back to article Rdio's collapse another nail in the coffin of the 'digital economy'

The “digital music economy” now resembles three bald men fighting over the same hairbrush. It’s hard to think of a better emblem for where the current “plantation era” of internet exploitation has led us than digital music. And it’s hard to imagine a more perfectly shitty outcome for creators, and ultimately for consumers who …

  1. Forget It

    Addio Rdio ?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Vevo killed the Rdio star

      See above

  2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Joe Harrison

      Re: That's a thoughtful take on current affairs...

      Really unfortunate thing to say in the article. I also tried to point out the same thing and The Register actually rejected my comment which has never happened to me before.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: That's a thoughtful take on current affairs...

        taken in context this applies to any ex or free subscribers. whilst there has been a bad attack in France people still die and it tends to be far down an estates list of jobs to remove their online presence - I very much doubt elReg is having a poke at people who lost their lives a couple of weeks ago. The internet and subscription models are not new and I suppose ANY online provider will simply keep anyones data forever, regardless of the last time they actually logged on.

  3. DaveMcM

    No Apple desktop client?

    "Apple has yet to launch a desktop client"

    Apart from iTunes you mean? I'll grant you it's not a dedicated single purpose desktop client, but it runs on the desktop and you can access Apple Music through it so it fits the bill for me.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    When after six years of digital streaming music hype, the global income from music is less than half of the wage bill of one modestly successful Premier League team, something has gone horribly wrong.

    Says it all really. Would the world economy notice if all these services went TITSUP?

    Not that streaming anything or Permier League teams interest me in the slightest.

    Streaming is IMHO just like the Cloud, the latest buzzwords that might earn a few people a lot of $$$$£££££ whilst everyone else gets horribly burnt when the bubble bursts.

    Has the Music Streaming Bix bubble burst? Possibly.

    Adele has the right idea in not letting any streaming service use her Album 25 at release. They obviously don't pay her and her agents enough money. Good for her I say. Keep Music Live!

    1. John Lilburne

      Re: WTF?

      I'm a huge fan of music released from the ECM label. In over 30 years and some 300 CDs I've not bought one that I hate or even regretted buying. This week I had 4 delivered. None of this stuff is on any of the streaming sites most was removed from spotify in 2010. It doesn't seem to have affected the artists or the label.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      Says it all really. Would the world economy notice if all these services went TITSUP?

      Well there is a lesson to be learnt here, the question is whether the music industry is in the learning game. Whilst the comparison with a football team is graphic, I suspect a more relevant revenue comparison would be with say the UK FM radio operators...

      With UK government and it's quasi-independent regulator Ofcom set on turning off FM radio broadcasting - under pressure from those who do profit from mobile internet - there must be a question mark over the future of the recorded music industry, because with these sort of revenues from Internet broadcasting there ain't going to be a recognisable music industry...

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    "So much power has accrued to the distributors"

    Well, in the case of music, 'twas ever thus.

    YouTube is just a modern version of the old record library "problem" - as soon as home taping became possible, people would borrow a record from the library, copy it a few times for their friends and return the original. As well all know, in the end, hope taping didn't destroy music.

    The fundamental issue with monetising recorded music is that it depends ultimately on being able to freeze out consumers who don't pay. Musicians, though, want to be heard - more, in many cases than people want specifically to listen to them rather than some other artist. And in the end, they'd rather be heard and get no revenue than not be heard at all - and that's why the money tends to stick to the people in marketing who occasionally manage to turn the unpromising economics into positive revenue.

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Re: "So much power has accrued to the distributors"

      The "taping from the library" analogy doesn't wash, because the scale is completely different.

      When I taped something I borrowed from a friend (as pretty much everyone did), I didn't immediately leave piles of copies of it in the street for anyone who wanted one to pick up. But that is what torrent distribution does. I don't even have to know someone to let them have a copy of my copied music: it's just "there", and it gets taken by anyone who happens by.

      (Actually, I still buy all the music I own - as a self-employed software developer, I can't sit here and say that people shouldn't rip off my work while happily ripping off the work of other creators, so I put my money where my big fat mouth is. I enjoy listening to music, I don't see a problem paying for it.)

      Now, much of the loss to piracy is overstated, because many people who acquire large amounts of pirated music never listen to it more than once, and so you get the "would have heard it on the radio anyway". Purchased music has always been bought for the purpose of repeated listening; it's not like a movie ticket, which is a once-off (and this is why the same excuse absolutely does not hold water for film piracy).

      The fundamental issue with monetising recorded music streaming is that it requires customers to appreciate the value of recorded music. These days, with music used literally everywhere, the basic currency of "listening to a piece of music" is now so debased that people don't have a problem with stealing it. Downloads also look exactly like legitimate purchases, so there isn't even the stigma of you being that guy who's music collection is a huge stack of CD-Rs (or stacks of blank tapes for the even older).

      Against this bleak background, I note that French download service Qobuz has just launched a 24-bit streaming offering that includes discounts on purchases of the high-bitrate files if you want to keep stuff. What's interesting is that they've pitched this at €200 a year - one annual payment, no monthly option. Maybe the idea is that you value things you've paid in one go for more than something that gets taken away in unnoticeable monthly payments.

      1. Wensleydale Cheese

        Re: "So much power has accrued to the distributors"

        "What's interesting is that they've pitched this at €200 a year - one annual payment, no monthly option."

        I much prefer that to monthly payments.

        "Maybe the idea is that you value things you've paid in one go for more than something that gets taken away in unnoticeable monthly payments."

        Blame the bastards who make it difficult to unsubscribe from monthly payments, or ignore your cancellation requests for my dislike of monthly payments. They cease to be "unnoticeable" when they represent a charge for a service you either don't want or cannot use any more.

        I have the iTunes agreement in front of me, for example. It specifically says I cannot use it outside my country, so what do I do if I get seconded abroad for a couple of months?

