Have Services Like Spotify and Beats Really Solved the Problem with Music?

Have Services Like Spotify and Beats Really Solved the Problem with Music?

Joe GransingerThursday,1 May 2014

The Snap:

Legendary Recording Engineer Steve Albini — who produced records for artists such as Nirvana, Pixies, Cheap Trick, and Cloud Nothings — thinks that streaming services have ‘solved the problem with music’ by cutting out the corporations, and creating a worldwide platform for artists to share their music.

But is it really that simple? And who benefits from these services?

The Download:

It’s hard to complain about the price of music today. Seriously, $.99 per track or $10.99 for a whole album? That’s so cheap! Not to mention all the ad-supported methods of getting music completely free, such as Spotify and Pandora.

I mean, it wasn’t all that long ago that walking into a Sam Goody and casually dropping $21.99 for the newest Green Day album was the norm, which just seems absurd by today’s standards.

But have these newer, cheaper methods of obtaining music really helped anybody other than the consumer?

Steve Albini thinks so, but I’m not so sure I agree with him. Not completely, anyway. He makes good points, like record labels have less control over music as they’re not needed to get music distributed anymore. He then goes on to say, “the things that have happened because of the Internet have been tremendously good for bands and audiences, but really bad for businesses that are not part of that network, the people who are siphoning money out. I don’t give a fuck about those people.”

Well said, Steve. I don’t give a fuck about those people, either.

However, not everything is perfect with this new trend of easily accessed music. Artists are still only making about .6 cents per listen, which requires roughly 166 listens before they even make one dollar.


For bigger artists, 166 plays happen quickly. I’ve probably listened to “Liar Liar” by Avicii 166 times by myself.

But when a small indie band uploads their latest 10-track LP to Spotify and 10,000 people listen to all 10 songs, then they’re bringing home about $600. That’s barely enough money for one month’s rent, for one band member.

So, there’s still a lot kinks to work out with music streaming services, but for the most part, Albini has it right. Having access to millions of potential fans around the globe without ever dealing with a mega-corporation isn’t all that bad, and the long-term benefits could be extremely positive — but also nearly impossible to predict.

It will be interesting to see where Spotify, Pandora, and Beats Music go from here, as you can’t pay every artist livable wages just from advertisements and the occasional member subscription. But for now, I’m just going to keep convincing myself that the artists are getting a fair share of my monthly Spotify fee — however unlikely that may be.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

Spin, Slate, Image Credit: Flickr

Subscribe to get updates delivered to your inbox