I highly recommend reading the latest Electric Literature article on ‘Taylor Swift and the Myth of the Mean Greedy Artist’, I wholly agree with it regardless of my sarcastic headline above. In brief, Taylor Swift has been hit with much criticism of late for pulling her catalogue from Spotify and it is presumed that she is unhappy with the $00.006 artists are paid per stream. The obvious argument is – Taylor Swift is rich and so shouldn’t complain about such unfair rates. I think that is ridiculous, the argument in itself admits that the rates are unfair – so what does it matter whether she’s rich or not! What about all the struggling musicians who are also offered the same rate? And if your response to that is “well they don’t have to be on Spotify” then you and me are just two people who don’t see the world the same way. It is becoming increasingly common for musicians to be expected to give their music away for free or little to nothing, and any argument by musicians to be paid fairly for their art (which they had to invest financially in creating) is ‘greedy’ of them.
I tutor a Music Business course on the side, and I am increasingly worried about how students who want to enter into the music industry think that artists should not be paid for their work. They are, in effect, arguing against their future selves. A major problem I think is the attitude of ‘Well, they have enough money anyways’ and the misconception that most musicians are millionaires like Katy Perry or Jay-Z. The most common artist, who is struggling to be a full-time or even part-time musician, is the artist who seems to be constantly forgotten about. Some argue that musicians should only make money from other revenue streams, such as live performance in particular. Of course, live performance is now more lucrative than recorded music in the UK since 2009; but this argument assumes that musicians should not be allowed any sort of home-life or, God forbid, ever want to settle down with a family or something human like that. Even a simple accident or sprained wrist would leave the musician on the bread-line in such a case.
I understand that models change in music, and in fact it can be exciting to see what the future holds in regards to better streaming rates etc., but educational measures for young people regarding intellectual property seriously need to be addressed. In my opinion, young people are being quite simply brain-washed by the false ‘freedom fighting’ of music pirates such as MegaUpload‘s Kim Dotcom. These pirates are as corrupt as the major music corporations who are their polar opposite, and as these opposites struggle for position it is, of course, the mugs – the majority of independent artists in between – who are screwed over without a second thought. My conclusion: OK, don’t feel too bad if you rip off a Beatles’ album or something but if you want music from a new act or an artist self-releasing or on an independent label, then don’t be a cheap bastard and cough up your fuckin’ 99p.