      2. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: "So much power has accrued to the distributors"

        "The "taping from the library" analogy doesn't wash, because the scale is completely different."

        No, the scale is identical. You (or anyone else) may not have copied tapes by the cartload, but I (and everyone else I knew) sure had every single song we cared to have more or less as soon as it became of popular interest. The specific distribution mechanism may or may not have been somewhat different, but ultimately we sure as hell had the tapes. ALL THE TAPES. Maybe not as zero-second convenient as it is today, but the exact same end result. So let's not go all "in the good old times..."

      3. fruitoftheloon

        @Kristian: Re: "So much power has accrued to the distributors"


        Thanks for the heads-up re qobuz, having eyeballed their offerings, there are monthly subs for £10/£20, birates are 320kbs mp3 or 16k CD, which is very interesting indeed!!!

        Have one on me.



  6. Mr Anonymous

    As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

    I'm sitting at my keyboard crying, no, sobbing as Andrew Orlowski tells me I owe him a living.

    He then goes on to inform us music streamers are failing as only a small proportion of their users will pay for the music they hear all around them every day at work or play for free and he tops it off by saying and the 800lb gorillas entering the market won't pay instead of their "clients/users" (inverted commas as the term used is not quite the correct term for the products that Alphabet corpororation sells to it's clients).

    Lidl and Aldi pay above minimum wage, they maybe looking for people who live in the real world.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

      "I'm sitting at my keyboard crying, no, sobbing as Andrew Orlowski tells me I owe him a living."

      You sound like the sort of person who shoots the messenger.

      1. Mr Anonymous

        Re: As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

        If the messenger always talks the same message...

    2. Turtle

      @Mr Anonymous

      By now we all know that there will always be, without fail, at least one comment from a freetard parasite who will seems absolutely determined to not understand that "the right to have an opportunity to make a living by not having one's work stolen on a massive, industrial scale" is not the same as being "owed a living".

      1. Mr Anonymous

        Re: @Mr Anonymous


        How wrong you can be?

        I'm a trained artist but gave up making a living at it, the equipment costs were high and I don't like the selling and money parts. I'm still self employed but not in Art, have contributed to a couple of open source projects, donated cash to a few more. I have open hardware designs available if you look for them, the latest released after designing some PCBs for a UK company who weren't bothered that others might use them too and a few years ago donated over a third of my income trying to get shool students interested in science.

        I don't download music, I don't listen that much these days, it doesn't help concentration. I did download a film last Christmas and might do so again this year, because sometimes people do things they shouldn't or find away to get the entertainment for free, like watching fireworks from outside the barrier where you pay, looking out a window on to a football stadium or clicking a link that says listen free.

        Selling recordings is fairly new, only really took off when young people had a lot of money and the means of playing them became cheaper. Made a lot of musicians playing music redundant too. Technology changes and sometimes you have to move on and make art for the pleasure whilst doing something that might be more mundane to make a living.

        Now, what makes you sound so bitter, don't you really like your current profession?

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: @Mr Anonymous

          It appears the era when musicians could make a lot of money from recordings and air play is winding down. Too much competition for time and money. However, it may lead to revival of concert going and those who can adjust may do quite well.

          Also, being a financial successful artist, musician, or writer has always been hit or miss. Many who have the talent never catch on with the public to have long careers.

      2. Crypts Bloods

        Re: @Mr Anonymous

        The digital economy cannot operate under the same rules as brick and mortar. Edison started the music industry and it had a profound effect on how music was created and performed. It rewarded the "best" performers and punished the rest. This had the effect of reducing diversity and created the ivory towers of the super stars, who could dash off an album every couple of years and spend the rest of their time doing drugs. Now technology has removed the barriers to entry and created a huge supply of original music and democratized music once again. Forgive me if I don't cry for the billionaires who have lost their meal ticket and are forced to work for a living like the rest of us. The good news is we might not be subjected to the formula driven "pop" garbage that the old model made possible. People will always make and listen to music. Now they will start doing it for the right reasons again.

      3. Code For Broke

        Re: @Mr Anonymous

        I pay for streaming. I would be willing to pay a bit more than I already do. Not because I am terribly sympathetic to the musicians - I believe if you want to make a living playing music, you ought to regularly do so, in front of a paying audience. (If you are a musician who can't attract a paying audience, please excuse me if I have no sympathy that you're unable to make a living playing music, but don't blame streaming for your lack of success.)

        I pay for streaming, and would pay more, because it is convenient delivery model for some music I might only care to listen to once or twice.

        So what is the value of being able to listen to a prerecorded song one time? A song that, if it's quite good, may make me want to pay to see the performer(s)?

        This is not a rhetorical question. You lot are smart and insightful. Tell me.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: @Mr Anonymous

          I believe if you want to make a living playing music, you ought to regularly do so, in front of a paying audience

          Why? What makes recorded music inferior? I can imagine musicians who don't want to play live, for any number of reasons. They shouldn't be allowed to make a living?

          Your position seems to me to be just as insupportable as any other on offer here.

          1. Code For Broke

            Re: @Mr Anonymous

            You believe someone should be richly rewarded for years from a few hours work in a recording studio, eh? I think professional musicians should perform bexause, as they say, 90% of life is about showing up. I have to exert significant daily effort to make a living and don't have a ton of respect for those who don't.

    3. Graham Dawson

      Re: As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

      I tried getting a job at my local Aldi once. Non-starter. They were full and expected no vacancies, unlike Tesco and Asda's constantly overturning workforce.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

        I also once tried to get a job at Aldi, and was turned down due to my lack of retail sales experience. You can't get a dead-end food-costs-money job unless you already have a dead-end food-costs-money. It really has got to the point where you need a degree to dig a hole in the road.

    4. Roger Gann

      Re: As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

      No they didn't - they sang "it's all a load of bollocks".

