Since Spotify finally launched in the US, the discussion has reignited about what the benefits of it are for musicians.
One recent conversation has involved people quoting diametrically opposite statistics about the influence of Spotify on file-sharing in Sweden. Some people quoting a stat that says file-sharing has dropped as Spotify has rolled out, and others saying that there’s more file sharing with Spotify…
The problem with both statistics is that there’s no binary relationship between Spotify and file-sharing, and none of the articles I’ve seen writing about it have made any attempt to differentiate between different media being torrented, or indeed whether what’s been measured is number of unique users, number of files or quantity of traffic. All of which can be interpreted in myriad ways.
At New Music Strategies, we’ve been thinking about an idea that we believe would be really helpful for music marketing, would contribute toward ethical and sustainable practices for musicians and music businesses, and which we believe consumers would get behind.
We were talking this week about the fact that many people (on all sides of the digital copyright debate) speak about their relationship with music consumption as having an ethical and moral dimension.
People talk about how they like to ‘support the artist’ in certain instances – whether it’s that they are fans of a specific artist and want to see them create more works, or that they have a more general sense of obligation, gratitude or individual ethics when it comes to online music purchasing. Most people seem to be conflicted – not sure what impact their decision to download unauthorised content might have, or whether it makes any difference at all.
Some feel that there is an element of protest and ethical civil disobedience in their decision to download music released by multinational corporations, or music represented by organisations who support the disproportionate legal action against music fans. Some artists are known to be in an exploitative relationship with the record label and wouldn’t necessarily get paid anyway. And it’s even more complicated than that too, when you consider the treatment of contributing (but not featured) artists, sustainable use of materials in manufacture – and the durations and conditions within contracts that may be considered unfair.
So we came up with the notion of Fair Trade Music.
This great data visualisation from the NY Times comes to us via a really fascinating website called Information is Beautiful. It represents the sales in billions of today’s dollars of the various music formats over time.
They claim it represents the dwindling death knell of the music industry. That’s not quite right (even leaving aside the nonsense assertion that the record business = the music industry). While put together in aggregate, the overall graph would show a larger, fatter, longer increase and decline, what this graph does not show is equally interesting.
I’m sorry – I really try and understand the internet properly so that I can explain it to you – but in this case, it’s going to have to be the other way around.
This is going to sound really stupid. Especially coming from somebody who is supposed to be some sort of expert about the online music environment. But there are just some aspects of the internet that I just can’t figure out, despite the thousands of people telling me how incredibly useful or crucial a site is.
Its aim is to provide useful resources, advice and strategies for innovation and success in the independent music sector in a rapidly changing technological environment.
NMS examines emerging technologies (and buzzwords) such as AI, blockchain, metaverse and 'Web 3.0', but focuses primarily on sustainability, music as a tool for social change, participation, equality and inclusion, and the ways in which music technologies can build better worlds.