A better question might be: is music streaming killing music?
But in order to gain a better understanding of this question, we actually have to go back in time.
Before music streaming as it exists today, we had digital downloads. Digital downloads were already a step down from physical album sales for many artists (in terms of profitability), and the standardized 99-cent song meant that independent music was priced exactly the same as well-established acts. This meant that independent artists couldn’t compete on price or marketing (due to budget constraints, lack of experience, personnel, and other resources).
While the tech industry took the bull by the horns and created proper online music stores, most of the music industry stood idly by as people downloaded and pirated music off of peer-to-peer sharing networks like Napster. That is, of course, until bands like Metallica retaliated.
If the industry had embraced the internet sooner, things may not have played out as they did. But we can’t change the past.If the industry had embraced the internet sooner, things may not have played out as they did.Click To Tweet
And before that, we had Compact Discs, which many claimed were overpriced. To me, $15 to $20 on a CD is well-spent, but that’s beside the point. The reason CDs needed to be priced as they were is because there were too many fingers in the pie – artists, songwriters, labels, publishers, distributors, retail stores, and others. There were a lot of parties that needed to be paid, and signed musicians were generally the last to see a paycheck from sales (if at all).
And we could keep digging deeper, but what you’ll discover is that corruption, exploitation and poor decision making has long been a part of the music industry’s history.
Spotify is not killing music – the industry itself is doing a pretty good job of self-imploding, and has been for a long time. We’ve been following the path of least resistance, and anyone we can see from that path, like Spotify, has had the opportunity to stand out.
I, for one, believe that the future of music lies in the hands of musicians and tech companies, and that might sound a tad ironic based on the original question. But so far, I have yet to see both parties team up to take on the major labels in a significant way. This opportunity has largely gone unacknowledged.the future of music lies in the hands of musicians and tech companiesClick To Tweet
I invested in a tech startup in 2011 for this reason – I felt strongly (and still feel strongly) that if musicians and tech companies worked together to create a win-win strategy, that a new time in the industry would arrive. The startup I invested in went belly up in late 2015, but that was for a whole host of reasons that may not have had anything to do with a mistaken ideal. I believe execution and trust-building is where we failed.
There is an opportunity for change, but if we do not seize it, the future of music will almost certainly remain in the hands of large tech companies like Apple and Google.
We can create a better ecosystem for musicians. Without musicians, there would be no music, so there’s little doubt in my mind that monetization models and compensation structures need to change. But without a strong initiative, this simply will not happen.