      1. Mr Anonymous

        Re: As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

        @Roger Gann

        Artistic license, I changed it a bit.

        Did I mention I don't listen to music that much, suprised I remembered, there again, I did pay for it.

    5. fruitoftheloon

      @Mr anon: Re: As the Specials once sang "What a load of Bo**ocks"

      Mr A,

      What is the actual point of your post...?



  7. The entire Radio 1 playlist commitee

    Being a bunch of experts in this matter...

    I do think the answer lies in some form of voluntary payment from consumers to artists. A radically different form of market where it is _the done thing_ to pay what you think is fair for what you enjoy. We already have the technology needed to make this work. Perhaps the distributors will have to accept their role and wodge of money will be greatly reduced, unless they can be trusted again to nurture and develop talent like perhaps they did way, way back.

    1. nsld

      Re: Being a bunch of experts in this matter...

      Good idea

      Currently Jason Derulo and Justin Bieber owe me several billion dollars for the arse gravy they spout forth.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Being a bunch of experts in this matter...

      I do think the answer lies in some form of voluntary payment from consumers to artists

      Yes! YES! Consumers could choose what they like, make a voluntary payment to the artist's commercial representative, and they could be given a digital token to prove their right to listen to the music from then on.

      Obviously multi-character codes used by software are impracticable here, so my idea is that the consumer gets a physical-digital token, that could be accompanied by lyrics, commentary and visual artwork. I suggest a round, silver coloured disc about five inches across (or for luddites a black analogue token about 12 inches across, pressed from a mixture of pocket lint, human hair and hard liquorice).

    3. Turtle

      @ The entire Radio 1 playlist commitee

      "I do think the answer lies in some form of voluntary payment from consumers to artists."

      I believe that the technical term for this procedure is "giving alms to beggars."

      1. The entire Radio 1 playlist commitee

        Re: @ The entire Radio 1 playlist commitee

        "giving alms to beggars"

        I was thinking more along the lines of busking. Anyway, what I intended to point towards is a post-capitalist system of rewarding artists for their work. Now that reproduction is trivial and the means of distribution is almost ubiquitous (here in the west, anyway).

        1. SleepyJohn

          "a post-capitalist system of rewarding artists for their work"

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what is called a 'concert'? My daughter goes to them and spends an awful lot of money.

          She discovers musicians she likes by listening to free copies of their songs on the internet. I believe that in an alternate universe called 'Real Life' it is referred to as 'advertising'. It certainly seems to be an effective way to communicate one's music to listeners who would otherwise never hear of you. Perhaps Orlowski's pop singing pals should try it sometime.

          In the 'Good Old Days' of physical recordings, apparently, most pop singers on the planet, apart from maybe three or four, played their arses off for thirty years and still ended up in debt to their record companies. Great days indeed. Now, instead of forking out millions of pounds for worldwide publicity, they actually get paid for it by the publicists! And all they seem to do is moan.

          It seems that while nuclear physicists and bin men have to work for a living, pop singers consider they have a divine right to one; for eternity based on three minutes of three chords.

        2. Fraggle850

          @The entire Radio 1 playlist commitee Re: @ The entire Radio 1 playlist commitee

          > a post-capitalist system

          Last time I checked we still live in a capitalist system (unless Jeremy Corbyn has staged a revolution over the weekend). This is a battle between different centres of capital. Despite the idealism of numerous woolly thinkers who seem to live exclusively on the Web, the intertubes are built wholly on massive amounts of largely private capital. The artists would still be engaging in capitalism, it's just that their means of partaking would be somewhat less predictable. Works fine if you don't value professional musicians.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Being a bunch of experts in this matter...

      And I thought that the internet was supposed to create the opportunity to disrupt and dis-intermediate the middlemen. Seems now everyone is slave to the big-money branded information mediators (Google, Apple etc.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Being a bunch of experts in this matter...

        Seems now everyone is slave to the big-money branded information mediators (Google, Apple etc.)

        Whilst it is unfashionable to say it, it is a simple fact that middlemen and retailers perform a valuable service. I could, for example, buy a cow, milk it, order my own tea from the plantation by air mail, and order artisan sugar from a Fairtrade cooperative in Whoknowswhere, all for a brew. But its a lot simpler to drop into the shop of my choice, or order all the necessary from a single online retailer.

        But what the web has done for us is to systematically eliminate inefficient intermediaries. So record shops were toast when Amazon came along, simply because record shop prices were very high reflecting low turnover per square foot and per employee, often accompanied by poor stock levels, patchy service, and slow buy in of emerging artists. Likewise, the common or garden department store is disappearing - the posh ones seem to be doing OK, but all the workaday ones are going to the wall for similar reasons to record shops. High street electrical shops, same again (did anybody shed a tear when Dixons and Comet went bust - other than in laughter?). But in all cases, would you really want to have to go to every original manufacturer's web site to find out what's on offer before buying? Probably not unless you know exactly what you want in the first place, so you choose to use a different middleman.

        So lots of things you can do more efficiently online, but you still need an intermediary, and you always will. You could automate online sourcing, but then the software IP owner becomes the intermediary. Cutting out the middleman is a great idea, but it only every works where you have the time, skill, resource and willingness to deal directly with a manufacturer - and they generally don't want to be in retailing.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Being a bunch of experts in this matter...

          Also, retail is generally a high volume, relatively low margin operation.

        2. Pookietoo

          Re: when Dixons and Comet went bust

          Dixons didn't go bust, they just took that name off the high street in favour of their other brands Currys and PCWorld. Last year they merged with Carphone Warehouse.

  8. tiggity Silver badge

    The article did a good job of pointing out, a key problem is walled gardens, being tied in to a particular music "ecosystem" & not being able to move preferences / settings between them.

    Also, different offerings have different catalogues and often you might not find all the music you want (that was my experience even with market leader Spotify, good for broadening music horizons but lacking too many of my favourite artists, so not worth using in the long term).

