Unlimited music everywhere you go sounds great, but who's really benefiting from it?
When it comes to assessing the cultural impact of the "digital revolution" on the music industry, the jury is definitely still out. Clearly, there are loads of amazing creative opportunities provided by digital technology, as well as the perhaps more familiar litany of loss of artist earnings and the huge volumes of mediocre product that we often hear about. As we are still living through these changes, there aren’t many easy ways to sum up the direction of the industry as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. However, we can categorically state that, based on current research and analysis, streaming definitely sucks balls.
Streaming companies (or ‘streamers’) have had huge effects on the industry, not least in allowing hundreds of artists and producers to retire to island paradises on their Spotify royalties. This flood of retirees has led to a serious skills gap in the present generation of DJs, which is currently being valiantly filled by Hodor from Game Of Thrones - but as we all know only too well, he can’t hold the floor forever.
I’ve heard it said, that in the wake of the digital revolution, streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music and the like are the answer. But if streaming is the answer, what is the question? Is the question ‘What would be the most efficient way to reduce income for dance music producers?’ Or is it ‘What would be a great way to generally devalue music?’ Or is the question ‘What would be the most beige, uncool and corporate-flavoured delivery method for some of the rawest, purest cultural artefacts ever produced?
Although most anti-streaming artists bang on about the financial side of things, what I don’t like about the streamers is just how far removed, culturally, they are from my music. They stink of corporate culture, of branding and logos, of focus groups and marketing teams. ‘Love your summer with us!’ they say. ‘Go premium!’ they tell us. Here, have all the music in the world, except Taylor Swift obvs, more than you could ever need, all for a convenient monthly payment. We’ll just co-opt and resell back to you the precious artefacts of your youth. Here, watch the world turned upside down as the generation who used to stick it to the man now pay the man - in the form of the streamers, the phone companies, the internet providers - every month, and instead stick it to the artists they profess to love by not actually buying their product.
I get that the digital revolution changed how music was distributed and consumed, I’m not suggesting that we should embark on some kind of DJ Misty-Eyed Dad journey back in time to the age of dinosaurs and vinyl. I embrace change if it's good change. Bad change, not so much. Really, if you want something cool to listen to, ask a DJ - not a soulless corporate information-gathering combine.
Words: Harold Heath Pic: Giorgio9377/Pixabay