The creative project I’m most excited about at the moment is my band Japan Soul’s debut LP Plastic Utopia created with my bandmates David Rozner and DaVe Lipp. The cover features an amazing painting by my wife and design partner Eva Orzech. I would really love it, seriously, if you would take a listen to the music. We’re allowing 4 (of the 10) songs to be streamed in advance of the release. If you like what you hear, and I hope you do, then I would love it even more if you did something that it seems people don’t do any more. I would love it if you took the bold step of pre-ordering the album. You’ll get the full album delivered to you on April 29. These tracks were made to surprise, delight and enlighten. I hope people will give this album a chance. A chance these days just means a listen. That’s it.
Did you listen? Did you like it? Did you think about buying it? Yeah, I know the feeling too. I mean, most of us don’t need to buy music anymore. Truth be told, I don’t make a living doing music. It’s hard to fathom how that would even be possible these days. I certainly spend enough on the production of it. As if it were actually a viable business.
Everyone loves music. I sense a malaise that fewer and fewer people actually buy music. This means the actual product of music will become less and less of a real product. That’s a sad thing. The truth is we can’t all decide to stream and actually think we’re supporting artists. Yes, it’s awesome. But new artists who have yet to be discovered don’t stand a chance of going the distance with music if all we do is stream music. When you love something you, the fan, have to double down and commit and buy that thing you love. That is, if you want to give up-and-coming artists any chance at all.
I’ve made my own commitment to buy music by newer artists. I’ll stream all the old stuff. I don’t think Led Zeppelin needs my money anymore. They’ve done ok. If music lovers bought just one album a month that wouldn’t break their bank. But it would inject life back into music as a product people actually buy. You don’t have to buy my album (but I hope you do). Buy someone’s album. Maybe buy an album of an up-and-comer. Kanye West will probably make money somehow. He doesn’t need your help. But so many other struggling artists do.
We’ll be launching a new campaign at Trasaterra soon to get people excited about buying music again. It’s simply called Buy Music Love Artists. We’re soft-launching BMLA with the Japan Soul Plastic Utopia record cover. Look to the bottom right of the cover. Soon we’ll fully reveal everything about BMLA. It actually is as self-explanatory as it sounds.
CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER THE ALBUM!
On our long-running thread on Rdio we’ve been talking a lot about artist fairness. While that’s certainly a major issue, my original point was that digital streaming is so persuasive that it will inevitably dominate the market of music consumption. It hasn’t exactly been an overnight success, but as I see countless Facebook friends and relatives “fall” to Spotify, it pretty much goes without saying that streaming is on its way to becoming the definitive platform consumers prefer for music.
Friends and family often ask me what I think of Spotify just when they’re dipping their toe into the waters of streaming. I’m actually more like a Rdio evangelist. And for the record, it seems unfair that Spotify is the dominator and Rdio the niche. I’ve come to the conclusion that digital streaming technology is so persuasive and such a revelation that whatever platform a consumer encounters first will be the one they likely stick with. For me that was Rdio as I dived into this before Spotify was even available in the US. At this point there’s still plenty of market-share up for grabs. I think that’s why we’re seeing Rdio billboards in Times Square. But Spotify has a huge brand advantage as their name seems to have become ubiquitous with streaming.
I’ve also realized that most people don’t listen to music the way I do (obsessively, as foreground and always looking for something new and unexpected). Rdio makes discovery of new music very easy and social. Spotify appeals more to people who prefer an iTunes approach. As I never loved iTunes, defecting to Rdio was quite simple as it has it’s own UI paradigm. Although I can’t understand it, iTunes is/was the preferred music consumption UI and that is part of Spotify’s advantage. Whereas Rdio is a greater (dare I say braver) leap into the new world of music streaming, Spotify eases new-comers in by simply not being that radical.
Beyond my digression into brand loyalties, the larger point is that consumers LOVE music streaming. In spite of all the moaning about artists not seeing money from streaming, this is the platform the consumers have chosen (or will choose). When it does become totally widespread and consumers are all paid subscribers (just like they pay/paid for cable) there simply must be a way to pay out viable incomes to those artists who have warranted it. The fact that you can find most major artists an streaming platforms means that major labels see the potential. The equation works for them and it works for consumers. It’s only a matter of time before it works for artists.