    In the UK, streaming can be a PITA when out and about with erratic mobile reception (zero signal with the 2 providers I have sims for in remote areas of Scotland when I was there on holiday & would have liked to stream music for added variety when hiking the hills), so to *guarantee* being able to listen to music on your phone it always makes sense to load some music on, in case streaming fails.

    As for artist earnings - streaming used to be comparable with radio play rates (in terms of what the "record company" received, how much they give the artist however due to contract legalese ..) which seems fair enough as streaming is like roll your own radio

    1. Fraggle850

      Exactly that for me too

      > Also, different offerings have different catalogues and often you might not find all the music you want (that was my experience even with market leader Spotify, good for broadening music horizons but lacking too many of my favourite artists, so not worth using in the long term).

      Same goes for TV & movies, how many f'ing subscription/app combos do I need? Actually, it turns out, none - I really just can't be arsed. So that'd be another customer lost then.

    2. Steve Graham

      "streaming is like roll your own radio" - no, it's not. There are no radio stations which play only the music I want, at the time I want, in the order I want.

      I worked out through stats that if I'd paid my most-played artiste at Spotify royalty rates for all the tracks played, it would have cost me around £17. But, in fact, I'd bought 13 CD albums, roughly ten times as much.

      (As a musician myself, I'm well-aware that the "music industry" is designed to enrich the industry, while any money that actually gets to the writers and performers is basically leakage; but that's another matter.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      in remote areas of Scotland when I was there on holiday & would have liked to stream music for added variety when hiking the hills

      You found the solitude, peace and quiet too disturbing?

      1. graeme leggett

        Lark Ascending on loop play not enough?

  9. Whitter

    In the modern age of negligible replication cost, getting people to pay for art is a question still begging an answer. Technological means will never work. Moral means do not (currently) work (see the last two paras of So what is left?

    1. aui

      Replication costs continued...

      Hence, why does a physical, plastic CD cost me less than an intangible MP3 download of the same album from Amazon?

      When asked why $17 CDs were £17 here in the UK, a Virgin Records rep once spouted on TV that "they're made in Japan on very expensive equipment and England is a long way away" from that country. So, when I was in New York, I popped into the Virgin store and noted that their own-label CDs were actually pressed by Nimbus in England... and with $2 = £1 were therefore half the price.

      Why was that I wonder?

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        @ aui -- Re: Replication costs continued...

        Why was that I wonder?

        Let me answer your question with a question: "How can you tell when a music rep is lying?"

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          "How can you tell when a "How can you tell when a music rep is lying?" is lying?"

          The usual answer works well enough for politician (they have to be seen to do some good). For a music rep (or anyone in promotions/PR etc) I think the answer would have something to with the presence of a discernible pulse.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      "Moral means do not (currently) work. [...] So what is left?"

      Oh, gosh, dunno... why don't we ask some lowly free-to-read webcomic artists making upper-four-digits each month on Patreon, from entirely voluntary contributions by people who could easily have the exact same thing for free...? And yes, that does mean you do need an audience of more than three people for the not-all-of-them-will-pay statistics to actually work...

  10. Fraggle850

    Something went wrong a long time ago

    A lack of foresight by the major labels led to music lovers evolving file sharing networks, followed by the ensuing battles between the labels and the more enthusiastic consumers. They've missed the boat, they could have got a handle on this before Apple and Google became dominant and way before the first viable streaming services came online.

    Not sure what the solution is at this point, I suspect that the tech behemoths have much greater lobbying clout (and likely budget for such, given their stellar incomes compared to the labels' dwindling pot). Perhaps the labels could get their heads together and come up with an open, competing platform and then pull the plug on the other players? They'd need to cover all delivery mechanisms and all payment models and ensure that the indies and even self-published artists could join easily, with minimal/no cost barriers to entry.

    I suspect that they won't though, they're more likely to continue with their current strategy of whingeing acquiescence, anti-consumer rhetoric and in-fighting.

    If the incentive is there the consumers will come back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something went wrong a long time ago

      Perhaps the labels could get their heads together and come up with an open, competing platform and then pull the plug on the other players?

      That would struggle under competition law, but I think there's a core problem that there's no underlying commercial model yet for streaming. The data shows what we already believe that most users don't want to pay, and in preference to a streaming subscription will either use the free versions, or listen to the radio instead. Removing the free streaming services will restrict new signup of paying customers, but still won't force the freetards to pay for streaming.

      To put all this another way: Free streaming services need to find a better funding model or (more likely) exit the market, and paid streaming services need to understand that they operate in a relatively small niche that shows few signs of becoming a volume market.

      Thinking about the UK Spotify premium offer, that's £10 a month. Now think about how you'd make the free streaming profitable: It's difficult to see £10 a month in the value from untargeted adverts (or even targeted adverts), so the current Spotify free model looks unsustainable. And when you think of Spotify's need for £120 per year per user, its even more problematic - the total size of the UK digital advertising market (all channels, all markets) in full year 2014 was only about £170 per adult. Can you see Spotify cornering 70% of the entire digital UK marketing spend per "free streaming" relevant household?

      Many users love streaming, and that certainly looks like a potential mass market. But in economic terms, demand is the desire for a service backed by the willingness and ability to pay, and we're not seeing any willingness.

      1. PC Paul

        Re: Something went wrong a long time ago

        The answer is right in front of them. Spotify, Deezer, Jango all find that with their short term lower price offers they get a lot more people signing up.

        I listen to Deezer while I'm driving to work. I hate all the ads and popups(?) they put into the free service, and when they started their recent offer I took it up. But it isn't worth £10/month to me, maybe £3 tops.

        As has been the case since CDs first came out, they ask too much for the market.

  11. gv

    Exactly how much money do you make if you record a song and nobody hears it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly how much money do you make if you record a song and nobody hears it?

      Ask Chesney Hawkes. Apparently there were five further albums recorded and released after the unfortunately prophetically titled "The One and Only".

