Does any songwriter out there believe that streaming services are their friends?
Multitudes of us provide content for virtually free in the hope that massive streams will help pay mortgages, put kids through school, or, at least, drop enough cash to buy new gear or market our latest releases. But given that the most famous of the songwriting community can log gazillions of streams and still bring home relative pennies is soul crushing. When you’re just an average, non-superstar perpetrator of song—but one who can nonetheless garner a reasonable amount public support—there’s not much hope to see reasonable income for your efforts.
So it’s no surprise that tempers and emotions are running hot over the reports that Spotify, Amazon, Google, and Pandora are appealing the actions of the Copyright Royalty Board to raise royalty rates to songwriters and publishers. And let’s face the music here—even the levels enacted by the CRB don’t really compensate creators at “old-school rates,” back in the days when a hit song could change a songwriter’s financial life.
The uproar is not “much ado about nothing”—or even much ado about a little bit. It’s another salvo in a massive, Avengers-Infinity-War-style Armageddon over whether the content creators of today deserve appropriate compensation for the things that they alone make real.
Savvy musicians are certainly aware that the appealing streaming services are not actually “suing songwriters” with their actions (as reported in some media), but they do appear to be defending their revenue streams so much more than they are eagerly strategizing win-wins for their businesses AND the people who create the content their businesses license to consumers.
Can we cut the crap, then?
As many in the media have already said, there is an opportunity here for the new digital economy to do creators a solid, and respect them financially as much as they do their coders, marketing people, and executives. If you do a job, you should get paid, and you should get paid what you’re worth. I mean, major-league athletes have certainly worked this out with team owners. The Colts Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas made relative peanuts when the NFL was a growing and evolving business concern in the late 1950s and early ’60s, but no one is offering peanuts to a franchise quarterback these days.
I am well aware that a nobody like me—someone who would be lucky to log 1,000 streams, rather than 1 million—doesn’t deserve the songwriting revenue of a superstar. But when you take into account that Peter Frampton reported on August 3, 2018, that he made $1,700 for 55-million streams of “Baby I Love Your Way,” something is completely off-kilter. My funny little Monkees tribute band can make that much money in two gigs, and we’re hardly a household name with a legacy of hits such as Mr. Frampton. As John Lydon once said, “Do you feel like you’ve been cheated?”
Yes, some of the streaming services have yet to report consistent profits, which likely plays into their arcane revenue-sharing formulas. But, as my dear-departed dad would say, “If you can’t afford the apples, don’t open a fruit stand.”
I’m obviously not alone in thinking that the “free is free” stance of many new-economy companies is all kinds of broken, and I hope this is NOT what web entrepreneurs meant when they came up with that “move fast and break things” mantra. Making money from stolen goods ain’t the American way that I grew up saluting.
So let’s just STOP all of the finger pointing and selfish motivations.
Can we simply agree that content creators deserve a fair piece of the pie, quit bullshitting about processes, and actually work towards getting something done?
This shouldn’t be a difficult task for geniuses that build multi-million-dollar companies. Fair is fair. Move fast. Do it. Because if something this morally simple IS impossible to manifest for so many great thinkers, then I can only assume GREED is the wrench in the works.