Grammy's Can't Get Streaming Or Audio Right, But Assure You That Free Spotify Is Kinda Like ISIS

from the say-what-now? dept

We already wrote about how CBS fucked up internet streaming of the Grammy’s on Monday night, but a few folks have sent in the various stories about how Grammy’s boss Neil Portnow did his now annual whine about how evil tech companies don’t pay musicians enough, and how if we don’t start giving musicians more money ISIS will win and the 12 year old who just performed on piano might starve or something. The crux of his talk was to whine that when people stream a song it might earn those associated with the music “a fraction of a penny” and somehow that’s unfair:

“So, what does hearing your favorite song mean to you?” asked Neil Portnow, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which awards the Grammys.

He then explained that when people use streaming-music services, the artists and others behind those songs earn “a small fraction of a penny” per song.

“Isn’t a song worth more than a penny?” he asked, as the audience cheered. “You bet. Listen, we all love the convenience and we support technologies like streaming that connects us to that music. But we also have to make sure the creators and artists ? like Joey over there ? grow up in a world where music is a viable career.”

Behind him as he said this, was this fabulous clip art visual aid (seriously, can’t the Grammy’s come up with something a little better as a graphic?)

And, yes, there was a weird reference to ISIS and the Paris attacks as a reason for paying musicians more. While there may have been applause inside the theater, the line seemed to flop everywhere else:

Of course, the whole penny thing is misleading and ridiculous. It’s emotional bullshit that Portnow is using because the truth makes the recording industry who pay his salary look terrible. And it’s this: streaming actually pays artists more per listener than other forms of music acquisition. Multiple studies have shown that when you figure out the cost per listen, streaming is higher than radio, CDs or paid downloads. Sure a fraction of a penny sounds like a small amount, but the missing implicit suggestion is that the streaming companies like Spotify are making much more than that per stream. They’re not. Spotify pays significantly more than half of their revenue towards licensing (and often the reason musicians aren’t getting paid is because the record labels are keeping most of it from the artists.

It also ignores how free streaming services have actually helped bring revenue back into the music industry by decreasing piracy rates drastically and getting people to move to legal options. Demanding ever higher rates only serves to cause these kinds of companies to fail. And all that will do is drive people back to totally unauthorized services where artists and copyright holders don’t get any money directly.

Of course, this is the way things always work for the legacy recording industry. They see a new technology — a technology they didn’t support, don’t understand, and fought against initially — suddenly making them some money and they start demanding more and more and more until they kill the golden goose. They do this over and over again. Remember how ringtones were suddenly making the industry money? They kept demanding more money for them, and no one cares about ringtones any more. Or how about music video games? Once again, the record labels started insisting that they weren’t getting paid enough, and look at what happened to those games?

It’s one thing to negotiate different payment structures, but the constant whining and bullshit about “fairness” when “fair” appears to be something like 200% of any revenue any music tech company makes is beginning to wear a bit thin, don’t you think? Once again, these are the same people who fought tooth and nail against any of these technologies, and now that they actually got built AND are helping the industry and musicians actually make some money, these same talking heads whine that it’s not enough? Really? Go build your own damn technology service, and you’ll quickly discover that it’s not that easy. And then maybe they’ll stop whining with bullshit claims. But that seems unlikely. The whining never ceases. And yet they call fans “entitled”?

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: spotify

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Grammy's Can't Get Streaming Or Audio Right, But Assure You That Free Spotify Is Kinda Like ISIS”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

You first

As one of the linked articles show, the biggest reason streaming services ‘don’t pay artists enough’ is because the labels take a huge cut, leaving the artists a tiny portion(45.6% to labels, 6.8% to artists in the study, a study paid for by the recording industry mind). There’s also the fact that anyone that expects a single listen to pay even remotely as much as a permanent purchase is a greedy idiot of the highest order, but we’ll ignore that for the moment.

If the labels are really going to whine about how streaming services just don’t pay artists enough, then they’re more than welcome to hand over some of their share, but given their complaints have absolutely nothing to do with how much the artists are getting, and everything to do with how much the labels are getting, I don’t imagine they’d be very eager to start doing that.

Ed Allen says:

Re: Re: You first

The problem is that copyrights are a monopoly and monopolies allow demanding more money without doing more work.

