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: fairness, grammy's, neil portnow, rates, royalties, streaming
Companies: spotify


Reader Comments

The First Word

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 4:30am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:52am

      Re: You first

      They're not paying the artists enough to stop them asking questions along the lines of, "Where are the royalties I was promised for my copyright licenses?"

      That's the problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Ed Allen, 17 Feb 2016 @ 9:13am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 9:27am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eddiemon (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 6:41am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 6:55am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 8:53am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 3:43pm

      Re:

      Now I want to know what your favorite song is...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 6:58am

    If they were honest about the musicians/creators making more money, maybe they should pay them some more money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:00am

    RIAA/MPAA are more closely related to ISIS than is Spotify. And should be treated as such.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JD, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:02am

    If Spotify is ISIS does that make radio the Nazis?

    On a per-listener-per-song basis radio pays anywhere from one-fifth to one-tenth what Spotify pays. So if Spotify is ISIS, what does that make ClearChannel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PrivateFrrazer, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:15am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:19am

    Every time you misuse an apostrophe, God kills a kitten

    People who can't be bothered to remember that you don't pluralize proper nouns with an apostrophe + s are in desperate need of more proofreaders before publishing. Come on, people. Save the kittens and stop abusing the apostrophe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rich, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:26am

      Re: Every time you misuse an apostrophe, God kills a kitten

      I think grammar Nazis that jump on every typo like it's the end of the world, are worse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Feeling Guilty, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:22am

    For Shame

    As we are about to look upon these poor waifs who have suffered in their poverty to bring music into your lives please try and find it in your hearts to give a little more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:54am

      Re: For Shame

      If each of the artists adds a Flattr or PayPal or similar link to their websites, we will. I don't want my hard-earned £££ going to the labels, who just rip them off.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 9:35am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RD, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:23am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:33am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:36am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:47am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    johnjac (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 7:54am

    Let me interrupt your Free Music Stream

    "Let me interrupt our prime-time streaming of 19 performances of free music stream to everyone for free around so I can tell you that people paying for music aren't paying enough"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 8:08am

    Wait. They still have Grammy's???

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 8:16am

    And the funny thing is that the RIAA has more in common with ISIS. They would punish you for listening to the wrong kind of music, treat ordinary citizens like dirt, favor censorship, constantly threaten their enemies, want total conquest, and believe in disproportionate punishments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 10:03am

    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".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 11:11am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 12:12pm

    More musician hate from Mike Masnick? I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 12:21pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 4:46pm

      Re:

      Have a DMCA vote, spambot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 4:47pm

      Re:

      More rabid personal attacks and absolute bullshit from a so called "artist"? Fetch my meme colored fainting couch!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 12:14pm

    lost in all this is...

    that Common has lost his soul. RIP good buddy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 17 Feb 2016 @ 12:37pm

    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 $5..you 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..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 12:58pm

    To use an often mis-used phrase...

    The Customer is Always Right -Harry Selfridge

    The market has decided the price of streaming. No amount of hand-wringing or whining will change the decision of the market.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 17 Feb 2016 @ 2:07pm

    Terrorist are the new Nazis.

    We should have a new version of Godwin's rule, but instead of "Nazis", we should substitute "ISIS", or whoever the terrorist de jour are (Khorasan group, anyone?).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    charliebrown (profile), 18 Feb 2016 @ 12:59pm

    Streaming From Where?

    Now streaming from my CD player to my speakers, "Too Much Heaven" by The Bee Gees. Money earned by them for this song streaming: None. Does that make me a pirate?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 3:37am

      Re: Streaming From Where?

      Considering that the RIAA believes selling a CD is piracy for profit and playing music to privately-owned horses is a public performance, what do you think?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.