In the late 1990s, Napster divided music listeners and makers in two.
Although not all encompassing, the Metallica-led makers group argued that restrictions should be put on Napster’s file sharing service where users freely shared music files with other users around the world.
Was it great? In my view, yes, as it allowed you too listen to music you didn’t own and download entire albums at your leisure.
Admittedly this concept has not really spawned legal replicants, while Napster itself trails in the wake of iTunes and its competitors.
Now if you want to listen to something you just use YouTube, visit a bands own website or use a streaming site like Last FM or Spotify.
It is Spotify that has hit the headlines this week, with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich both speaking out against royalties paid by Spotify to new bands. Well there is a point there. Yes we have seen bands like Pink Floyd, The Eagles and Radiohead join Spotify and upload all, or some, of their back catalogue to it.
However those bands earned money from record sales before the Internet existed in the public domain and their point that bands cannot survive in a climate where people don’t get paid, or don’t get paid enough, will be welcomed by the next great acts. Spotify’s payment plans do offer great value, but the restriction is on listening only.
If you want to listen to a great album (let’s pick Bastille as an example) you can do, and if you like it, you can download it for free from a file sharing website.
I disagree with this concept completely. I have known two bands well who have had top ten albums and because of that personal element, I haven’t
feel the need to buy physical copies. Also because I like to own physical CDs and vinyl, and this may sound sad, but a lot of my CDs do have memories attached to them.
Back to Yorke/Godrich and Spotify though, yes they have a point, but I don’t think that their targets should be aimed at the listening service, they should target those who distribute music illegally online.
In the past few months that I have used Spotify, I have come across and bought music by the likes of Palma Violets, Billy Bragg and Winter Olympics. The Strypes are on my shopping list and I recommend Parquet Courts.
Perhaps the guns should also be aimed at those places where music is not sold at a better price.
For example, The Beatles may only have recorded Twist & Shout in 10 minutes and in one take, but does it deserve to be sold for more than 99p? Also how much is YouTube paying out for views of videos on its site? Is Psy now a billionaire after a billion+ views of Gangnam Style? I doubt it.
Spotify did come across this type of criticism a few years ago when it was revealed how much Lady Gaga had earned for a million+ listens to Poker Face, but how many albums did she sell as a result of those listens?
During my short spell on Napster I did download a Metallica track (their cover of Bob Seger’s Turn the Page) and bought it on CD single when I could locate it. Ditto today, I listened to some of Radiohead’s back catalogue upon this announcement.
The music industry makes a lot of money for too few, and the most important factors are making sure the best new bands get listened to and they do enough to make a living from it.