  12. chivo243 Silver badge

    Rdio gone the way

    of Ronnie James Dio? To be honest,I never heard of Rdio.... I saw RJD fronting Sabbath in 1980.

  13. Drat

    Two things I took from this:

    1) Not many people are using (and paying for) music streaming services

    2) The music industry + artists aren't earning much money from music streaming services

    Well isn't the second point mainly caused by the first? Why would anyone expect to earn much from something that isn't been used much?

  14. Chris Miller

    My 2¢

    For every 'great artist' making millions a year there are hundreds, if not thousands, of keen amateurs or wannabe professionals who are, if not just as good, so nearly as good that it makes it difficult to justify paying a lot more for the big names.

    Historically, the businesses promoting major artists spent a lot of money on marketing them - it's this activity that it's hard to see continuing.

    1. James Anderson Silver badge

      Re: My 2¢

      Simply not true -- people want to listen to the best music.

      Now "best" is highly subjective yours might be Justin Bieber or One Direction mine tend twords hoary oldies like Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. In my highly objective opinion no one has captured the feel of small town life better than Tom Waits "Heart of Saturday Night" only the Tom Petty come even close.

      The point is for any given individual the difference between the best and the rest is huge. So listeners, popularity and money will automatically flow to the "best" artists and the also-rans will be left with SFA unless they manage to tie up with a really clever producer who is good at hype and marketing although normally its the producer who pockets the cash.

      Adding to this problem is that you are not just competing against your contemporaries you are competing with 60 years of back catalog -- Elvis Presley and Micheal Jackson still outsell most artists with a pulse.

      So its pretty much inevitable that you will have a few thousand rich rock stars and several million hopefuls with day jobs.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: My 2¢

        "competing against your contemporaries you are competing with 60 years of back catalog"

        It is worse than that as today people are paying lots of different fees: ISP's, mobile phones, computer games, alcohol, etc. So music has to fight against a whole lot of other things to get a share of the youth's limited money compared to 20+ years ago.

        And the problem is it is much easier to get music without paying compared to the more tangible goods, not just file sharing but YouTube and radio, etc. You really need to have something very special to keep enough fans buying. Today it also seems most folk are contended with crappy compressed audio, so the benefits of selling a CD or FLAC track appeal to few.

        I don't know what the answer is. Certainly it would help if buying music was easier by micropaying options per track, etc, and such a scheme would potentially help others to make a living without being whored by Google. But will it happen?

    2. Grikath

      Re: My 2¢

      For every 'great artist' making millions a year there are hundreds, if not thousands, of keen amateurs or wannabe professionals who are, if not just as good, quite often better that it makes it difficult to justify paying a lot more for the big names.


      Aside from taste, the level of professionalism and actual skill in the arts of music and singing in "small fry" tends to be much higher, especially given the fact that they can't get away with lip-syncing...

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: My 2¢

        Not quite sure about the "amateurs" being quite often better. I've been using Jango for a while, where they play some songs of "new" artists every now and then (basically any band can pay to get airtime for their song). Quite frankly over 50% of them are absolute SHIT. And not just because of shitty, terrible EQ and leveling on the recording but actual off-tune instruments, off-beat drumming, bad vocalisation and off key singing. The music itself is often uninspired dime a dozen drivel.

        1. Chris Miller

          Re: My 2¢

          I'm sure you're right and the big labels would argue that they're sifting through all that dross to present you with the few golden nuggets (not everyone will agree with their analysis). But the good artists (and you must have come across one or two) can grow their audience through word of mouth and social media - they no longer need a big label to promote them (though I expect most wouldn't push them away if they got an approach).

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the global income from music is less than .. wage bill of .. Premier League team

    Music industry only has it-self to blame, for piling out the same fabricated x-Factor and Britain Got "No" Talent shit year after year. I stopped buying CD's about 7-8 years ago, then cancelled all my streaming subscriptions in 2013..

    I've even moved to listening to Talk Radio, because my ear drums started bleeding for the torcherous renditions of a waling cat.

    1. Chika

      Re: the global income from music is less than .. wage bill of .. Premier League team

      While I agree that the current state of affairs of pop music is, as you say, stuffed full of auto-tuned, tinned, pre-digested music for the masses, the problem cannot be wholly based on the content. Personally I have used various services online to find, download, even purchase all sorts of music outside the mainstream that I probably would never had heard otherwise.

      The biggest problem, however, is the greed, lack of foresight and hypocrisy of the media companies behind the music, whether you direct your ire at people like Simon Cowell or at large corporates who still dwell in the era where they controlled everything and have little interest in giving it up since, when that system still worked, it got them a lot of money.

      The point is that that system doesn't work anymore which is why I tend to facepalm when someone like Taylor Swift gets a bug up her arse because she thinks that Spotify are screwing her over or when artists start up their own streaming service because they think that people will pay to use it on the basis of the few names that sign up to it (Tidal, anyone?)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

    Music, film, hardware, knitwear, software and news articles are worthless if no-one wants to pay for them.

    If no one wants to pay you for your creative works then you'd better find another line of employment, say cabbage farming.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A thing only has value if people are prepared to pay for it

    Don't go into an industry, where there are millions of competitors, all creating similar content.

    It's an industry where only a very small percentage make any money, and even for those, the middle men (publishers and Simon Cowell and their type) are the ones taking the majority cut of this profit.

    That is why the current 'top 40' based on sales is all the same style content - the Cowells of this world are mass producing the same drivel each week that morons will buy.

    So, this is why most artists make fuck all money, and have to hold down real jobs to pay the bills, and the small handful of Cowell-clones are worked 24x7 to squeeze every last bit of profit out of them, before dropping them like yesterdays cat litter when they stop being popular after a few months.

    You can't even gig live to make money, since the same pricks who tie everyone up in contracts that pay the 'artistes' fuck all, also own all the venues too!

