Because the record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance
--Bruce Springsteen, "Rosalita"NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Several readers, including the Future of Music Coalition, took exception to Thursday's column, Lazy Musicians Wasting Time Complaining About Royalties:
@Rocco_TheStreet we always enjoy reading your perspective. That headline is just below your usual standards.— Future of Music (@future_of_music) July 18, 2013As much as I like and emotionally align with these guys and others like them, they require perspective. Some tough love. Thankfully, I'm not the only one around to provide it. Tim Worstall comes through at Forbes with another excellent article, There's An Awful Lot Of Nonsense Being Talked About Spotify Royalties:
Yet another piece in The Guardian about how appalling it is that Spotify doesn't make no name bands with three songs and two fans to their name rich enough for the cocaine and Lear jet circle. The thing that seems to be being missed is who gets to decide whether your music, or your productive efforts in any walk of life, earns you any money.That's not an anti-artist statement; it's pro-reality. And it strikes to the point I attempted to make with Thursday's 'Lazy Musicians' article. While I can't come down quite as harsh, politically conservative or wildly free market as Worstall, his overall argument makes sense. I just wish he would take it to an ultimately more constructive place. Let's lay out some reality, address what we hear from many small and/or independent artists and review a way forward.
Indie 103.1 FM, a renegade music machine built from scratch by two guys over Christmas break in 2003 after a $2,500 shopping spree at Amoeba Records, was an anarchic and influential juggernaut in the L.A. music scene ...
The station's fate was sealed, in hindsight, this past October (2008), when what Sovel calls a "perfect storm" hit the station ...Long story short, the idea of a terrestrial radio station doing something different, playing and truly trying to promote independent music butted up against reality. Indie tracks simply do not fly in the mainstream commercial space, at least when you're playing music to the masses. It's funny, not once ... not one time did I hear anybody from the independent music community complain that the meager royalties they received if and when Indie 103.1 played their music were too low. (Of course, unless the performer doubled as songwriter, he or she was not receiving royalty payments from Indie). They were just happy that somebody, somewhere was playing their music, hopefully selling discs and helping deliver fans in seats throughout Hollywood. Relatively big names never felt the need to stand up for the supposedly downtrodden. Now, with Pandora, Spotify and others taking the promotion of independent music to exponentially higher levels, quite a few voices feel the need to be heard and complain about some perceived injustice. Let's be clear ... more indie bands and labels than the RIAA and its friends would have you believe love Internet radio, but, based on what's been happening in the ether, it's obvious quite a few do not. For whatever reason, the folks who complain see Internet radio as emancipation from royalty structures Internet radio did not construct. The royalty systems most musicians -- save a select-few big names -- have never made any meaningful amount of money from existed long before Internet radio hit the scene. Internet radio merely came to the table and, through direct licensing (i.e., Spotify) or statutory rates (e.g., Pandora, Songza) cut performance royalty deals. On the songwriting side, it negotiated agreements with groups such as ASCAP and BMI*. But, more importantly, Internet radio generated exposure at a scope and scale Indie 103.1 could have never made possible, even if broadcast radio economics provided a more favorable playing field. Indie 103.1 simply could not spin as much music as Pandora or Spotify. It could only play one song at a time to its entire audience. Of course, via their platforms, services such as Pandora and Spotify generally play one song at a time per person -- personalized radio -- while helping listeners discover music they most likely would not have otherwise had such convenient access to. And, somehow, there's a problem with this because a few big players (particularly the RIAA), followed by the helpless souls they convince to drink the Kool-Aid, don't believe Internet radio pays enough. Decrying Internet radio for, seemingly, not paying enough in royalties does nothing but hurt and misdirect the energy of independents. Getting your music played -- unless you're a massively popular name -- doesn't turn into dollar signs. It didn't prior to LA's Indie 103.1. It didn't when Indie 103.1 was on the air. And it didn't as Internet radio emerged in full force shortly after Indie 103.1's demise. Getting your music played equals exposure. That exposure, in and of itself, does not and should not equal a huge payday, unless, of course, you reach, say Taylor Swift-level.