That is why the labels do not provide their own streaming service, it would require WORK to keep it functioning.

Work is an expense which takes away from profits.

Much better, for them, to demand more money till the goose dies. Then they can go back to suing pirates
which they think of as noble and worthy of admiration.

That more and more people see them as greedy, litigious monopolists actually shocks them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You first

Much better, for them, to demand more money till the goose dies. Then they can go back to suing pirates which they think of as noble and worthy of admiration.

Small but important correction there: They don’t see steaming and similar services as potential sources of profit so much as they see them as potential competition.

If a prospective musician can completely skip the whole ‘sign over all your music to us and you might be able to re-pay the money we’re loaning you someday’ step and go straight to offering their stuff to the customers, the labels are in trouble. As such it’s in their best interest to drain dry any company that offers musicians an alternative way to have their music heard and/or sold, that this gets them some money in the meantime is just a bonus.

Eddiemon (profile) says:

He's right!

The thing I didn’t realise was that when I streamed a song I had actually purchased the song and all encompassing rights. That’s definitely a steal for a fraction of a penny.

Is a ~3 minute experience that can be replicated and repeated a near infinite number of time worth a fraction of a penny? That’s a different conversation entirely.

PaulT (profile) says:

“So, what does hearing your favorite song mean to you?”

A lot. However, there’s a huge amount of music out there that’s not my favourite song. in fact I had to listen to it a lot to work out what my favourite song was. I may never have found it had I had to pay through the nose to discover it, or the services I used forced to shut down because the royalties demanded were too much (in fact, I remember the days where labels paid radio stations to pay their music)

Not to mention – I bought my favourite song already. Years ago. At price per listen, you may have got less than you would from the same number of Spotify plays. But, you’ll only get more money out of me by letting me play it on Spotify when I’m out and about without it synced to my device, not by trying to force me to pay for it again or shutting down the services that helps me discover other music.

“Isn’t a song worth more than a penny?”

Some yes, some no. I don’t want to spend more than a penny each to find out which is which. In fact, most people have never done this, discovering music through means they didn’t pay for (or being unwillingly exposed to music they don’t like through the same methods).

In other words: stop with the idiotic comparisons of individual radio play to purchased music. They are not the same thing with the same revenue, never have been, never will be. Sorry you can’t work out how to make your product valuable enough for people to own instead of rent, but that’s your issue.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Isn’t a song worth more than a penny?”

I guessing there is more than one answer to that question, from his point of view. The answer is YES when the song is distributed via one of the RIAA member labels and NO when it is distributed independently. He gets really confused when the answer is the former but the label is being sued by the artist for non payment.

PrivateFrrazer says:

i got a payment for £50 last week

via CDBAby – seems there was a strange rush over at Google Music (never heard of it) last November. I got 3000 plays or so. That’s more than i’ve had from PRS and PPL together in the last 20 years! Streaming’s great (though i prefer to own CDs, even when the majority are so bad) for us unsigned no-hopers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: For Shame

Yeah, if I could be sure that the money I was spending went to the artists directly, rather than a parasitic middle-man, I imagine my purchasing habits would expand a bit. I have no problem paying for music, what I have a problem with is paying say $1 for a song, of which maybe five to ten cents makes it to the artist, with the rest of it going to a parasite with a history of treating it’s customers with blatant contempt.

I’ll support an artist and their music, I refuse to support parasites who are constantly trying to screw me over, and given how often doing the first requires doing the second, a lot less music is bought that otherwise might be.

RD says:

Worth more than a penny?

“Isn’t a song worth more than a penny?”

In a pay-per-listen RIAA lock down utopia? Emphatically NO it is not. In that case, music is worth absolutely zero. I, the listening consumer, *do not care* about your licensing schemes, your profit margins, or your royalty structures. If I can buy it and own it, that is one this with a fixed price paid once. If I am just listening, which is transitory and ephemeral, my cost consideration is exactly ZERO.

David says:

Demanding ever higher rates only serves to cause these kinds of companies to fail. And all that will do is drive people back to totally unauthorized services where artists and copyright holders don’t get any money directly.

