Dave Allen

I disagree with David Byrne and his Spotify stance

posted by , 148 Comments

Society, systems, music and markets

David Byrne, Spotify

David Byrne and St Vincent

It feels strange to sit down and begin writing a rebuttal to the declamation of a musician who I really admire. David Byrne wrote an article last week for the Guardian titled, The Internet Will Suck All Creative Content Out Of The World, in which he states “I’ve pulled as much of my catalogue from Spotify as I can.” Thom Yorke has made similar statements and has removed the catalog of his band Atoms For Peace from Spotify too. In that interview I link to he says “[...] what’s happening in the mainstream is the last gasp of the old industry. Once that does finally die, which it will, something else will happen.” He says this without apparent irony given that “something else” is already happening now and he’s complaining about it. He also took things a bit further with a stronger comment in a Mexican interview, where he says of the music business “This is is like the last fart, the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” Ok then.

What we have here are two bold statements from two bold-faced musicians who want to save musicians and a so-called dying music industry and yet, for all of their best intentions, I believe they are doing music and musicians a disservice. What I have seen so far, is that when articles such as the one by Mr. Byrne are published there tends to not be a counterpoint provided, by in this case the Guardian newspaper, or any other publications that carry these articles. And of course, as the articles are shared far and wide across the apparently much-hated Web, they become gospel to those who read them and unfortunately become quasi-religious texts to musicians of all stripes who blame the Internet for everything that is wrong with their careers.

Here’s my take which I will try to make as succinct as possible: The Internet and Spotify (or any other streaming music service for that matter,) are not to blame for musician’s problems. It is hard for me to understand why intelligent men like David Byrne and Thom Yorke, along with David Lowery, do not appear to understand that we are in the midst of new markets being formed. I would also add that many journalists and media commentators don’t understand this phenomenon either. It is not about technology; it’s about systems and societal shifts. It’s also about music business bubbles. I must also point out that I have been wrong in my thinking and writing about Spotify in the past. After much debate and a reappraisal of my own stance, I have concluded that we can only look to what Internet and mobile users are doing or want to do, and then note how their actions drive technologists to provide platforms for them. Put very simply, that is how markets work.

I have written often that the Internet has brought major change to society, culture and business, so often in fact that I am beginning to sound like a broken record – pun intended. Musicians are the one’s apparently complaining the loudest if we are to believe what we read, although those who represent their complaints have never provided real evidence that there are literally thousands of musicians waiting to storm the supposed barriers of inequality. And yet, when we look to other industries that the Internet flattened, it is hard to find many articles written in defense of say Mom and Pop Travel Agencies who had to adapt to competition from websites like Expedia, or go out of business. And one only has to look at the comments section of Mr Byrne’s article to see how a vast majority of Guardian readers feel about the issues he tells us of (I’ll let you read them, it’s not pretty…)

To be fair Mr. Byrne makes some good points, and I agree with him regarding the click through to buy a song after hearing it on Spotify – why would a user do that? But he conflates issues when he talks about the Internet and “fairness,” just as that other defender of musicians against the Internet, David Lowery, continues to search longingly for an “ethical Internet.” And does Mr. Byrne really believe that the Internet will suck all creative content out of the world? Surely that can’t be true, especially as the Internet allows for everyone to be a creator these days.

So should the recording industry be saved and do musicians need saving? And note that I say recording industry, not the music industry – they are two different things. I have no interest in saving the recording industry in its current form. The recording industry was set up to exploit musicians. It pays low royalties to musicians for sales of their work in return for providing money to musicians so they can record their work. There are multiple examples of different models within this system – but that is the system as it stands. Me and other musicians have often said that ‘we pay back the mortgage but never own the house’ under this system. What that means is that when a musician signs away their rights to their work they hardly ever get those rights back. The way to avoid being trapped in this system is simple – retain the rights to your copyrights. Those copyrights are a tangible good that a musician should own.

In a changing marketplace musicians will benefit from this. Mr Byrne rightly points out that musicians get low royalties from plays on streaming music services. This is because they signed binding contracts with the labels. The labels usually consider an arrangement with a streaming music service as a license. Whenever a label licenses their music catalog to any entity – TV, Film, iTunes, Spotify et al – it takes a 50% charge off the top. The label keeps 50% in other words and musicians get to split the rest. There are different arrangements; some labels pay the artist whatever the agreed recording royalty is, which can typically be 15-25% depending on the deal, and iTunes tends to be treated in the latter manner. Whatever the various deal arrangements this is the system working under the terms of the contracts that musicians signed. And have musicians ever stopped to think that when music fans don’t stream their music in these services, they then get less royalties than Taylor Swift who is streamed a lot? Does anyone think that the 16 year-old Lorde is having sleepless nights over this?

How is this then Spotify’s fault? I argue that it isn’t and I will return to that in a moment.

Let me give you some quick examples of how the Internet disrupted certain markets and what happened to companies who didn’t pay attention to that simple fact.

Despite the societal changes apparent to anyone who owned a digital camera or currently owns an iPhone, companies like Kodak, Polaroid and BlackBerry simply continued to double-down on their efforts to combat change. And by change I mean combat what people were actually doing – they no longer used cameras that required film, they no longer wanted Polaroids nor did the BlackBerry remain the telecommunicating device of choice. This was not fantasy, it was fact. The results of people’s buying actions clearly showed that when they switched to products they preferred, discarding what they considered less useful products, then marketplaces changed. Kodak is in bankruptcy, Polaroid is struggling to be relevant, and BlackBerry has put itself up for sale after plunging from an 80% market share. Let’s not forget that the iPhone arrived in June 2007. It did not exist prior to that. It completely disrupted the marketplace for smartphones just as the iPod before it had become the Walkman for a new generation. Apple created a new marketplace for music.

