Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Week Four: Quincy Jones on streaming - 'The genie is not going back in the bottle'

Admittedly, my last few posts have ragged on streaming in the music industry. I've tackled everything from its adverse effect on the environment to its propensity to massively underpay its member artists. So this week its time for a change in tune (pun intended).

Because streaming is not without its defenders. In fact, legendary musician and 27-time Grammy winner Quincy Jones counts himself among them.

Through Facebook, the 81 year-old showed that he can get with the times by releasing a statement supporting streaming's rise in the music industry.

"I'm proud to support my partners at Spotify at this crucial moment in their growth. Spotify is not the enemy; piracy is the enemy. Spotify is paying out 70% of their revenue to musicians and rightsholders," Jones posted, accruing almost 850,000 likes on his status.

Which begs the question - is that 70 percent enough to support artists? I've already found some evidence to the contrary in a previous post, but here's another disconcerting figure: the most streamed song in Spotify history, EDM artist Avicii's "Wake Me Up" (yes, disappointingly enough), was played over 168 million times on the service. It netted a grand total of $4,000 for vocalist and co-writer Aloe Blacc.

"If that’s what’s now considered a streaming ‘success story,’ is it any wonder that so many songwriters are now struggling to make ends meet?" lamented Blacc.

But Jones finds that artists should embrace what he considers the irreversible tide of digital streaming. He said he would have definitely distributed his work through the service, which includes "Thriller," the most sold album of all time with 65 million copies sold worldwide.

"If I had to release Thriller today, you can be sure I'd want it on Spotify. The genie is not going back in the bottle friends; let's work together to find solutions to the music industry's problems," he continued in his post.

Convinced? I'm not entirely sure I am. Okay, okay - I know I promised this blog entry wouldn't rag on streaming this time around, though inevitably it has reached that point. But hear me out.

Spotify has an abysmal pay scale for its artists, paying $.006 to $.0084 for each play ($600 and $840 per 100,000 plays). Just to make minimum wage, an artist would need 4,053,110 plays per month.
To put it into perspective, here is a very helpful graph courtesy of The Atlantic.
Yikes. That is tremendously daunting, even for the most intrepid musician. And it's also enough for me to heartily disagree with Quincy Jones, despite my full-fledged appreciation for his production of Michael Jackson's albums.
Before artists fully embrace Spotify and other streaming services, as Jones is advocating, they need to consider further negotiations regarding their pay. Their cut does not represent the efforts they put into their craft, and until something changes, musicians have every right to eye streaming services with suspicion.

La Rosa, D. (n.d.). Quincy Jones: “Spotify is not the enemy”. Retrieved December 17, 2014, from

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