For The Record: Will a music publishing matrix save the day?

Words by: I Voice
Posted: 9/9/17 17:21

Keep filming on the dancefloor, your track ID vids could one day save somebody’s bacon if Facebook pay their way.

From the outside looking in, the music industry looks like a giant VIP party with artists bouncing between glasses of champagne, private jets and meetings with their financial advisers to discuss which Off Shore tax scheme to invest their loot in.

Perhaps that may be life for the one per cent, but for most full time artists, life is characterised by the perpetual feeling of skating on thin financial ice. The next run of gigs needs to pay back your debts. That next record needs to add dates in your gig diary or else. And this is just dance music’s ‘middle class’ of artists who are existing solely on earnings from music.

The rest, and the largest section of the industry in our experience, is best viewed as an amateur society where artists scrape every hour they can in between normal life commitments to make music and perform.

The Dream, comes at a cost and for many acts, the thought that technology might one day come to save them from a life of anguished poverty or a job they’d prefer to ditch is a fanciful one.

Perhaps however it is not so absurd an idea afterall. Facebook recently announced it is planning to pay major record labels and publishers hundreds of millions of dollars so they can continue to host videos containing posted by users.

All those track ID vids you recorded on your phone, could actually mean that an artist somewhere actually receives some money for their work.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A utopian music Matrix is not yet upon us and much confrontation still needs to be made between the little guy and The Music Industry.

The news of Facebook’s intent was published in a report by financial news agency Bloomberg which describes the music industry as “surging from the growth of on-demand streaming services Spotify and Apple Music.” Global music sales grew 5.9 percent in 2016, it points out while download profits fell by twenty per cent.

It’s fair to say in the music industry that streaming is where it’s at, but very little of that money is trickling its way down to the pockets of underground artists. The streaming industry is a numbers game and although the big artists receive some money for the huge nets that their massive hits haul in from their global fan bases, your average house or techno artist releasing on vinyl and Beatport isn’t exactly planning retirement in the Bahamas any time soon.

It’s time we called a spade a spade. Streaming is daylight robbery for underground artists and the system needs to change. Spotify, long criticised for their poor royalty payments, aren’t even the worse offenders. The Scandinavian company contributes an average of $20 per user to the music industry, while YouTube returns less than $1.

The industry is geared towards self serving interests. The Stream companies want to entice listeners with free accounts. The major labels cut deals that represent their own major label artists. And everyone else gets shut out.

While the news of Facebook’s pledge to pay its way is encouraging, imagine what could happen if underground artists were paid fairly for the streaming of their tracks.

Just compare dance music from the 90s with today. Producers spent weeks crafting tracks that had a varied cast of performers and engineers laying down vocals and instrumentals. Compare the grand vocal house tracks of yesteryear with today’s fodder, and the gulf in ambition is clearly apparent.

And that’s not really the fault of the artist.

Few can spend weeks on end working on tracks because in order to earn a living, artists need to devote the lion’s share of their time to touring. Just look at how many breakthrough artists ride onto the scene off the back of a hit and then embark on years of touring without producing anything that comes close to their initial curtain raiser.

And those who aren’t cut out for performing? Most have gone back to their day jobs, or are working in other areas of the industry.

There are exceptions to the rule, but on the whole, bearing in mind there are more artists than ever releasing music, this generation’s output is nowhere near as ambitious as it could be, if artists simply earned enough money to do what they do best, and make the best music they can.


Diego Krause
Luigi Madonna