Back to Spotify. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this generation’s music fans want to rent their music, not own it. Spotify may not have created that shift but they certainly provided a solution to easy access, mobile music streaming. They simply saw consumer demand, just as any company in any marketplace could determine. I am certain that Spotify would want every single music fan on their service to pay the monthly subscription, but is it their fault if we choose not to do that and listen to the ad-supported version instead? Is it HBO’s fault that I chose to cancel my Comcast cable TV account years ago? No. I hate the lack of programming choice within Comcast’s cable system. That is what this generation’s music fans are doing when using streaming services – choosing to create their own programming. Instead of complaining about Comcast I simply found other ways, yes via the Internet, to access programs that I enjoy. And how many musicians out there in the world use Spotify’s service by the way? I’d bet there are many. And also why do Mr. Byrne and Mr. Yorke single out Spotify in their arguments? Why not go after YouTube? Is it really all about money?

And yes, using the Spotify service creates a quandary for many creators. My friend Rick Moody confessed to me that he feels queasy when he uses Spotify. Is that because as a talented and well-regarded author and musician, he is siding subconsciously with musicians while trying to deny how much he enjoys the convenience of Spotify’s service? I believe so. And I wonder – do many musicians and creators feel queasy when they listen to FM radio? An ad-supported service that is free to listen to and pays out royalties to music publishers based on radio play – ie, the more artists are played the more they get paid.

One thing is certain: When artists remove their music from Spotify they are simply ensuring that they will receive zero royalties from that service. They will also ensure that they are not in a service that provides massive distribution of their work that is not a walled garden like FM radio is. And remember, not all artists are popular therefore not all artists receive the same amount of royalties from airplay or from streaming services. It is worth noting that Spotify has one billion playlists created by users. Musicians are not the only creators. Internet users most likely make far more content to post to the Web for free than all musicians combined. It’s a societal phenomenon that can’t be denied. Musicians must look to where society is headed now and supply music through the channels that their fans are using (and yes, we musicians used to be on the bleeding edge of culture and society leading the charge… no longer it seems, as we are reduced to being mere commentators, myself included.) Don’t expect young people to change their habits anytime soon.

And as for the question about how musicians should be compensated, what exactly do Mr. Byrne and Mr. Yorke expect Spotify to do? The company has already paid out in excess of $500 million in royalties, a sum that makes up 70% of the company’s revenue. Should they be expected to pay out even more than 70% in royalties?

Mr. Byrne recommends that musicians may want to take pause before jumping in, quoting Mr. Lowery – “there’s no reason artists should simply accept the terms and join up with whatever new technology comes along.” That’s a fair point, but you can’t not join up if you have a contract with a label, but have they both taken pause themselves and asked if Spotify might be on the same side as musicians where the common enemy could be considered the broad devaluation of art in general, and that Spotify has at least created a system where people actually pay for music? After all, musicians seem to be constantly complaining that *everyone* is stealing music (a complaint that I don’t agree with.)

Clay Shirky has written, in response to people who said the Internet is destroying print, books, newspapers etc, that “…the Internet is the largest group of people who care about reading and writing ever assembled in history.” And that is true. Now consider that more people on the planet have more access to music than ever before. Then consider that your average music consumer used to buy about six CDs a year. Then consider that Spotify has users who pay $120 a year in subscriptions, of which 70% is paid out to music labels. That is money that might be considered “found” money, money that didn’t exist before streaming services kicked in. Like I said, if a musician decides against being in a music streaming service then their royalties are zero.

I also believe we need far more transparency around the organizations that purport to represent artists in this grand debate. Mr. Byrne points us in his article to the Content Creators Coalition. Does anyone else see the irony in how this organization is reaching out to creators? Via a zero-barrier entry to the much-maligned Web. And who are the people who make up this organization, who say they want a coalition of creators, creators who appear to be determined as only “musicians, writers and audio-visual artists”? If Mr Byrne is concerned about giving away personal information on the Web, why does he point me to a site that demands my email address for entry, a website that does not share the names and professions of those people behind the site? There is only this statement – “A dedicated group of artists, creators, and stakeholders are forming a new and unprecedented coalition” – but who are they, what’s their real agenda? Who is going to shake me down if I don’t agree with their methods? Transparency would be a great start.

Do we musicians require an organization such as the Content Creators Coalition? I think not. We need less one-sided articles and more education about what is actually happening in society and culture today. As George Orwell wrote – “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Whatever has been happening to music has been in front of our noses for the last two decades. Popular music used to be one of the leading edges of popular culture, but now as each new generation embraces it we find that what Sol LeWitt said many years ago is so evidently true, if not more so – “every generation renews itself in its own way; there is always a reaction against whatever is standard.”

What we are then left with, finally, is that this debate will continue for some time. At its heart it is about the musician’s place in the marketplace once they joined the business of music. It is about remuneration based on the weak term “fairness.” Technology created the platforms that musicians must now contend with, and let’s be clear here, many have come to grips with those platforms and are having great success reaching their audiences, because their audiences use these platforms. So it is not *all musicians* complaining about this spurious “unfairness.”

It is time for influential musicians to openly and transparently convene and produce real solutions to real problems that will help musicians understand what is really going on. A debate in online media about online media is a dead end.

