Say No to the Stockholm Syndrome: Is an Artist Strike Coming for Streaming?

We’re hearing more and more commentary like this post from John:

So how would that work? It probably couldn’t be a “strike” of the same kind as the UK Musicians Union strike against the BBC in 1980, the Writers Guild strike in 2007 or some of the handful of other famous ones. Those strikes were all related to creators who were employed by employers and that employment formed the basis of a collective bargaining agreement. Strikes are authorized by a vote of the membership and are a sign that collective bargaining has not produced a fair result.

Strikes or work actions usually produce images like this:

Another difference between collective bargaining strikes and artists against streaming is the striking workers’ well being. Strikes impose a cost on both sides and the costs are often a heavier burden for the worker.

Streaming is not that way. For most artists, streaming cannibalizes more sales that it offsets with income. David has written about this extensively. The choice for most artists is not getting streamed more–that is the false promise that Spotify tries to get you to buy into with their various payola schemes that are blatant exploitation.

Songwriters have led the way on this with the Ferrick and Lowery class action against Spotify and David’s class action against Rhapsody. The uprising against the ruling class in the frozen mechanicals protest is another example of songwriters standing together against exploitation.

Streaming presents different choices. The choice is whether to be on a streaming platform at all. YouTube can force you to participate due to their scummy manipulation of the loophole ridden DMCA, the worst nightmare that an incompetent and lard layered Congress ever imposed on creators at the behest of lobbyists, and that’s saying something. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with another MLC to make sure you know your place.

So you have to think about what a streaming strike would actually look like. It certainly would not have great economic impact for most artists because the income they would give up starts so many decimal places to the right.

One way to get started is to maintain an “Unfair” list for services that engage in anti-artist behavior. Like this guy:

What should the criteria be to get on the “Unfair” list? What would we all do with the unfair list?

We’ll be taking suggestions and thinking about exactly how this would work.

2 thoughts on “Say No to the Stockholm Syndrome: Is an Artist Strike Coming for Streaming?

  1. There are a couple of false assumptions with a “strike”.

    The first is that if you pull your content from streaming platforms, people will revert to buying downloads or CDs. Unfortunately, the buying habits of music consumers have been permanently modified. Removing your content will not suddenly trigger traditional sales of goods. Artists already have the ability to create stores on their own sites and to drive fans there instead of Spotify. For most artists, this does not generate a lot of sales. And that is because music consumption has changed.

    Secondly, due to the way that Spotify and other subscription services calculate royalties (basically Monthly Revenue/Monthly Streams x Streams), removing 1/3 of the content won’t harm these DSPs at all. It just means that more money will end up with the top artists.

    Third, only a boycott of subscribers will have any effect. But that will reduce the revenue available to be shared and harm the artists even more.

    One of the major services is going to be switching to user-centric royalty calculations. That might be a solution to more fairly compensate labels/artists. We’ll have to see.

    1. All may be true, but you’re making the fundamental argument in favor of a strike. For a lot of artists, resistance is futile so why participate at all. If you know the game is rigged and continue to play, whose fault is that? You shouldn’t have to be humiliated and treated like a fool as the cost of doing business in hope that another oligarch tosses a few pennies your way and tells you it’s more fair than getting a kick in the teeth so aren’t you grateful? You don’t have to live your life as a serf, you know.

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