The Future Of Music Isn't Spotify, It's Blockbuster!


In light of the recent Taylor Swift vs. Spotify story, there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not Spotify is good for artists (it isn't) and what the music industry can do to include the actual creators of their content (the artists) in the digital revenue stream.

Just because the industry has managed to screw every artist that has ever made an album for a major label, or, for that matter, any indie label with hopes of playing ball in the big leagues, doesn't mean the practice should continue another day longer.  Back then, such lopsided deals were signed by the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly because they had no way of knowing any better and no leverage with which to negotiate more financially agreeable terms even if they did know.

But now, with so much information available to artists on the internet and elsewhere, there is absolutely no excuse for this practice of "screwing the artists" to continue.  So when a Spotify comes along and is literally handed the keys to the entire music kingdom for fractions of pennies on the dollar, it's literally astonishing to see 99% of all artists whose music is available on the service to accept the ridiculously low payment scheme.

Naturally, no artists were consulted when Spotify sent former Napster svengali Sean Parker to negotiate with the major labels for the rights to literally tens of millions of songs that the service would then stream for free, all the while promising to make agreed-upon royalty payments from ad revenue and paid subscriptions.

Only after the fact were artists notified of the ridiculously low royalty payments from streaming, but, even then, neither Spotify, nor the labels themselves sought to remedy the oversight.  Instead, Spotify referred artist to their respective labels, citing that they were merely agreeing to the terms of the label/artist contracts already in place.  The labels, to date, haven't said anything because, well, they still don't believe artists deserve any money.

That's right, major labels honestly believe artists should work for free.  When they sign a Led Zep or a Beatles and that band sells tens of millions of albums and singles, making their respective labels hundreds of millions of dollars, these labels still can't bring themselves to pay the artists the money that they are contractually obligated to receive.  It literally hurts them to write that check, even knowing that said payment is merely a small fraction of the millions the artist just made for them.

That's because no label on the planet can bring themselves to admit that the artist had anything to do with that success.  The mindset of the major label system is that every platinum-selling artist should kiss their pinky ring for the success that said label has achieved on their behalf and that they should be happy with whatever money the label bestows upon them.

If Taylor Swift was truly interested in fighting the good fight on behalf of artists big and small, she would have withheld her new album from the label until said label restructured their digital royalty structure, but she didn't.  Instead, she went after Spotify, a service that is merely abiding by the deal that the major labels signed with the streaming service.  The deal where the labels sold out every artist by taking an equity stake in the service in exchange for giving away money that could have and should have been paid to artists.

Yes, Spotify is deserving of some blame, but so are the labels.


But, sadly, the deal is signed.  Granted, no artist had a hand in negotiating that deal, but, ultimately, they are the ones forced to live with it.

The only recourse artists have is to bypass the service entirely, which is certainly within their rights, and to place renewed importance on physical product.  No CD's, no download cards, no nothing because any form of digital product is too easily copied and pirated.

Leave the digital realm to the Taylor Swifts, Rihannas, and Maroon 5's of the industry, whose music will continue to be used as a loss leader for advertisers.

Remember when video stores were all the rage?

Believe it or not, numerous companies -including Blockbuster - attempted to integrate music into their business model, but the music industry would have none of it.  Perhaps now that the industry is much more interested in taking whatever they can get, they might be swayed to play ball this time around.

Ater all, what better way to thwart piracy and to build a long-term relationship with a fan base that has shown a desire to, you know, actually pay for music.  The only way to change the millennial belief that music is free is to begin by allowing them to rent it first.  Sure, folks may just take the albums home and burn them to mp3 files, but what they REALLY like, they will buy.  I know because that's what I've been doing my whole life and I'm not alone.  I'm just like millions of other music fans who have felt aggressively loathed by the music industry for the past 20+ years.

So, yes, what I'm saying is that the future of the music industry relies heavily on going backwards, by eschewing the disposable digital realm and offering physical product that can't be immediately ripped or burned quite so easily.


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