Meanwhile, appearing to be elitist and Luddite is not a good way to win over today’s music fans to one’s cause; let’s leave that to be the historical legacy of the RIAA.
_ _

Recent articles regarding music and technology:

An interview in the New Yorker by Sasha Frere-Jones with Damon Krukowski, Jace Clayton aka DJ Rupture and me.
On Thom Yorke and Spotify
Me and Rick Moody discuss the music distribution problem
An essay for the Oregon Humanities magazine – In search of an ethical Internet


  • Andrew Kremer

    Unfortunately a very badly written and largely ignorant article with more holes in than a Swiss cheese. You have very little understanding of the way in which musicians are remunerated from their work and I would question the figures from Spotify you have quoted. If you don’t know what you are talking about then quite frankly you should stay out of the debate, unless you are a Spotify shareholder!

  • http://www.youtube.com/silvanusslaughter Silvanus Slaughter

    Good post. Thank you.

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  • Anthony Aggs

    At the end of the day, the artists want to be paid fairly.. and for art to be genuinly respected – that is a good thing for people to do. Whether it is spotify or the labels that are greedily holding back money – soon we will find out. And we then get to remember the people who stood for a model that ripped off the artists – not the platform – the current model

  • M. Ira Miles

    Why doesn’t North put dates on these blog posts?

  • http://jefflazerus.com jlazerus

    Mr. Lowery is using “weasel words” to inflame the emotionally susceptible, much like they do on Fox News (I hate to say): “an unholy alliance,” “Spotify screwed the songwriters,” “government mandate,” and “smear campaign” the worst among them. It’s fine if these artists take their stuff off of streaming services, as you yourself say. Less money and less exposure for them. This generation will then be wholly unfamiliar with Talking Heads or Camper van Beethoven. As if they were withholding the polio vaccine, hmm?

  • David Appaloosa

    Art is an advertisement – A kaleidoscopic view at creation, community, commerce, and the digital revolution.

    At first sight:

    Women and men strive to survive, no time for dancing. Art is confined to the creation of tools, tents and toddlers.
    Times of reflection literally only happen when looking on the surface of the water. Deeper insights are rare like mutations because pondering is dangerously time consuming.
    Experiments are slave to experience.
    Community is exclusive.

    I turn the kaleidoscope. the world turns, too:

    People have amassed resources and have free time to explore self expression and intrinsic values.
    They sell their surplus of goods and time, and even the time of others they enslave.
    They congregate to share and celebrate the time they’ve spent not striving to survive.
    Ideas and expressions are at a premium to the populous and beauty is the object of this affection.
    Down time has a self suggested potential worth and is even priceless in a sense.The physical product of this down time is given relative value based on the abundance of the materials used. And, the value of their particular arrangement grows with the artists social significance as well as the finite nature of those creations. Though, many artists die before having wide enough social significance to make them wealthy. People invest in creative prowess and use the magnificence of of other people to flaunt their status and closeness to beauty.
    Art holds great spiritual and religious importance, often being offered as an enhancement of communal aesthetic.
    Community is global and inclusive.

    I turn it again, the world is anew:

    A new machine was created, and with it a new resource was discovered called data. But, data’s ability to multiply wasn’t abundantly clear until we built a portal to another planet made of the stuff named Web.
    Discovering Web made data uniquely magical to society in two big ways. It’s both shape shifting and unlimited in supply.
    Data can take the form of ideas, tools or works of art and instantly replicate them infinitely.
    In fact, the only thing data can’t infinitely multiply is anything concretely finite. Communicators love web data because it allows them to write and send as many letters as they want, for free. It also allows them to choose their neighbors. And since everyone moves at light speed here we’re able to talk with the whole world at once.
    Artists love it too, because the cream finally can rise to the top. But, artists have a hard time finding meaning in their work if it can’t be sustainably valued.
    Some artists have become conditioned to life before data, though, and
    still expect the going rate for finite tangibles. They have an imposed
    belief on the value of their worth so far removed from that of supply
    and demand that it’s practically criminal.
    The postal service and record labels hate it because people can’t be coerced into believing infinite intangibles have monetary value.
    I wonder what a record label would think if they were asked to pay a dollar per email.
    The government and other corporations hate it too, because people are able to call them out and hold them accountable to a real time global assembly.
    Money has become a tool to lie with or live off.
    Those attempting digital sales create a black hole of inflation as their product represents no finite elemental exchange of property.
    A new slavery exists as governments, corporations and marketers use the three wheels of fear, necessity and inculcation to control our beliefs, but they can’t roll with the sharp turn technology has taken on information.
    Markers are increasingly bombarding the public and getting nosy.
    Word of mouth is now so powerful that advertisements have become a noisy plague of flies in the room.
    Corporations own the government to avoid being accountable to the people.
    The stock market is a casino.
    Everyone is suffering from an itchy scalp.
    community is newly inter-global.

    I turn it a third time:

    Nobody pays taxes as each corporation is it’s own sector of an inter-global government where the people support policies by voting in dollars.
    The stock market is exposed as a lying game.
    The sale of infinite intangibles is exposed as fraud.
    Community and communication is at it’s highest point in history.
    Everyone is connected to exposing truths and holding corporations accountable to their actions.
    All digital content is free and serves to represent the beliefs of the company’s it associates with. Artists have found their meaning as the newest and truest political
    ambassadors to the people.They represent the beliefs of the corporations
    they choose to endorse, and earn a percentage of
    sales by that company. Creation and commerce have merged to become a new interactive political community. Art is an advertisement……….

    There’s so much more to see in what web data can do for us.
    What do you see when you look through the glass?

  • Molly Maguire

    If a customer pays $10 a month to Spotify and then listens to an average 1000 songs a month, there is only $.01 left per song. Hard for anyone to make that work even at volume. It’s a broken model, and the business owners should be held accountable. What was Spotify thinking? Of course the consumer should have to pay more than that. There should be legislation in place to prevent such a bad business model.

