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Wednesday, July 3, 2024

What’s the actual price of making music?

Daniel Ek’s aspect hustle as a lightning-rod appears to be going very nicely.

Final yr he shook the music trade with three large adjustments to Spotify’s royalty funds, successfully demonetizing tracks with lower than 1000 streams per yr…

… and the web went nuts.

Then he in contrast aspiring musicians to newbie footballers.

And the web went nuts.

Then Spotify argued it could actually pay much less mechanical royalties to music publishers and songwriters as a result of it’s now bundling audiobooks with music.

And the web went nuts.

The price of creating content material: “near zero?”

After which…

… Ek went and did probably the most controversial factor but

… tweeting one thing that (to me) appeared like…

… the reality?

Right now, with the price of creating content material being near zero, folks can share an unbelievable quantity of content material. This has sparked my curiosity concerning the idea of lengthy shelf life versus brief shelf life. Whereas a lot of what we see and listen to rapidly turns into out of date, there are timeless concepts and even items of music that may stay related for many years and even centuries.

For instance, we’re witnessing a resurgence of Stoicism, with a lot of Marcus Aurelius’s insights nonetheless resonating hundreds of years later. This makes me surprise: what are probably the most unintuitive, but enduring concepts that aren’t continuously mentioned right now however might need an extended shelf life? Additionally, what are we creating now that may nonetheless be valued and mentioned tons of or hundreds of years from right now?

-Daniel Ek, Might 29, 2024

The swift backlash from artists

In response to Ek’s declare that the price of creating content material is “near zero,” the web…

… (yep) you guessed it:

Went nuts!

Artists like deadmau5 threatened to take away music from Spotify.

Numerous different artists — each majors and indies — have registered their ire in opposition to Ek’s claims.

Nonetheless, I used to be a bit baffled that this specific tweet offended so many musicians.

What’s so controversial?

As a result of to begin with, Ek wasn’t speaking solely about music on this tweet. He was speaking about human inventive output within the combination.

Songs, books, jpegs, TikTok movies. 

All of which truly ARE simpler to create and distribute right now than yesterday.

To say nothing of the benefit of creation now versus 50 years in the past.

What it USED TO COST to launch music

Whereas most inventive expression that’s value sharing DID take tons apply and talent to develop, and whereas musicians particularly CAN spend some huge cash making music in the event that they select — studio time, session participant charges, the price of gear — it’s additionally true that nice music might be made WITHOUT all of those self same prices.

Because of less-expensive and even free know-how, the barrier to entry (from a cost-perspective) actually has neared zero. Particularly in relative phrases.

Keep in mind that many years in the past, the method of making and releasing profitable music often required (so as):

  1. A&R curiosity
  2. A report deal
  3. A studio price range of tons of of hundreds and even tens of millions of {dollars}
  4. Broad bodily distribution
  5. Nice advertising and radio promotion
  6. Sufficient gross sales to justify that shops maintain the album in inventory
  7. And extra

I’m afraid to whole up that price ticket.

Right now artists can create a observe on their cellphone and garner billions of streams on Spotify.

Which may be placing it too merely, after all, as a result of consideration doesn’t simply magically occur.

Artists who’ve gained traction could have labored to construct an Instagram or TikTok following, or spent years streaming on Twitch or YouTube, or toured relentlessly, or assembled an amazing staff.

However the level is: Most of the earlier financial obstacles to creating music are gone.

It’s most likely extra correct to say:

The REQUISITE prices for making content material have neared zero

To not say you SHOULDN’T spend cash to make your music.

Even a self-reliant producer who makes digital music of their bed room with the identical gear they’ve used for years could in the future ask, hmmm, what wouldn’t it price to get an actual bagpipe participant in right here, or to get my favourite singer so as to add some vocals?

Personally, I dream of recording with an orchestra in the future. And the going price for 80 professional instrumentalists is way from “zero!”

However the reality stays that the track of mine that has probably the most streams on Spotify is a folks observe I carried out and recorded fully myself. So I don’t HAVE to go that spendy orchestral route in an effort to attain an viewers, is the purpose. And neither does anybody else right now.