I’ve had the unpromoted album “Soul Food” by my old band Japan Seoul available for streaming for quite some time. There’s been some interesting discussion about how little artists make off of streaming. Damon Krukowski stated he’s taking in $0.004611. I, an artist without a label (or any fans for that matter), seem to be doing better streaming than the great Galaxy 500. Below are the latest digital streaming returns from Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody. It’s interesting that I’m getting nearly a penny per stream with Rhapsody, while Spotify is paying out the least. Rather unfairly, CD Baby counts sales to iTunes as digital distribution sales. Thus it’s hard to get a total accounting of how much I’ve made in total on these records purely streaming. I can say to date that with two records on CD Baby (Japan Seoul “Soul Food” and Music For Girls), one since ’07, I’ve made a total of $38.72. I do believe that a large chunk of that is from streaming because Soul Food had been on Spotify and Rhapsody for years before I was even familiar with those services. I certainly don’t mean to complain. I’m glad the stuff is out there. The truth is I never promoted these records when they were new. I’ve got an EP in the oven and I do plan on putting a much greater effort to get that one heard. Without further adieu here’s some recent streaming data from CD Baby.
More Spotify (to show mysterious price fluctuation for streams):
The Trichordist | Artists For An Ethical Internet.
On the issue of Google and large tech corporate entities leaching off of artists through ads and search on pirating websites I wholeheartedly agree. It sucks. Shame on them. On the issue of individual ethics, I half-heartedly agree. If David Lowery truly believes downloading pirated music is as evil as internet child pornography then we do indeed have a case for an ethical argument. However, the mechanism of media delivery does not police pirated music (I assume it does police for child pornography to some extent). With the current internet infrastructure we have to somehow believe we’re doing wrong by simply doing what we do on the web – mainly searching for information, documents and media. That simply can’t be wrong at its core. Lowery asks us, the internet user, to take the burden of understanding the bewilderingly complex music industry past and present to understand the implications for doing what we would do. In the case of Emily White, Lowery tries to co-opt her conflicted feelings to his agenda which is simply a rather antiquated idea that people should pay for music like they used to.
There’s simply no going back. However, there is going forward. We all want the artists to be paid. But the mechanism is broken. It is out of sync with the way we actually use the internet. There is a lot of tech talk about user experience on the web. Frankly, the user experience of buying/downloading music is off. A bad user experience usually equals failure for a web startup. Yet the music industry and David Lowery want us to settle for the sub-par UX of iTunes because it is the most “ethical”.
David Lowery is very critical of streaming music platforms such as Spotify and Rdio in some of his other posts. What he doesn’t give credit for is that streaming music platforms are amazing tools for discovery. And guess what, they are perfectly legal. I pay $18/mo to Rdio for a family plan and my wife and I get an all-you-can-eat buffet of music. This invariably means that I (especially) listen to a lot of bad music trying to find the unknown diamonds in the rough. But I like that I can simply go through and discover music without relying on blogs, social media and hype. The discovery is simply me finding artists I like. Although Lowery downplays the significance of shows, when I find music I really like through Rdio I am most likely to pay the $20-$50 to see that band play live when they come around. That to me seems like a better take than iTunes where I’m much less likely to discover new music.
Ultimately streaming exposes that we don’t need to buy distributed music the way we used to. We don’t own it, never did and never will. The artist should be paid for the usage of their IP and streaming music services make that very very easy. Granted the field is so new it’s hard to say how lucrative this can be. But if everyone gets on board with streaming how could it not be lucrative?
I think streaming music makes piracy obsolete. Why? Because the user experience of streaming music platforms is a million times better than sifting through the nether-worlds of torrents. It’s probably cost-effective because you don’t need to worry about getting storage for all your downloads. Boy will that add up.
So to David Lowery I’d suggest getting on board with music streaming and finding ways to make it profitable for artists. I think the streaming community, this new generation, can really support that. Don’t guilt them into using an antiquated tool. This is not really about ethics even though the music industry needs to frame it that way to (frighteningly) get legal power to stiffen what they don’t like about how people use the internet.