  • Anthony Aggs

    I am a professional musician. I love music. I perform, I record, I collaborate. Ever since I was a kid, it’s all i have wanted to do.
    I use Spotify. As far as programs go, it’s really good, and I enjoy using it. However, there’s no way I would ever say something stupid, and disrespectful, like David Byrne and Thom York are wrong in they’re stance against the program, and what it, and other programs like it, do.
    These guys have made classic albums. They know how it FEELS to make them and be a part of a small number of musos who have made classic albums.
    Sure we have a new and exciting era now, but these guys are right when they say Spotify isn’t paying them what they feel they deserve. And i think that journalists should stop short of criticising these guys when it comes to matters like this.
    What i love about Spotify, (btw i pay the subscription) is that i can preview an album first and choose the song or songs i want to buy. And, here’s another thing – these days its a lot easier to record an album and throw it on the web. There is so much throw-away music now. Take Beyonce’s new album – and i have A LOT of respect for B, but i think the new record is pretty throw-away.. And as recording artists, we can do this alot now, which means Spotify is handy to sift through it all.

    But! Talking Heads’ classic albums were not throw-away! Thom York’s classics were not thow-away! I totally understand these guys not wanting there music being treated in any way like this.

    Dave Allen, HAVE SOME RESPECT. Whilst the Spotify train will keep chuggin, and I am enjoying using it, I pay respect to these legends who are standing up and saying no. By them saying no, it certainly does not pull the industry back. Hopefully it makes people think a little.

    Sure some artists sign bad deals (which could mean a number of things, including they wind up on Spotify) and if you put your name on an agreement that is written to stand for a number years, then those artists can find themselves regretting those bad decisions. But it’s like a friend of my’n said to me once -

    My friend: “You know why i like seeing idiots wearing t-shirts like “asians leave our country/americans piss off etc (any stupid racist t-shirt)?”

    Me: “No?!!”

    My friend: “Because then we know who the F*ckwits are”!!!

    And whilst it is wishful thinking, to hope that an executive would acknowledge he/she has given an artist a bad deal and redo the contract, well, we know who the f*ckwits are!!!

  • NNJ Drums

    Dave, I know who you are. I misspoke and meant to say “You are obviously not an impacted musician”.

    Your tenure and catalog, while impressive, further serves my point that
    many musicians who got in the game at a certain time did so before the
    fire sale mentality of the music industry. It is a different deal for
    people trying to establish themselves today in an environment where
    music has actually become worthless. It’s barely taught in schools, whole generations think it’s not a viable profession and high quality, original, thought provoking art just happens. Even though musicians like Byrne and Yorke are well established, they recognize this cannibalization of the people who make the next generation of art.

    It may be different as a
    struggling, independent artist, performer, producer, engineer, etc. in
    the UK, but in the majority of the US and many parts around the world, it’s impossible to survive on
    nothing. And that’s exactly what this new “market” expects us to accept.
    Your future may be secured by the time in which you came up and decisions you were able to
    make. But for many of us today, 5, 15 or 50 years down the road, this model not doesn’t seem beneficial
    nor sustainable. In 20 years, what will the state of music sound like
    when the only music being produced is by the people who can afford to
    make it? There was a similar implosion in the visual effects industry – where business managers were so eager to work on the next Jurassic Park or Batman movies (their analog to our “exposure” argument in music) that they sold their services at a loss enough that they stopped paying their artists and started to accept lower quality outsourced work that wasn’t beneficial to anyone. We need to heed that warning!

    I don’t see technology as a bad thing by the way. It’s benign, inert. However, we need to realize that although it’s the fans nature to want free or cheap content, there needs to be better stewardship, solidarity and representation of the artists who will provide that content for the future. You and Gang of Four catalogs will only last so long in the public consciousness before the next generation and the generation after that will need to pony up. B if they can’t make a living doing it, then what – we have to wait for the next musical genius to work his 50 hour/week job as a plumber and crap out some hits in his spare time?

    You have been dealing with this for 20 years you say? Then give me a satisfactory answer to this conundrum. I’ve heard all the arguments and they all skirt this. But I challenge you to say something that sways my position above and helps preserve music as a viable, valuable profession worth saving from this self destructive trajectory…

  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    I am the bass player for Gang of Four. I have deep catalogs with EMI Records and Warner Brothers, publishing with BMG and Warner Chappell. I was one of the original members of the eMusic team in 1998, and have been involved in the online music debate for two decades.

  • NNJ Drums

    “Put very simply, that is how markets work.”

    Except in order to have a SUCCESSFUL market, it has to be symbiotically and mutually beneficial for the industry, the customer AND the provider. Currently, one of those is being grossly under served and their contributions being discounted to point where it’s not sustainable for anyone other than a select echelon of insulated conglomerate artists and the unintended consequence of this trajectory will be the loss of new music. You are obviously not a musician. It’s time to adjust your stance again.

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  • mikepcharles

    allow low-fi versions on spotify & youtube – sell hi-fi versions via iTunes and the like?

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  • Mikael E. Widengren

    Spotify värderades till 35 miljarder nyligen! Hela vår affärsmodell har säkert ett värde på 350 miljarder, men verksamheten är inte till salu.

    Vi har 4 fungerande affärsmodeller!

