So if streaming is the future of music, and a musician-led streaming service is doomed to failure, then what’s the solution? Much as with technology companies, there are two ways for a musician to make a living on the Internet: musicians with mass-market appeal, who must appear on streaming services, as it’s in their interests to be easily accessible to as many listeners as possible; and musicians with a small, passionate audience who, to make a living, will have to have dedicated listeners who are prepared to pay for their music. Many artists complain that they are underpaid by Spotify, but Spotify already pays 70 percent of its revenue to musicians—well, to their labels at least—so a significant increase is impractical.
Professional musicians who know that their music has limited appeal should think very carefully about whether their music belongs on a streaming service at all. Small record labels should do the same. Few people are in music, least of all classical music, for wealth or power, but giving music away for next to nothing is a surefire way to never make a living from it. Instead, musicians can continue doing what they’ve been doing in one form or another for centuries: selling their music.
Themes may be familiar to regular readers of this blog—digital economics, streaming and piracy, and the need for musicians to know their audience. VAN is a very interesting new publication, and worth reading. I’ve bought a subscription. This week, I shall be rocking out to their JACK Quartet playlist.