no to 99% people in the world and can only survive in their own smaller world?

I don't think so. I grew up with rock music and many contemporary classical music sounds perfectly nature to me, much more nature than some Vivaldi or Telemann. Personally I feel sad about your comment on Spotify, and Brian Brandt's, not because I'm a fan of Spotify, but because I'm a fan of contemporary music. I think you overlooked a great chance that may spread the music to many more people. I'd assume at least tens of thousands of people have visited this site, how many of them bought a copy of one of your Landmarks? A few dozens? Isn't it a good thing that now all of those people, who are slightly interested, can actually hear the music now? Isn't there a new business opportunity lies ahead?