    1. Vi förhindrar / försvårar “gratis” nedladdning av musik! Det gör att vi ökar försäljningen av digital musik radikalt och vi ökar även visningarna för musikvideos.
    2. Vi infogar produktplaceringar i musikvideos! Affärsmodellen generar vinst från dag 1, när avtalen är skrivna och vi lanserar en musikvideo.
    3. Vi infogar Pre-spot placering. (Vi integrerar reklam-spottar i musikvideon och publicerar en helhetslösning som garanterar fasta intäkter och publicerar även musikvideos på Youtube etc. Även denna affärsmodell generar vinst från dag 1. Avtalen är dock individuella.

    “STIM har slutit avtal med Youtube!” De använder huvudsakligen så kallad TrueView-annonser som kan klickas bort efter 5 sekunder. “Annonsörerna betalar bara för de reklaminslag som ses i dess helhet”. Vem som helst kan öppna en YouTube kanal och erhålla den ersättningsmodellen. Artisterna kan inte styra vilka företag de gör reklam för, innan musikvideon visas. Klickas annonsen bort, tjänar artisterna ingenting. Förutom att de visat “5 sekunders reklam spot” gratis…

    Reklamvärdet är ca: 56.166 kr för 5 sekunders reklam. Det kostar 377 000 kronor att köpa 30 sekunder i “Solsidans” reklampaus, säger Henrik Ström, tv-strateg på Carat. – Att synas i själva programmet är värt mycket mer. Man kan räkna upp värdet med 1,5. Räknar man snabbt innebär det att det är värt runt 990 000 per minut att exponeras i “Solsidan”. Enligt Henrik Ström ger produktplaceringar i rätt miljöer större effekt än traditionell reklam – därför kostar det också mer. Solsidan” är TV 4:s mest framgångsrika komediserie ses av ca: 2 miljoner per avsnitt.

    Rihanna – Pour It Up musikvideo har redan setts av 55 552 767 globala tittare. Publicerades den 2 Oktober 2013. http://www.ycdbsoya.com/Rihanna/

    Global reklamen är dyrare! För att syns i Super Bowl finalens “paus” i den amerikanska fotbollsligan NFL! Betalar företagen för varje sekund, reklamfilm omkring 800 000 kronor enligt Business Insider. – Årets final sågs av 111 miljoner.

    Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stops musikvideo har redan setts av över 250 miljoner globala tittare och musikvideon innehöll flera produktplaceringar.

    Verkar som “Sundin” är upptagen med att titta på hur mycket pengar de tjänar på Spotify. Lady Gaga öppnade sitt Youtube konto 2009. Hon haft 2,3 miljarder visningar / nedladdningar / från sina musik videos. Vi förhindrar konverteringar av videoklipp till mp3. Såklart kan man dela, våra länkar vidare hur mycket man vill. Vi försvårar / förhindrar bara nedladdning av “gratis” musik. Sundin får väl multiplicera 2,3 miljarder * 12 kr.

    4. En digital mässmonter har en multiflexibel affärslösning. Utställare kan lansera allt från musikvideos till produkt presentationer och TV reklam etc. World Of Ycdbsoya.coms digitala mässmontrar syns i de ledande sökmotorerna Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Facebook, Youtube och genom Mynewsdesk etc. Vi erbjuder även exklusiv “digital annonsering” så att mässmontern syns extra mycket i ledande sökmotorerna Google, Yahoo! och Bing. Ycdbsoya är först i världen med att låta utställare och besökare mötas i “digitala mässmontrar” dygnet runt, alla veckans 7 dagar.

    Vi levererar nationella och internationella “digitala besökare” Den nationella montern placeras hos Ycdbsoya-nationell och genererar främst svenska besökare. De internationella montrarna placeras på Ycdbsoya-internationell och genererar internationella besökare från Norge, Danmark, Finland, England, USA och Singapore etc.

    You Can Do Business Sitting On Your Ass!

    “The sky is the limit”.

  • elq1973

    I wrote a rebuttal to Byrne on my blog. My main point is the $120 per year that Spotify asks from consumers. This is the right amount to ask for, even if no one is able to make money out of it anymore. Reasons explained in detail: http://eugenia.queru.com/2013/10/22/streaming-and-the-music-market/

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  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    American Pancake, I’ve been really interested in systems recently, but I won’t go deep on that yet as I work through some thinking on it that’s relevant here. One thing that’s really interesting is that the current recording industry system is not working. Here’s some data from 2011, two years ago:

    “In the recorded music industry in 2011, more than 800,000 unique album titles together sold more than 330 million copies (including both physical and digital copies)… For instance, 513,000 titles – 58% of all unique titles – each sold fewer than 10 copies, accounting for only 0.5 percent of sales.

    13 titles selling 1,000,000 copies or more/23,287,000 copies sold/7%

    387 titles selling 100,000-999,999 copies/93,992,000 copies sold/28%

    4,229 titles selling 10,000-99,999 copies/114,949,000 copies sold/35%

    21,042 titles selling 1,000-9,999 copies/61,493,000 copies sold/19%

    87,986 titles selling 100-999 copies/27,032,000 copies sold/8%

    251,566 titles selling 10-99 copies/8,261,000 copies sold/2%

    513,146 titles selling fewer than 10 copies/1,558,000 copies sold/0.5%”

    “In the recorded-music industry in 2011, more than 8 million unique digital-track titles together sold 1.271 billion copies… For instance, nearly 6 million titles – 74 percent of all unique titles – each sold fewer than 10 copies, accounting for only 1 percent of sales.