    Only an idiot would get into music and expect to make money given the commercial arrangements currently in place.

    1. Whitter
      Thumb Down

      Re: Value

      The economically sensible thing is to leave all artistic endeavour to the offspring of the wealthy and to knuckle down to drudgery, be that employed or not. As it once was, so it shall be again. No more lower middle-class or working class art; make of that as you will.

      Hooray for free stuff (even if it wasn't meant to be free).

      To quote the old glam band Cinderella, "You don't know what you got 'till its gone".

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        @ Whitter -- Re: Value

        To quote the old glam band Cinderella, "You don't know what you got 'till its gone".

        Really?!? You think that band came out with that line? A certain Canadian folkie singer-songwriter chick penned that line well more than 10 years before Cinderella was a glimmer in Tom's and Eric's eye.

        Kids these days...mutter, mumble....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Value

        A good artist can live off the proceeds of their work.

        Anyone else needs to have a day job while they practice their art.

        Why should we pay taxes towards the next lazy tate presentation or pointless council installation?

        I'd love to get every penny back from the individuals who presented a polished turd and an unmade bed and put it toward something of true value. Say water filtration, housing for the homeless, some nurses wages, ... and so on.

        Spend first on essentials, IF you have anything left you then spend on glitter and shineys.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Value

          >A good artist can live off the proceeds of their work.

          and the work of others - remember the way royalties from radio etc. are distributed aren't based on actual data but on a formula with minimal real-world playtime input...

        2. Fraggle850

          @Dewix Re: Value

          > who presented a polished turd and an unmade bed

          Poor examples I'm afraid. I assume you are referring to Chris Ofilli and Tracey Emin? I think that both of these have the patronage and sales to be able to sustain their careers. Certainly Tracey Emin was one of the YBAs championed and bought by Saatchi.

    2. Matthew Taylor

      Re: Value

      "Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it"

      That is technically true, but the trouble is that those who can pay the most for something tend not to appreciate that thing in anything other than financial terms, and that can lead to poor outcomes. For example, say a big hedge fund offered the C of E a billion pounds for St Pauls Cathedral. At that point, you might say that if we don't want St Pauls cathedral converted into luxury flats, we ought to come up with the money ourselves to out bid the hedge fund, otherwise we obviously don't want it as much. Things have a value to society beyond what some shark can make from them.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Value

        I'd be quite happy for places like St Paul's and other large, generally empty spaces (mostly cathedrals, but also most of the National Trust's portfolio) to be converted into residential accommodation.Churches don't need to be old and huge. Keep one or two exceptional examples, but otherwise make them do something useful. If it is too expensive to convert them, knock them down and build something else. The value to society in general increases, as it adds to the housing stock.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Value

          What is the "housing stock"? It is a lot of "generally empty spaces" reserved for the exclusive use of individuals... The nice thing and generally socially useful thing about churches and NT properties is that any one can go round them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Value

            Due to the British becoming generally more godless (thank god - LOL) many churches are becoming redundant and converted into dwellings and commercial spaces.

            I've often thought that we should mandate shared worship spaces for all religions, that'd make the cantankerous buggers get along with each other, plus we'd get to recycle all of the redundant spaces into something much more useful. Removing their charitable status and making them become not for profits or community interest companies would also help.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    I keep hearing how streaming is so bad...but then you read stuff like this:

    Remember kids, home taping is killing music.

    1. Musicman

      Re: I keep hearing how streaming is so bad...but then you read stuff like this:

      The only thing good about streaming is that it allows record labels to monitize their back catalog that they would never bother putting out of CD again. All the big labels can make money from Spotify and Deezer etc. fo old catalog music this is already recorded and costs nother to put out there, but for new artists its utter rubbish.

  19. Erik4872

    The problem is multiple subscriptions

    One thing that's kept me out of the streaming media economy is the fact that media offerings among the different providers aren't the same. Netflix has some content, Amazon Prime Instant Video has others, and Hulu has still others. In addition to paying the cable bill to get Internet access, why would I want to pay 4 or 5 subscription fees every month? These services are nice because you can basically get instant access to whatever is in their library whenever you want. The problem is that the content shifts around -- some things are removed and added every month, and it's hard to find what provider has what you want to watch/listen to.

    It would be a terribly powerful monopoly, but imagine if Apple, Google or whoever bought all the streaming services and basically said "here you go, any video ever made for $X per month." Or some aggregator negotiates cut-rate subscriptions with all the providers and centralizes media search. Until it doesn't require 5 separate monthly payments and hoop-jumping to cover your streaming needs, these services are going to have limited use.

    1. mark 177

      Re: The problem is multiple subscriptions

      Surely, the easiest way to simplify streaming would be cross-licensing arrangements so you could get the content you want on any service.

      There would still be competition, as each service would want to buy the best content that they could licence to other services at the highest prices, and offer consumers the best experience in terms of user interface, etc.

      This is a little like how the mobile phone handset business works. You only need one phone with which you can call anyone else. Streaming is like having a dozen makes of phone that you can use on only one particular network.

  20. danny_0x98

    Note, this is from the perspective of US copyright laws and recording company practices.

    Streaming is a volume business. If one reviews one's notes when Apple was in pre-launch of its streaming service, one saw that the lion's share of the revenues went to the copyright holder, and for the recording this is nearly always the record company. By standard practice, the artist has no ownership and compensation from the record company is as per the contract in which the record company sets its license share rate and includes offsets for marketing or un-recouped advances. Greed or the necessary returns for a party that puts out its capital in a venture that has a 90%-plus rate of losses. Take your pick.

