From today’s GuardianUnlimited blog by Helienne Lindvall:
‘Beyonce topped the earnings list in the US last year from non-interactive streaming in the US – with $5,000.’
Well, that explains a certain amount of Warner Music’s decision to pull all their catalogue off free streaming sites. Not that we like to copy the major labels here at BlancoMusic, we do try to define ourselves as something different to them, but we too are doing the same. Today I sent notice to our digital distributor that we no longer want our music features on streaming sites. This was a heavy decision for us. It’s not about money. Clearly there exists a situation where an artist as popular as Beyonce (20 million albums sold in 2009 – I think) can have literally millions of people listen to her work, to play it in their homes, workplaces, recreation facilities etc, and yet she can expect to receive no more than five thousand dollars to share amongst herself, her record company, her publishers and whoever wrote and (quite often) produced the music. Now, this may require a paradigm shift amongst those who read this blog. There are many of you, no doubt, who can’t understand why Beyonce should be paid for the use of her music at all. Sales and concert receipts and merchandise should be enough. Let me get to that later.
Anyway, streaming sites. It was a heavy decision to take our music off, as I mentioned. Tough because, at this early stage in our evolution, Blanco Music would seem to need all the publicity it can get. Last.fm have music by BudNubac and Mil i Maria on their site, which I have to take off this afternoon, and a group of people listen to the music regularly, and will be angry to see it removed. I’ve just had some reactions from Twitter, one from someone saying that they’ve bought albums on the strength of music they’ve heard on Last.fm. It’s a compelling argument, and I’m sure there are plenty of artists who use the site, and others like it, as a valuable method of creating awareness about their music. I must also point out that at this very moment I’m listening to Mil i Maria broadcasting a gig/interview from a small radio station, likely to be heard by a few hundred people at most. Even so, I consider that to be better pr than a bunch of streaming sites. The decision is part of an overall re-definition of our ethos here at the label. Streamers, apart from anything else, have a crappy effect on the supply/demand relationship of musician to user. Right now there is too much music available to the user – so many bands waving their hands in the air and hoping they’ll be noticed. Streamers are just another way for anyone who actually does get to hear our music and wants to hear it again, to do so. Unfortunately it’s of no real benefit to those of us who have put our time and money into getting that music made. This is not the fault of the listener. As far as the listener is concerned, they’ve paid their subscription, end of story. And they pay handsomely, good for them. But that money isn’t passed on to the artist in any meaningful way. Where it goes is into the pockets of yet another self-appointed set of middlemen, who use the music for their own gain – either as incentive to advertisers, as aid product, as ambience, whatever. t was precisely to cut down on the middlemen that we started BlancoMusic up in the first place. Now we find ourselves in the position that any desire on the part of the public to hear our music does not translate into the sale of a record or another body at a gig, but is converted instead into a play on Spotify or WE7 or wherever. Well, sod that. How about we stop chasing headlong after all this snake-oil and actually try to make demand for our music outstrip supply? Because We7 want to make more money from our music than they want to pay us. iTunes want 60% of retail price for the small task of having our music on their servers – fair enough, they’re unavoidable. But why do we have to pay 15-20% to a digital aggregator just to send the music to iTunes. Middlemen, snake-oil salesmen, leeches. Until now we’ve been finding ourselves channeled by compromise after compromise, into something we never wanted to be. Hour-long albums, cds, digital streaming, etc. Actually, that’s not what BlancoMusic was ever supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about being quick, intelligent, distinct. Above all, it was supposed to be fun. And it wasn’t. So to hell with it all. We want to have more fun at this. None of us wanted to give up our day jobs so that we could spend our time wrangling percentages with digital distributors or explaining to people that by playing our music on their radio station, or on their website, or in their bar, that they were deriving a service that made their business more lucrative and ours less so. I’m sure Beyonce didn’t want to either. So we might make a couple of decisions in the near future that don’t look too clever, but they’ll be more in keeping with what we want to be than in the spirit of the conventional wisdome on the music business. We might go bust this way, but at least we’ll have fun doing so.