    102 titles selling 1,000,000 copies or more/189,758,000 copies sold/15%

    1,412 titles selling 100,000-999,999 copies/318,473,000 sold/25%

    13,492 titles selling 10,000-99,999 copies/374,827,000 copies sold/29%

    74,246 titles selling 1,000-9,999 copies/212,571,000 copies sold/17%

    382,720 titles selling 100-999 copies/111,117,000 copies sold/9%

    1,620,959 titles selling 10-99 copies/48,687,000 copies sold/4%

    5,927,729 titles selling fewer than 10 copies/15,722,000 sold/1%”

    Here’s the link:


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  • American Pancake

    Arguing whether modes of music distribution and what they pay is fair or not to music artists is a mute point. The only way most music artists will make enough money for their work to be their sole source of income is to work outside of the system. Their greatest single asset is their fan base and their ability to nurture such a loyal audience that their audience will purchase everything they put out whether it be music or t-shirts because the reciprocal relationship enhances their lives.

    Whether you look at the Amanda Palmers of the music industry or the Louie C.K’s of comedy, the artist has to take complete control of proprietary content and distribution. In the digital age, people can always steal content but they cannot steal the relationship between artist and their fan base IF the loyalty level is rock solid.

    If music artists coming up don’t realize this, they will be chewed up and spit out by any system that is in place at any given time.

  • quicksotic

    In the present system, getting music to an audience requires three activities: creation, distribution, and promotion. The article and responses here have largely ignored promotion–a necessary part of the old school, but not very friendly to more creative / original musicians, whom the major labels refuse to publicize (and whom small labels can’t afford to promote on a large scale, at least before the widespread use of the web). In the new mode, promotion is being replaced by discovery (which Dave mentions in his article with Rick Moody). From the musician’s point of view, promotion is active, but from the listener’s pov, promotion is passive and discovery is active. Download services like iTunes or eMusic or Amazon provide a limited discovery feature (e.g. user reviews and links between “similar” artists), but streaming systems (Spotify, YouTube), which facilitate linking content to social media platforms like Facebook, rely on the credibility of user channels and profiles familiar to the discoverer and thus can promote less well-known artists that labels and download services would have ignored. Though I would never download content from a pirate site, I do listen to music on YouTube (often from a Facebook friend’s post), even though it often violates copyright. When I go to YouTube on my own, my ultimate goal is not to avoid paying for songs but to discover new music. Practically all of my recent purchases have resulted from this process. When I used to buy songs on eMusic based on site/user recommendations and the 30-second samples there, I would end up disappointed with about half of my purchases.

    Since there is no link between streaming (including Pandora, FM, etc.) and the purchase (unless perhaps the listener clicks on the Buy link from the streamer), the economic and promotional benefit of these streaming services may go unnoticed, at least in this transitional phase. Musicians who want to benefit from the new system would do well to see promotion as their responsibility, not that of the label or distributor, and create their own YouTube/Vimeo channels, then promote themselves via the various social media. A good example of this is the singer SoKo, who was essentially discovered by the Internet and has used it to build a large and loyal fan base.

  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    Claire, I will DM you via Twitter re BIMM and appearances

  • Jim

    What is most disturbing about Spotify and similar services is the retro element that defines them. We are living in an age where popular musicians are bricolage constructions of popular musicians from the past. There are no surprises on Spotify and this is the way the major labels want to keep it. Back catalogs are big money and teaching taste to new generations is what trains them to purchase the old songs, over and over again.

    Streaming services like Spotify were always an attempt to find a business model that could function to the satisfaction of the labels in the infected climate of what was supposed to be ‘post-Pirate Bay’ marketplace, following the conviction of the three main players behind it. Charges were laid against the Pirate Bay on 31 January 2008 and Spotify was launched for public access on 7 October 2008. It was the publishing companies, studio owners and major record labels that wanted the Pirate Bay stopped and for a model to be introduced that would continue a capital flow in a market dominated by the Internet. Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon were in the right place at the right time.

    “We’re punks because we’re restless,” Ek said recently. “We’re punk but in a positive way. What we’re about is trying to build something for the long term… Our mission is to bring all the music to every single person on the planet.” What would this entail, bringing “all the music to every single person on the planet”? It would basically lock us into a muzak-style delivery system where blandness is added to every note.

    Punk was about finding a relevant form of musical expression for what (mostly young) people where experiencing in the hard times of 1976-78. Today the online streaming of music is the same business as always just under a different brand name. “We’re back to the same revenue levels as during 2004, and if the development continues in the same way we’ll be back on turnover similar to those during the “golden days” of the CD in just a few years,” says Universal Music Sweden’s MD Per Sundin. This return to fat times for the labels does not solve the problem of artists not making money or the fact that Spotify is just another of “the showy products through which a productivist economy articulates itself” (Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life p. xvii)

  • Claire Sully

    No, I just post will-nilly on subjects that take my fancy from Prison closures to Gavin and Stacey. Apart from guest lecturing, the day job is running a digital marketing agency in Bristol and digital arts festival with Aardman, BBC, indie film makers, producers of Natural History programmes..

    Animation, doc and natural history is something we are v. good at in the South West. 2014 launching a business in Kerala – which means lots of trips there. Well enough about me;-)

    Do you do guest artist appearances at music industry colleges in the UK. BIMM has music colleges in Manchester, Bristol, Brighton and Dublin. It would be great to get you in front of my Bristol students.

  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    Tony, we are probably much closer than you think in agreement on many things. One thing I want to make clear is that I’m not saying the labels are “harmful” to artist’s careers, as we all know that’s not the case. And also G4 wasn’t making a lot of money from record sales, but it’s fair to say that by having a deal with EMI and Warners, it certainly helped us with promotion and awareness that we could capitalize upon. What I am emphasizing is that today musicians have a choice of either signing away their rights or not. The old days of how one “made it” are behind us and there’s no going back. The mass market, commercial pop music market certainly dominates the “new” channels, iTunes, streaming services etc, but that is no different than how it’s always been.

