Back in 2011, I started writing all these blog posts from articles I read that I had a laugh with, or disagreed with, or had a reaction to. And I felt they were unfinished to publish or I just didn’t have the balls to put my views out there, but I saved them anyway.
My digital saving life is no different to how people just keep physical items, but for me, a physical item will be thrown away to reduce clutter, but anything I create, I store away digitally, like it matters or means something. Once I am gone, who knows what happens to our digital lives stored in clouds and email accounts.
In 2011, there was an article I read, called “Track Piracy Is Killing The Music Business…. In 1976” over at a site called Techdirt. At that point in time, Spotify was still in the stages of gaining approval from the record labels to operate in America (it actually kicked off in July 2011).
And while the labels bogged down the negotiations to get a stake in the company, YouTube silently became the number one streaming service and it still is to this day. And it’s all because YouTube offers the users exactly what Napster offered its users back in 1999. A chance to share their love of culture, with others.
So while the labels negotiated a billion dollar deal that no artist would ever see the terms too (even though the labels had this bargaining power because of the copyrights they held from the artists), it really was funny to read the moral panic put out there by the labels and their lobby group RIAA.
Of course, every generation sees that moral panic it a bit different.
In the early 1900’s, the player piano was killing live music and the music industry along with it. Then from the late 60’s, the tape recorder and home taping was killing music and the recording industry along with it.
Then in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the MP3 player and mp3 was deemed to be killing the recording industry. At one stage, the mp3 player was deemed illegal. To make, sell and buy guns and knives was legal, but to make, sell and buy an mp3 player was illegal. Imagine how much money the lobby group of the labels would have donated (bribed) to the politicians to get that law passed.
Then in the early 2010’s, it became about streaming and how its payments to artists is killing the industry. With every moral panic, the industry has survived, because in the end people gravitate to something that connects and they share their love of it. While all of this was happening, unknown to many, concert tickets increased at a rate triple the inflation rate.
Netflix said recently that they are not competing with other streaming providers but with Fortnite for peoples attention. At least they get it. It’s easy to be ignored and when that happens, what’s next. We are saturated with choice and it’s a good thing. For those who remember growing up, with three channels on TV, the current world is exponentially better for choice.
So what does all this mean for the artist?
Remember when Cheap Trick’s album from 2009, “The Latest”, came out on 8-track as a unique marketing promotion, with the offer to download the digital tracks at a price lower than the standard iTunes price. Well it was a cool gimmick because it got the band back into the conversation. I also remember reading, how the guys we’re worried about being ignored than being ripped off, when the interviewer asked them about giving their digital tracks away for such a low price.
In other words, obscurity is a bigger fear than piracy. Just ask those artists who are part of the group of 30 million songs who have never been heard on Spotify.