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TheStreet Open House

Lazy Musicians Wasting Time Complaining About Royalties

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- TheStreet's Carlton Wilkinson wrote a nice piece about Lady Gaga's decision to release an app in association with her forthcoming album. In Lady Gaga's ARTPOP Apes the App Craze, Wilkinson also discusses similarly innovative moves by artists ranging from Daft Punk to David Bowie.

Earlier this week, Carlton chronicled three of the savviest names in music, detailing the business smarts of Kanye West, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre in 3 Top Hip-Hop Names Rewrite the Rulebook.

Also this week, we witnessed more artists trash Internet radio over royalties. This time, however, it wasn't a baseless attack from a one-and-half hit wonder against Pandora (P), it was an equally-as-misguided volley from two considerably bigger names -- Nigel Godrich and Thom Yorke -- lobbed at Spotify. Of course, these guys lack the sense to go after Apple (AAPL), a true abuser of indie artists, but that's another story that I already wrote on another day.

The contrast here should hit you even if you're only casually following this story.

Many wildly successful artists, who could very easily rest on the laurels of their past and/or present royalty checks, look past the antiquated system for other ways to sell records, generate revenue and connect with fans. Meantime, a handful of musicians, situated at various tiers below the aforementioned big names reject the potential of technology and Internet radio in favor of an irrational and often inaccurate backlash against the digital age. They're lazy; if not physically, at least in the intellectual sense.

Internet radio didn't come along to make unsuccessful, struggling or forgotten artists rich. Tim Worstall might have said it best Wednesday at Forbes:

I do agree that Sam Duckworth isn't earning very much money out of Spotify. But the reason for that seems to be that Sam Duckworth just isn't all that popular. And I'm afraid that that's really not a problem that Spotify can be blamed for.

I make the point again and again, but it gets lost in the talking points and propaganda.

For better or worse -- fair or not -- a majority of artists have never made a damn thing off of royalties. Internet radio didn't come along and break what was a well-oiled and smoothly-operating machine. Quite the contrary. All it did was provide airplay for thousands who never received it in the first place, thereby expanding the size of the pie by creating fresh slices.

If you're a struggling artist -- or perceive yourself as underpaid -- it's absolutely not Spotify's fault. Or Pandora's. That doesn't mean it's your own fault either. You're part of a screwed up system where supposed advocates and misinformed artists such as Lowery and Yorke have done you wrong for years and continue to.

That said, you can be a victim and complain about something that's broken and likely beyond your capacity to fix. Or you can take a cue from the Lady Gagas of the world and utilize the ever-expanding universe of tools available to you. There has never been more opportunity for artists, particularly the indies the royalty structure has screwed the most for ages. And there have never been more willing and able partners who will not only play your music, but help you use the engagement data it generates to build stronger and more lucrative bonds with your fans.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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