    We might then say that the once busy A&R development teams at the majors are no longer developing artists, they are simply looking for production deals with artists that have already proven themselves in say, social media or YouTube or even BandCamp, which is a way of saying that those channels have led to the demise of indie labels that used to feed the farm system, although I’m not certain that that is the case, just a hunch.

    You have to look at Spotify, Rdio, MOG, Pandora etc as channels of distribution that can be used by what you call “new, emerging talent and more unorthodox music” and admit that it is up to those artists to make sure people know about them. If they are in those channels then they should make everyone aware.

    The lasting legacy of the record label system is that it created a system of indulgence for musicians. And by that I mean an indulgent lifestyle where the label, the managers, the marketers all did the work and the bands simply made music. That was great when you could get it and I’m sure that bands would love nothing more than that today. There’s only one problem – society has shifted. Music fans have moved to the new platforms, labels don’t matter to them, that’s the way it is. Disruption is an overused term, we should switch to adoption.

  • Tony

    1) – OK, I can appreciate that you did not accuse Mr Byrne of sour grapes, though the tone implies this,

    2) Creators can’t control their prices when with rampant piracy and a virtual monopoly of distribution. Don’t forget that David Byrne is not arguing that Spotify should be banned, just that creators don’t embrace it – and that is what you are arguing against. You were lucky enough to have created music in a time when there was enough reward (from the very major record companies from which, you applaud Spotify for lieberating the artists!). You’re doubly lucky that you found other work to supplement your income now that this is declining. The point is that the new model does not help the new “Gang of Four” and that is the big concern. “Entertainment” was made under the old system that you seem to think is so harmful, but you know that it could not be made and sold in today’s environment. Spotify is fine for the mass marketted, more commercial end of the musical spectrum, but as a model, it does nothing to support new, emerging talent and more unorthodox music. That is the real tragedy.

  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    LFSB…this comment and your own post are fantastic. A little humour in my day is very welcome right now. Thanks guys!

  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    And we are both Guardian op-ed contributors, correct?

  • Claire Sully

    Thanks Dave, I also blog: http://dontmentionthemword.co.uk/ ;-)

  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    Claire, coincidentally I was just listening to a Melvyn Bragg In Our Time Radio 4 podcast on my drive to the U of O, and the subject was Pascal and Marconi! I just followed your @BIMM Bristol Twitter account. That class looks interesting. Thanks for the comment here and over at my Guardian piece…

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  • Dabitch Åsk

    This is a very well put retort.

  • Little Fish, Big Stream

    Hi Dave,

    Great post. Thank you. It triggered some ideas for us, and provided a bit of
    incentive to commit these thoughts to keyboard (and even get our blog started):


    Streaming/internet/Spotify/access – it’s all great for music. So why are Byrne, Yorke, et al so glum? Behind the smoke-screen of ‘streaming = bad’ there seems to be two (legitimate) issues:

    1. There are fewer, bigger winners in the internet economy. This squeezes the pool of money available to the rest of us.

    2. Music subscription services will increase music consumption and revenue, but erode an artist’s share of their fans’ wallets.

    This second point requires a bit more explanation, so we used the fictional town of Spottingham and its three fish restaurants (The Yorkston, Perrys, and Cafe Ri Ri) to illustrate the problem, and propose a solution.

    In short, by changing subscription economics to be calculated not on an aggregate level but a fan level, we might be able to help redress the balance away from the big winners.

    We’re not saying it’s the only solution. But as per your closing comments, we hope that more voices start to come up with some realistic ideas, and not just moan on.

    Thanks for being constructive.


  • Claire Sully

    Like the line that people want to rent music not buy it. I’d go further and say they want to share music, not either rent or buy it.

    Makes a case for shutting out the middle-man. Why have a record label if distribution and marketing are self-handled and royalty levels are too low to share?

    I can see services like Spotify becoming the new record labels – much in the way Apple, via the App Store, has become a gaming company without actually producing games themselves.

    It’s become about streamlining supply rather than controlling supply – people won’t pay for music but they will pay for someone making the consumption of music a more streamlined experience.

    The digital revolution (or digital game changer) has moved so fast commercial models are failing to keep up. But they will emerge and we will be less reliant on dominant platforms. As with electronics the early pioneers were usurped once entrepreneurs like Marconi saw the potential and the business case, this then allows creativity to thrive. This is exactly the direction we are taking with our @BIMMBristol students.

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  • http://north.com/thinking/author/dallen Dave Allen

    1. I never accused Mr Byrne of “sour grapes”
    2. If creators retain their rights they can control their own prices in a free market. I don’t see why my point of new and emerging markets that can be embraced by musicians, is so puzzling to you? As a musician I chose to embrace the opportunities available to me. Some of my music catalog is bound up in contracts with EMI and Warner Bros some isn’t. My publishing is with Warner Chappel. I have no complaints. My income from music has declined too, I chose to find work I loved. Interestingly I notice that my income from streaming services and iTunes combined is on the rise as is my income from Performing Rights (PPL, PRS, Sound Exchange.)

    One thing I often forget to mention. I am typing this from the University of Oregon campus where I teach on Thursdays. At the beginning of term I always ask my new class of students a question – How do you access your music the most?

    Number 1 answer four years in a row – YouTube. Second – Soundcloud. A small survey I know but these are the new generations of music lovers…

  • mkray22

    I agree there’s sexism in the music business, but I fail to see how that’s even remotely related to this subject.

    And, male dominated or not, performing music is not a “blip” in any possible sense. It’s been the primary means of engaging with music since we lived in caves. Are you suggesting there’s been some kind of male “rock star myth” for upwards of 50,000 years?

