How Will Musicians Survive In the Spotify Era? | The New Yorker

Sasha Frere-Jones, Dave Allen, Jace Clayton, and Damon Krukowski discuss how (mildly) popular musicians are going to survive.

Last month, Damon Krukowski and I discussed Spotify, the public exit of Nigel Godrich and Thom Yorke from that platform, and the various challenges facing musicians who do or don’t want to participate in similar streaming services. Toward the end of the discussion, Damon and I both hinted at the freedom of going free, the moments when giving your music away is more profitable—in the long run—than letting another company sell it inefficiently and unprofitably. Damon expanded on his position in a subsequent article for Pitchfork, but neither of us was advocating that musicians play and record for free, in all scenarios, all the time: nothing of the sort. So before I hand this discussion over to a new panel, one clarification.

My band, Ui, released a clutch of records through Southern Records. These albums are no longer available on Spotify because, according to Southern, the costs of administrating the relationship were not covered by the microscopic amount of revenue generated. I believed them then, and believe them even more now.


5 thoughts on “How Will Musicians Survive In the Spotify Era? | The New Yorker

  1. It’s all very easy for Dave Allen to make glib comments about how musicians shouldn’t need to make a living anymore – he’s moved on to an industry where it pays to appear to be as “hip” as possible. In other words, he has no place in what was supposed to be a conversation among *musicians*. (I still love the Gang of 4’s first album though.)

  2. For some, free is cheaper to make and sell. It’s a fact. If that makes us second rate or amateur, believe what you will, but the meme has been to drive musicians out of the studios and into the performance venues. And it’s working. So if the choice is now a 120 dollar gig vs a recording session, I’ll play the gig but I’d rather pay myself to record it and own it. For whatever else about that strategy that sucks, I do own ALL of the copyrights. FWIW.

  3. I found it more interesting Krukowski does not like selling T-shirts. This goes against the grain of what is now the commonly accepted wisdom: you’re a brand™ not a band. Now set up that merch table, monkey.

    Krukowski seems like the lone wolf in this area, as so many bands are falling over themselves to create unique merchandise that is as conceptually relevant to the band experience as their music. Of Montreal comes to mind as doing this in a spectacular fashion.

    Although I disagree most of the time with his testy music snobbery, I’m not sure Dave Allen’s thoughts here are that off base. The idea of utilizing a mobile payment system (i.e. diversifying your payment methods to make it easier for the lazy ass public to buy your shit) and retaining copyright sound like no brainers to me.

    From this article it sounds like the biggest problem is getting musicians on the same page. . Dave Allen falls into “influential” status. Krukowski is “band with cult following.” A small one hit wonder singer songwriter, a band who had one platinum album but fell off the wayside, or a long touring small audience band like The Cynics from my home town– all of their experiences between publisher, label (if any) and audience (and subsequent related income) are wholly different.

    It’s like the musicians in question must take themselves and their bias out of the equation in order to come to any consensus and “fix what’s broken.” Good luck with that.

    1. We’re not surprised Dave Allen (who we love) has different thoughts as his primary source of revenue and employment is as an internet advertising executive. This is part of the “find another job” solution that so many in the tech industry suggest to musicians. That in itself is another admission that the internet and in particular those in Ad Tech acknowledge that the current situation is broken as a means to fair compensation to musicians.

      See here:

      If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally?

      and here:

      How Musicians Are (Not) Making Money, and who is… @SFMusicTech w/ East Bay Ray

      “Here we are, stuck with all these people who want music for free,” said Dave Allen, founding member of Gang of Four and interactive strategist at the branding agency North. “We have to find a way for musicians to make a living.”

Comments are closed.