    Now, streaming rights are negotiated on a per-track basis. Negotiations are expensive, so is a streaming service going to want to talk with an entity that can deliver thousands of tracks or a few dozen? There's a provision in US law that federal copyright protection does not extend to recordings made before 1973. For those recordings the owner has to sue an infringer — and streamers do not compensate if they didn't have to — in each of the 50 states to enforce all US rights. We have seen Mark Volman of The Turtles and Flo and Eddie sue and win in California and New York. It took about five years to get those results. Much like the dog who didn't bark, I ask who haven't we seen pursue state cases? The major labels. Why, because they can use the rights of post-1973 tracks to leverage a discussion on licensing fees for pre-1973 tracks. (The preceding I don't know, but it makes sense.)

    And as a fan of the Talking Heads and David Byrne's music, I'd have to say that I didn't hear any of their music yesterday and I didn't notice. I started my phone to playing legally acquired tracks of mine semi-randomly and got Motown number ones. That was quite nice. The point is there is very little scarcity regarding music, making it difficult for an owner, or an artist and her record label, to insist that their few tracks are vital to a streamer's success.

    But the recordings' owners getting are getting approximately 70% of the revenue for no additional costs. They have full control over what is and isn't streamed. The big four have thousands of tracks from diverse genres and eras and make some effort at expanding their catalog with new recordings. It's a wonderful rental of property business from their point of view. Just because Rdio found it tough sledding or David Byrne has some thoughts about whether it's worth it for him to pursue recording revenues doesn't mean Warners isn't having a wonderful time laughing all the way to bank. It's those new artists who are a problem, and, oh, let's withhold them from streaming and see if it improves the track and CD sales. As long as we can get them on radio, there's a chance to sell something.

    If one sang three hits in the 80s, one has a few saplings in a forestry business. And, hopefully, that musician had a partner's share of the band or was the contractor and not employed by a production entity who had the recording contract. And the few dollars a year from streaming is still more then they'd be getting had they had their hits in the 60s and were looking at income statements in the 90s. (Not every vinyl release got CD releases.)

    And as one wrings one's hands about the plight of the poor creator, which is fair, and, please, wring a hand for me, a late 80s self-publishing music creator who sold three copies of my band's recording. Though, not too hard, as I had a good time and it didn't leave me in debt. Any way, as one grumbles about the unfairness, point the ire towards the record companies, because the difficulty of being a creator was always there because of barriers of distribution. Indeed, how technology has lowered costs of production and distribution could be a boon for the creator for obvious disintermediation reasons. But, not everyone wins. Subtract a record company's distribution network and capital for publicity and payola — used for brevity and not as a pejorative — perhaps the not-turn-a-profit rate becomes 99%, but the break-even rate will increase, and inspire the creators who have a business sense to figure out novel ways to differentiate and extract revenue.

    The author is quite fond of the free market, which gets a little wacky in these discussions because copyright is an artificial construct of law. The author cries his tears as to how the consumer doesn't value the goods being produced. Raising the question as to what a free market means to the fellow, as to me, that's exactly an outcome. Someone makes something and no one cares about it at the price being asked: morose violins for the shuttered supplier, drinks all around for economists toasting market efficiency.

    Streamers are middle-men. Apple comes in and Rdio goes out. So what? The market is not measured by the rise and fall of middle-men but the total value of transactions. Music is still a good business, as long as one has brought a lot of chips to the casino and one reduces one's expectation of the maximum payout.

    Any musician getting into the business for that sweet streaming money is a fool.

  21. lukewarmdog

    Home Taping

    I've been home taping Justin Bieber for months now and he's still bloody alive.

    I want a refund.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Value and Cost

    Once again a nonsense article complaining about the difference between value and cost. I say let the record producers do anyway they want, RIAA heaven. Then consumers WILL find a way that shows the true value.

    I think the best way for an artist to make money is for them to say that paying for an album is not for the music contained on it but for the next album. IE buy this one and I'll send you the next one for free. That way it doesn't matter if people copy.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    use youtube and this

    It's not piracy, it's fighting network congestion with more aggressive local caching

    here is a patch for current (mid-Nov 2015) so it takes only the audio bits

  24. chivo243 Silver badge

    My Library is Local

    And SWF portions already exist on my workstation at the bacon makin' place. I've not found too much music to be excited by in quite a long time.

    I have more fun finding old stuff that rocks than finding some new flash in the pan.

    In the end, if I was part of their target group, I can see their error...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think the problem is that the music industry sees everyone what would like to listen to a bit of music as if they are an obsessed music lover that will spend a fortunate to get the latest track from <insert_artist_here/>/. The reality, I believe, is that most people don't really care that much about music and just want some non-intrusive background tunes. Yes, we all have an artist or a few tracks we really like but that doesn't mean we love all music. Due to this belief that everyone must love music more than food the music labels price their wares as if they are made of gold.

    Personally, I'd probably pay a couple of quid a month forever for a streaming service that included most of the music I know and enjoy. The reality is that spotify costs £9.99 a month and probably doesn't include even half of what I'd like to listen too. I've recently ended up with Amazons streaming offering as part of Prime and quite frankly there's no way I'd pay for it. It's got all the artists but none of the music you'd actually want to listen too.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, but . .

    I'm really old fashioned about this. I liken streaming services to radio request shows. I am certainly not going to pay for content I don't then own. This applies to e-books and services like iTunes. They want to sell me a licence, not a product.

    It's like having to pay the full purchase price of a car up front just to rent it. Not for me, and never will be.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @AC - You hit a subtle nail on the head for all content creators - only a fraction of the people really care about <whatever art/medium>. The rest will buy, view, listen <whatever> on a somewhat erratic, irregular basis for something to do. Also, as there is more competition for consumers' attention (Internet, games) there is less time available for one to do <whatever>. These two factors are probably driving the entertainment industry batty. If one is not doing <whatever> as much then one is less likely to spend money on it.

      Another factor is most of the sports, games, movies, shows, and music targets a specific age demographic. As societies age (less babies) there naturally will be fewer people in this demographic thus fewer customers. Either other demographics are targeted or their income will decrease. Hissy fits will not change this basic fact.