    So confused.

  • David Lowery

    I Love how the North Blog has become the go to site for those who clearly espouse the corporate amorality, nihilism and anti-humanistic view of the tech utopianists. I truly do thank David Allen for this. It’s an amazing fall from grace for a former member of the Gang of Four. It would make a great movie.

  • Peter Buffett

    “Not everything that’s popular ends up being beneficial to us as humans attempting to live together” – damn straight! If you haven’t seen it… http://vimeo.com/61857758

    And your point was well taken about past value from recorded music not being there because it didn’t exist..

    Imagine if all comment sections were as civil as this!

  • Jeremy610

    Yes, you’re right, that was an over the top description. Apologies for getting a bit carried away. And I have no disagreements at all with this being a new day, that things change, that businesses collapse. I appreciate too that you have remained civil in the face of my original snarkiness. My only point was that it seems a bit misleading to say that because in the past there was no recorded music (and therefore obviously no income from recorded music) that this was somehow the more ‘natural’ state that things are merely returning to.

    And for the record, I don’t appreciate those who complain about change (any change) either. But likewise I don’t appreciate those (and not saying you’re one of them!!) who refuse even to look at both what is beneficial and what may be harmful about new technologies that come along. The fact remains that what brings new technologies to us are commercial interests only. No other arena gets much of a say. We don’t get to study this stuff in advance and ascertain what the greater social or cultural benefits and/or disadvantages are, we just get technology thrown into the marketplace and if it’s popular it’s everywhere. Not everything that’s popular ends up being beneficial to us as humans attempting to live together, and because the commercial interests then have so much vested in their products, they often work very hard to prevent honest discussion of potential negative impacts from even happening (think of cigarette manufacturers in the 50s and 60s, for instance).

  • Tony

    Well as someone who has worked in the “system”, never exploited anyone and is struggling to make a living, like so many others, I’m afraid I find your wilful ignorance depressing – another typical viewpoint formed out of self-interest rather than facts. To pick a few points;

    1) David Byrne is saying that he’s lucky enough to not need the income stream, but his concern is for the future – so it’s nothing like the sourgrapes it is made out to be,

    2) “Put very simply, that’s how markets work”. No it isn’t: no commodity is ever sold with an absence of enforced property rights. The market works on the principle that the creator sets the price and if they over price their commodity, someone will sell it cheaper or people won’t buy it. What you are suggesting, is that creators must sell at a price dictated by the distributor – justified by the fact that they only take 30%. That’s why you don’t understand the fears and protests of other creators either – because you have failed to understand the principles of the free market .

    You ask rhetorically “should they be expected to pay even more than 70% of the royalties?” – missing the point. If I say I want to sell cars for £10 and only keep 10% of the money, no car manufacturer is going to agree to that. If I price the commodity I’m selling too low, that’s my problem and there is no onus on the manufacturer to set their price accordingly

    3) “Although those who represent their complaints have never provided real evidence..” ermm.. try: the number of labels, management companies, agents gone bust. Try turning on the radio and listening out for new bands, that require time and investment as opposed to disposable pop music, that brings quick returns. There’s your evidence.

    4) “There are multiple examples of different models within the system, but that is the system as it stands”. Maybe when Gang of Four signed, but not now.

    If you had done your research, you might know that there is still a model you describes – this is where the record company invests much time and money in an act that in most case, will not make any money at all, so in return, they retain the rights so that they may reap a large profit from the few acts that do.

    This is the system that brought us virtually every great act from the Beatles, to Miley Cirus – with thousands of acts who were given the chance but did not sell. So you may want to think again about how important this system is. And the mortgage analogy is false – you have to pay back a mortgage, you don’t have to pay back an advance – simple really.

    More importantly; there are a plethora of different models. Usually; bands that require investment (or maybe just want jam today), can sign to a large record company who will offer this kind of deal. They could get a distribution deal or licensing deal for their record – in which case, they forego the large advance in place of better royalties and ownership. Songwriters (you seem to have forgotten about them too) can do the same and a sucesful one can chose between a large advance, and no advance but a royalty of up to 95%. The fact is that most go for the large money and support offered because they don’t know if they will be sucesfull and want the upfront investment.

    As with Amazon, facebook etc Spotify are not focussed on profit but market share and therefore stock market value – none of which goes to the artists. They stand to make billions out of this while the creators of the music get poorer and poorer and we have less music as a result. People who bemoan the “luddite” nature of anyone who is wary of a new business model that doesn’t give creators enough rewards, tend to be exactly the ones who complain that music isn’t as good as it used to be.

    Unlike the tech companies, there have been thousands of musicians, low paid workers in offices and venues all passionate about music and all, out of a job or struggling, while the likes of Apple, Spotify and all the ISPs etc make literally billions from music. The income streams from music are now focussed into the hands of a small elite, who invest no time or money in developing and nurturing the creative talent. And we are all supposed to celebrate this?

  • ianmaleney
  • troubledoll

    i appreciate the civil debate! i think companies that are making money from illegal torrents, etc., are hugely problematic, and i’m not sure anyone here is defending that model. what’s interesting to me is that the public has shown a huge appetite in recent years for getting music from legal sites that do respect, and pay for, copyrighted content, and THOSE are the sites that artists are now attacking.

    can the model be improved? of course. i think right now would be a great time for the services (i’ve worked for a couple of them, though i’m currently off on a different adventure) and the artists and the labels to be sitting down together to figure all this stuff out as partners rather than as combatants.

  • troubledoll

    also, it’s very easy to get your music into spotify without being signed to a label. quite literally anyone can do it.