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The Way We Hear Music Has Changed. Now Change it Some More.

November 5, 2014

A lot of buzz out there about Taylor Swift abandoning Spotify (what a very odd name – Taylor Swift ¬– vaguely reminiscent of a late 19th century fop, or the last “bachelor” son of a 1830s Southern Plantation Family, or some Goyim Law firm in Columbia, South Carolina) Now, even if she (or her handlers) are doing it for the wrong reason – there’s fairly credible chatter that it’s a move to boost her hard-CD sales in preparation for some kind of sell-off of her record company – it’s the right move. It also brings to mind the much-chatted about notion that existing streaming and sales-download models may (somewhat) work for the listener, but they ain’t working for the musician, at least not in terms of reasonable renumeration for services. Is renumeration a word? It isn’t, is it? So what am I thinking of? AH, it’s REMUNERATION I’m after. So there.

Have you slipped in a supermarket lately? Rear-ended by someone who didn’t have insurance? Been abused or insulted in the workplace? Call Taylor, Swift, & Harmon, serving the Capitol since 1979! Go ‘Cocks!

And it’s true. There’s not a single independent musician out there who has any real hope that they are going to get paid for their music. As I have written earlier, if you’re giving it away for free, at LEAST fuck some shit up and make it mean something…and I don’t see a LOT of that, either. So there’s a lot not working here. Time to change. Time to figure out a way where music either a) isn’t free or b) if it’s free, have it MEAN something.

Virtually every musician wants to change the streaming/download-sales model, but is anyone actually doing anything about it? Probably Bandcamp, right? But there’s room for more, no doubt. So…here’s an idea. An idea for change. Perhaps it’s filled with beautiful ignorance, but why not? Many people will tell me why this can’t happen, but possibly someone out there will tell me why it can.

Musicians: You don’t like the current stream/download/sales model? ABANDON IT. Here’s a suggestion:

Working in union with artists of every level and with people who have the skill to get projects like this online, I want to create an interface for selling downloads/streaming music. I mean THAT’S Step Bloody One. Don’t like the way Spotify etcetera handle it (and, unlike the Swiftian Taylor we spoke of earlier, you can’t count on selling a zillion CD’s)? THERE’S SOMEONE OUT THERE, probably a friend of yours, who can figure out a way you can put up a site to stream and sell downloads. TRUE, if it’s just YOU it won’t make much of a difference. BUT THERE’S POWER IN NUMBERS. So let’s put together United New Streamers or something (god knows what) to join together to sell exclusive download/streams on a NEW site. God knows I don’t know how to do this, but I am quite damn sure there are plenty of people out there who do.

Next, I want to find artists willing to commit themselves to selling downloads/streams EXCLUSIVELY on this site – i.e., these songs/albums/projects will NOT be available on any other download sales/stream site. That’s key, I think.

WHAT WOULD BE THE BIG DEAL IF EVERYONE JUST PULLED THEIR SHIT OFF OF SPOTIFY etcetera, and put it up on their own page, OR BETTER YET, A PAGE THEY SET UP WITH LIKE-MINDED MUSICIANS? The EXISTING model is NOT working. It’s like continuing to eat at a segregated diner because it’s the only diner in town. Set up a NEW lunch wagon that serves EVERYONE. I mean, Spotify etcetera works fine IF you’re looking for an old Hollies or Stranglers track, but it doesn’t work if YOU’RE THE ONE MAKING THE MUSIC. In the old days, when we saw one of our CD’s (or albums or tapes) in a store, we had some genuine belief that AT SOME POINT AT THE END OF THE CONSUMER-RETAILER TRANSACTION we would see a CERTAIN AMOUNT of money if someone actually bought our work. But that belief is now gone.

Next idea: Everyone who is part of this thing (I’m going with the United New Streamers because I can’t think of anything else, but I’m sure something better/more clever will emerge) should agree to give a certain amount – say, one-fourth – of EVERY download sale to a “cause” or charity of the artists’ own designation. ASPCA, voter registration, Planned Parenthood, whatever. Frankly, it could even be the NRA, I just want artists to commit to the idea of using a minority portion of their sales for activism.

What we need: Artists willing to GO OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM and commit one song, or many songs, to the idea of creating a NEW interface for download sales/streaming that both CORRECTS the economic inequality of the existing models, not ONE of which was created from an “artists” perspective, AND a model that commits to the idea of marrying music to activism.

What we need: Computer geek-types and folks with some music business awareness willing to commit their expertise to setting up the infrastructure for this kind of project.

What we need: an army of musicians and computer-geek types and a few organizational sorts to commit to doing this sort of thing.

Alternative: Find your favorite cause, charity, independent bookstore, independent record store. OFFER THEM YOUR MUSIC TO SELL or give away ON THEIR SITE. Or let’s set up a formal organization that acts as an interface between musicians and causes, matches songs with sites that would think that the sales or attention was actually meaningful, as opposed to meaningless. As stated, if you’re going to give it away for free, anyway, GIVE IT AWAY IN A MANNER THAT HAS SOME MEANING.

Bob’s your uncle.

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  • Dari

    What’s with SoundCloud mate?

  • John Reeve

    Why a monolithic site? It’s pretty easy to put up, to pick one of many possible technologies, a wordpress site that has a plugin that allows you sell a download. Why not just try and make it easier for individual artists to sell that way? And that way, they don’t have to rely on other people doing anything.