Actually, the shenanigans of the music industry have driven me to not hearing any canned music at all. The well of digital distribution has been poisoned so thoroughly with criminalization, copyright protection schemes right up into root kits and device brickings and other stuff that I’m either hearing or making live music or none at all.

It was good enough for Bach, Händel, Beethoven, Mozart.

I mean, sure it would be great for any artist if he received a fraction of a penny from billions of people just hearing his or her music a single time. But if they feel that’s not enough for feeding the mouths of their levy collectors, they can have nothing instead. Fine with me. They probably still get enough for the crap I am forced to listen to at the supermarket and which ultimately gets accrued to my bill. I’d be happy not to have to pay for that but I’m not consulted there.

Anonymous Coward says:

These people never come out and say what they think a fair per-stream rate or musician’s annual income should be, because then someone would do the math and figure out that it’s completely unsustainable to pay all musicians that wage.

To get the revenue on a per-listen basis that full-time artists were getting from physical product 25 years ago, streaming services would have to operate with no overhead and no profits, and would have to be raking in hundreds of billions of dollars from advertisers and subscribers, far exceeding what people spend on all forms of entertainment combined.

Crybabies like Portnow also really don’t want to reveal how the general funds which services/stations pay into are redistributed based on proportion of plays across all services. So all but the tiniest fraction of those micropayments made on behalf of indie and lesser-known artists end up going to the most-played mainstream artists instead. This makes it very easy to say “look, even this artist getting millions of plays is only getting pennies”. That said, equitable distribution would probably not result in substantially more artists getting a living wage, which calls into question whether they are entitled to it in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Apparently a song is worth so much more than a penny I have to pay extra for my media storage devices just because they might have songs stored on them I don’t even know exist.

You can get your damn penny from somewhere else. My penny is going to other forms of entertainment that treat don’t me like a potential criminal if I so much as look in its general direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am all for giving musicians more money, but that won’t happen if he gets his way. Instead they will pocket the money and tell the musicians they should be thankful they were given the opportunity by the music companies to even have a chance at selling music they will not get any royalties from. Compared to not selling anything at all.

I would be very curious to see what percentage musicians currently get compared to how much recording company’s keep for themselves as “administrative costs”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I would be very curious to see what percentage musicians currently get compared to how much recording company’s keep for themselves as “administrative costs”.

From a previous article, according to ‘a new report put together by Ernst & Young with the French record label trade group SNEP, concerning where the money from streaming services Deezer and Spotify ends up. Spoiler alert: it’s not with the artists. Here’s the overall share of the 9.99 Euros that people pay for a premium account on these services:

20.8% – Platform
16.7% – Taxes
45.6% – Labels
6.8% – Artists
10% – Songwriters/Publishers

So the labels get almost half of the before-taxes profits, while the artists get less than ten percent. Of course given who funded the research they tried to spin it by claiming that it was only right that the labels got such a huge cut because they were having to pay out the various costs related to recording/promotions and whatnot, ‘forgetting’ to mention that those costs are ones that the artists have to pay out of their share, which makes the label’s cut pure profit.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because clearly the only reason someone would have to point out that someone is either too stupid to figure out, or too dishonest to admit the difference between a single listen to one person is going to pay drastically less than a single play to thousands, or a single purchase is because they ‘hate musicians’.

You want to talk about those that ‘hate musicians’ and aren’t paying enough, try looking at the labels, who grab the majority of the profits from streaming services, leaving little but scraps for the actual artists.

Really, can you at least try to get some new material? Your current stuff is so old it’s almost in the public domain.

ECA (profile) says:

Corporate attitude

1 person makes something..
The Corp markets it..
the Corp does the paper work..
The Corp breaks it apart and makes PARTS of it(music, lyric,instrumental,whatever)
The Corp controls the distribution EVEN when it fails to work..(they THINK they know Who wants it)
The CORP controls WHO and how much Every person listening PAYS..(car drivers can listen to radio, but passengers must NOT)
The CORPS have the lawyers.
The Corp controls it..

By the time you are done, 1 album is paying 200 paper pushers for 1 album..
COST of 1 album printed is LESS THEN $ pay $20..The artist gets $0.10..

Corps get to write MOST of it off, as deductions and tax write offs, as part of manufacturing..

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...