Monday, July 29, 2019

OPINION: Streaming As A Promotional Tool. Don't Sell Your Soul To Spotify.

More Creative Uses of Spotify and Streaming Services.

As someone who's hasn't really produced a piece of music for commercial consumption for many years, I'm not really sure I'm the guy to spouting off about Spotify and itunes and all that. But I have some half-assed thoughts and being the loudmouth that I am , I'm going to express them.

From what I can gather the streaming royalties are negligible, so unless you're pulling in millions of plays a month it's not going to make you any real money. So why do it? Do you think so little of your music and art that you would just hand it to a Scandinavian computer company so they can hang their pay per click advertising program off it and pay you a pittance in return. Or perhaps, even worse, tempt you into one of their advertising programs so you can pay them to advertise your music so they can hang more advertising of your music........, etc, etc. 

The subsuming of the music industry into the computer industry has been incredibly damaging. YouTube, via Orchard music, now simply 'finds' music to put on it's platform and hang advertising off it, where it stays until anyone complains or objects. It all seems incredibly parasitic to me. 

Many artists in the early days of Spotify weren't convinced and kept their music, or at least most of it, off Spotify. Bjork and Prince were the two I can remember. Possibly David Bowie. These artists were right. They weren't prepared to be used. 

One artist that walked a line between the two positions was Imogen Heap. Upon the release of Sparks, she placed a version on Spotify that differed from the CD/Vinyl version. Every track of the album was accompanied by a verbal explanation of each song. It's influences and inspiration, what the lyrics were about, what instruments were used. Whilst all this was very interesting the first time round, repeated listens of this streamed version of the album was not a particularly attractive proposition. 

This, to me, seemed a rather creative way of using Spotify as a promotional tool rather than allowing it to use you. The idea being that you could sample every track from the album alongside the verbal commentary, but to hear the record as it should be heard, you would have to buy the CD or the vinyl version. Quite rightly. Although it has to be said, that version of Sparks has been removed and replaced by the full version. Imogen sold her soul after all. Perhaps Spotify objected or introduced rules to prevent this sort of thing. Not sure. Perhaps someone who knows could clarify in the 'comments'. 

But one thing that Spotify can't demand is that you either place all your music with them or none at all. So why not just give them a taster. Singles, live tracks or session versions. I know for a long time the only versions of Prince's songs you could find on Spotify were live versions.  

The other problem I have is that if you're prepared to simply give your entire album away for free on Spotify, then why should anybody else get behind your music. Why should a record store with any self respect sell your CDs or vinyl albums. It's a bit like the recorded music equivalent of booking a gig with a venue for £500 and then playing the place over the road for nothing the next night. 

I mean, no wonder record stores have all but disappeared or are relying more and more on second hand sales. 

Artist/Distributor: Would you like to sell my/our new CD?
Record store owner: Is the whole thing on Spotify. 
Artist/Distributor: Yes. 
Record Store owner: OK. Thanks but no thanks. Bye. Click. 

That would be my view if I were a record store owner. 
Wouldn't it be better to hold something back. Wouldn't it be better to be able to say to the record store 'we have a couple of tracks on Spotify, the singles if you like, but if anyone wants the whole thing, they'll have to come to you.'

The same might even apply to radio. Would you like to play our new song? Anyone can play it anywhere and anytime on their phone or computer, but you could play it as well. mmm...

How about holding a track or two back as radio exclusives.

A much healthier situation all round. If you give your entire album to Spotify you're really not giving anyone else the opportunity to come in and get behind you or support you. You're just left with the live market.  

That's how it used to be. Apart from some niche US prog stations, radio never played complete albums. 

It's one of the reasons why the 'radio session' used to be so popular. You could hear (and may be even tape) a Peel session, but they would be a bit rough. A version in between the live and studio versions. If you wanted the 'full strength version you would have to go out and pay a more than reasonable price for it. 

Same applies to Bandcamp, a much more 'music' oriented rather than computer/business site. The smarter artists only make some of their tracks available for streaming or limit the number of times they can be played.

Same with Spotify. Don't give them everything. Feed Spotify with only a taster of what you have. Create a much healthier, symbiotic relationship with Spotify. If you give everything then it's really only a one way street, and only one winner. 

Don't sell your soul.....

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