Musicians’ anger at Spotify is like protesting the Sony Walkman — Billy Bragg

Sony Walkman

Musicians who blame digital music services for declining income are lashing out at the wrong target, according to folk singer Billy Bragg. In a Facebook post last week, Bragg suggests that an outdated music model — and not technology — explains low payment rates:

“[R]ailing against Spotify is about as helpful to their cause as campaigning against the Sony Walkman would have been in the early 80s. Music fans are increasingly streaming their music and, as artists, we have to adapt ourselves to their behaviour, rather than try to hold the line on a particular mode of listening to music.”

Bragg also takes issue with analog-era record deals that have carried over to the digital era. He notes that such deals, which give the lion’s share of revenue to music labels, no longer make sense in the digital context where labels don’t do any of the distribution or other “heavy-lifting” that once justified their cut of the proceeds.

These observations by Bragg (whose music, incidentally, celebrates fair wages and the working class) are a welcome dose of common sense at a time when other musicians have been treating the likes of Pandora and Spotify as scapegoats, even though the streaming companies pay higher royalty rates than traditional radio stations to reach fewer customers. For now, it makes more sense to focus on the role of the middle-men and to reconceive the industry’s business model at a time when movies and music are disappearing as a physical product.

Image by discpicture via Shutterstock.

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