The identical is true for video. Non-fiction. Poems. Design. Comedy.

The one required price is the time it takes you to develop your craft. Plus an iPhone.

That’s why there’s extra artwork being made and launched right now than ever earlier than.

For those who’re a rock band, would you like actual drums in a professional studio to no matter you possibly can prepare dinner up in your laptop? Most likely so. However you possibly can distribute your track to Spotify whether or not these drums are programmed or mic’d.

For those who’re a comic, wouldn’t it be good to have main funding in your work? To focus on your wit in an hour-long Netflix particular? Completely.

However that doesn’t change the truth that hundreds of comedians can simply hop on Instagram and inform a joke. Whether or not it’s on Netflix or Instagram, fun is fun.

Oh no! Are we actually speaking about Provide & Demand once more?

All this implies there’s rather more inventive output being shared throughout codecs and platforms. And it’s world.

THIS is the truth Daniel Ek was wrestling with in his tweet. Questioning what the sheer quantity of that output means for the methods during which anyone specific piece of content material will rise to the extent of cultural consciousness. And the way lengthy a chunk of content material can stay there.

As musicians, we don’t wish to see our personal artwork as a part of an financial system. Music is connective, ineffable, essential. It’s priceless, that’s true.

But music is now delivered (and let’s face it, typically consumed) as if it’s an inexhaustible commodity. In a means, it’s that too.

Which suspends us in a contradiction, and evokes debate after debate. Is music priceless or value much less? Is the price of creation “close to zero” or “hey, it took me my complete life to put in writing this track?”

Many issues might be true directly.

The availability of music is staggering. The availability of content material is staggering. What does that do to demand?

Looks as if an apparent query to ask in 2024. And a sophisticated one. So I didn’t suppose it was out-of-bounds for Daniel Ek to ask it.

Tread calmly, sir!

In fact Daniel Ek is the chief of one of many world’s most essential music firms. An organization that has facilitated, accelerated, and profited from the commodification of music.

So maybe he may’ve chosen his phrases higher.

Particularly after so many different controversial statements and coverage shifts over the previous yr. And some associates of mine have steered there’s no different approach to learn his latest tweet besides within the gentle of all these earlier controversies.

However I do imagine, on this case, his phrases have been taken out of context. And if musicians need to advocate for his or her pursuits, and produce strain in opposition to highly effective gamers within the trade, I feel it’s essential to stage outrage selectively, when issues are literally outrageous.

Do you make “content material?”

Talking of shock, I’ve targeted a lot right here on the COST claims in Ek’s tweet, I haven’t even talked about the OTHER supposed outrage. That he used the phrase “content material!”

“I make music, not content material,” exclaimed hundreds of artists.

Do you make content material? You do! You make musical content material, in any other case generally known as music. Your artwork is content material. It simply means it has stuff in it.

Lyrical content material, rhythmic content material, harmonic and melodic content material, emotional content material,…

Plus, since Daniel Ek wasn’t particularly speaking about music within the tweet — keep in mind he referenced the traditional writings of Marcus Aurelius — content material is way simpler to sort than “a variety of inventive expression throughout a number of codecs and platforms.”

As soon as upon a time a ebook needed to be printed, sure, packaged, and shipped. A symphony may reside on vinyl or as dozens of pages of notation. A movie got here in a canister and bought projected on a large display screen. A picture is likely to be canvas and oil.

However a lot of the expressive work we devour right now is delivered in a uniform means: 0s and 1s.

They’re digital information. Going by way of digital pipes.

In that context particularly, “content material” appears okay to me.

It’s a catchall phrase.

I don’t suppose he meant it to decrease your music.

What do you suppose?

These are simply my very own ideas right here, and hey, I could possibly be fallacious.

Do you may have robust emotions about Daniel Ek’s newest tweet, or any of the large Spotify information over the previous yr?

I’d love to listen to it. Go away your take within the feedback of this video.

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