  27. 9Rune5

    Enticing customers

    First of all... I am an avid user of Valve's Steam online shop for games. I do not actually have any spare time to play any games, but I do collect games purchased on Steam. Last meeting at work we ended up discussing the latest offering on Steam. So I know my colleagues buy games there too. Most of them are in my friends list, so I can keep tabs on their activities. I used to download the occasional pirated game (for various reasons, one was compatibility since pirated titles had removed various DRMs that did not play nice with Windows), but that was many years ago.

    Why are there no such service for movies and music? (Google Play comes close, but Steam lets me download content to be enjoyed locally, AFAIK Google does not allow for that leaving me to worry about whether or not my ISP will allow me enough juice to last me a movie)

    Next is the question of remuneration. This week I saved my employer from a number of snafus. I do that rather often. In my mind my services should be in the order of several thousand dollars per hour. My employer disagrees. Then I notice how some "struggling" artist or "up and coming" football player easily charges much more than that, yet their skills are profoundly useless. I suspect both career choices are eventually doomed. Record companies have kept the number of popular artists to a minimum, so there is a lot of money to go around. Breaking that cartel means more artists are popping up, and yet the cake has not grown. Basically their salaries will average out. The top earners will earn less, and the bottom grinders will earn more. And football players... Well, on some level they have accepted there is a certain risk of being seriously injured and/or maimed, so only fair there is a hefty compensation involved. Still boring to watch though.

  28. Musicman

    Artists need to take control

    It seems that there are just too many middle men. There always have been in the music industry, but now there's another layer.

    As a artist manager i'm working with GigRev (google it) to own my music and fan base again. I highly recommend it to any artist that doesnt have the time to do everything themselves but is frustrated at the current way things work.


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good artists...

    ...don't have (and never had) problems.

    Of course, mediocre artists complain a lot (and always have done). The reality is that on the Internet, people will gravitate to the best stuff available.

    I wonder if Adele will be remembered along with Mozart and Beethoven?

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Good artists...

      Good artists...

      ...don't have (and never had) problems.

      Don't know much about music then...

      JS Bach was well regarded for his organ playing, but his compositional skills were, in his day, considered vastly inferior to his contemporaries (he was too old-fashioned). I am one of many who believe he was the greatest composer so far and it would be a great pity had his works been lost permanently, rather than temporarily.

      My now deceased friend Paul Wyld played on every song and composed every song on Australia's first ever blues album to make number one on the charts. His royalties from composing and performance for 12 months amounted to some $AU36. About the same as a week's dole at the time.

      My friend Garry "Matchfist" Paige wrote, among many other songs, Heading in the Right Direction, that made Renée Geyer's reputation as a singer. He always had to sell suits for a living; royalties from writing never paid the rent.

      Our mutual friend Leo de Castro performed many of 'Fist's songs on the Johnny Rocco album which sold very well in the USA. None of the performers received a red cent from that album's US sales. The promoter declared himself bankrupt after salting away all the income.

      I recall back in the sixties an internationally renowned act coming to Australia. When they asked the promoter when they were getting their money, the promoter had one of his henchmen smash the Hammond organ with a sledgehammer.

      So it goes...

  30. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Too many internet startup enterprises seem to be predicated on being a monopoly. Their proposed business model only works if they are the sole player and collapses in a heap if there are other players.

    If you go into the business of making bread it's an uncouncious built-in assumption that you will be taking part in an environment of other people making bread. There seems to be something missing from the brain processes of these people that make them blind to this. Either that or they are just outright snake-oil fraudsters.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Happy user

    I'm happy user of streaming so far and I pay for it. There is not all music I listen to,

    but a on the other hand there is much more I don't know and it is nice to discover.

    That's what I like on streaming. I'm discovering music even from the other sides of the world

    and I can legally listen to it.

    IMHO Firstly "Music industry" is very hardly trying to keep status quo i.e. is doing

    all to let streaming fail. Secondly as many pointed out the price level is still higher

    than affordable. Maybe when it is about £3, more and more people will be

    willing to pay for streaming.

    Note to the best music. Often only history shows whose music is great after decades. :-)

    Whatever you use I wish you happy listening

  32. Pompous Git Silver badge

    Amateur musicians and such...

    Last I heard Dave Bromberg was selling antique violin bows for a living. Much to the delight of the small town where he lives, every Saturday night Dave and a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs were getting together for a jam. The git is far from Bromberg's only fan; Bob Dylan and Vassar Clements both performed on his first album, and of course Bromberg played on Dylan's New Morning. "uninspired dime a dozen drivel"? Not so much.

    As for concerts being the way to drum up publicity for records, that's arse about. Most professional musicians make sweet fuck all from recording contracts; their real income comes from concerts. Usually what happens is that the artist's agent (or a mate) offer the artist some ridiculously small amount of money in return for the royalties. If you're lucky, when said agent sues you for playing your own songs, the courts decide you do have the right. (Cf John Fogerty).

    Professional musicians aren't all they're cracked up to be either on occasion. Frank Zappa hired the London Symphony Orchestra to play some stuff for one of his albums. The brass section (IIRC) decided to stay at the pub where they had hied off for a boozy lunch. The manager of the orchestra refused to refund any of the money Frank had paid.

    So it goes...

  33. Pompous Git Silver badge


    Didin't comment on Spotify before mainly because I'd not used the service. So I subscribed...

    Loved Ones WTF! The name's right, just not the music we in Oz remember so well from the dim and distant.

    Lobby Loyde one track only!

    Family Nothing!

    Alberto y lost trios paranoias Nothing!

    Henry cow 7 tracks, no full albums

    Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen one track only

    Mostly you can get full albums on youtube. Warning the youtube links are to songs that are considered NSFW in the less civilised parts of the planet ;-)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From the article, " And you can't pay the rent with love."

    Disagree, it seems to work pretty well for my wife...

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