TUTS > World Abused

Our culture loves music. Too bad our economy doesn’t value it.

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Written by T-Bone Burnett (ok, he focusses on the U.S., but...)


--- Quote ---But this brave new digital world has a dark side, too — and it is the responsibility of everyone who loves and cares about music to acknowledge and deal with this uncomfortable truth.

Too much of the emotional, cultural and economic value that music creates is simply lost now, slipping through the digital cracks in some cases, outright hijacked by bad actors and online parasites in others.

Artists, fans and responsible music and technology businesses alike all know this. When my friend Taylor Swift spoke up for the value of our work and the righteous claim of all artists to be paid for what they do, she was celebrated and applauded — not just by her colleagues, but also by teenagers who care about the people who create the music that means something to them and businesses such as Apple that fundamentally want to do what’s right.

How bad is the problem? Consider this: In 2014, sales from vinyl records made more than all of the ad-supported on-demand streams on services such as YouTube. I’m not running down vinyl — it is still the best-sounding, most durable medium we have for listening to music, by far. But why should a technology most people consider outdated generate more revenue than an Internet service with more than 100 million American users? That’s just wrong.
In the digital marketplace, everyone seems to have found a way to make a living off music except the creators who actually record the songs. Websites put up illegal copies of music — or turn a blind eye while others do — then sell ads micro-targeted at everyone who comes to listen. Eventually, a site may be forced to pull down the unlicensed (and for the artists and labels, completely unpaid) copy, but in the meantime, its owners have cashed in.
Fortunately, creators have begun to band together and speak out — the roster of those demanding reform is a who’s who of the music business, from Elvis Costello to Annie Lennox, from REM to Chuck D, and hundreds more. Congress is reviewing the copyright laws, and this time, we will be heard, and there will be no more backroom deals or giveaways.

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--- Quote ---Digital downloads had a short run as the top-selling format in the music industry. It took until 2011, a decade after the original iPod came out, for their sales surpass those of CDs and vinyl records, and they were overtaken by music streaming services just a few years later.

Now, digital downloads are once again being outsold by CDs and vinyl, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
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Rather sad reading this:


--- Quote ---During the 1990s, as digital technology infiltrated the recording process, some mastering engineers wielded compression like a cudgel, competing to produce the loudest recordings. This recording industry “loudness war” was driven by linked aesthetic and economic imperatives. A louder record grabs your attention — and will often be perceived, at least at first, to have better sound quality than a less compressed album — and musicians didn’t want their product to sound weak by comparison. Maximum loudness, it was thought, was a prerequisite for commercial success.

Recording engineers and producers often discovered their carefully rendered recordings were being squashed in the mastering stage. Over time, with listeners increasingly consuming music through earbuds and cheap computer speakers, engineers and producers found themselves working in a denuded sonic landscape, many of them longing for the rich and diverse audio ecosystems of old.

When compact discs were introduced in the 1980s, one selling point was that they were capable of a greater dynamic range than vinyl records — yet the average pop recording today has a smaller dynamic range than records made during the analog era.

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:(  :'(


--- Quote ---Why Play a Music CD? ‘No Ads, No Privacy Terrors, No Algorithms’

Streaming services have revolutionized the discovery of songs, but here’s why Ben Sisario, who covers the music industry, still likes to listen to compact discs.
To be honest, my preferred way to listen to music is on CD, as unfashionable as that might be. You push a button, the music plays, and then it’s over — no ads, no privacy terrors, no algorithms!

What are the pros and cons of the streaming model for musicians big and small?

The big positive is the vast potential exposure. Streaming eliminated the cost barrier to sampling new music, and playlists constantly put new songs in front of people. Theoretically, at least, there are more chances than ever for a song to be a hit.

But, as they say, you can die of exposure. Megahits still generate millions of dollars in royalties, and Spotify’s official mission statement is “giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art.”

Yet for artists beneath the megahit level — and that is the vast majority of them — the jury is still out. I’ve seen royalty statements for well-known indie acts that suggest they can earn a decent middle-class living from their streams. I’ve also talked to very successful songwriters who say their income has been decimated by streaming and by the new model for pop songwriting, in which five or six — or 30 — people divvy up the same sliver of royalties.

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