30th Oct2011

Should music be a free commodity?

by Mrs. Gunn

This got a lot of comments from the blogosphere:

Reposted from the Music Think Tank at


By Michael Shoup

Begin post:

A question was brought to my attention after a chat with a friend, and I’m not sure I have an answer…  So of course, I’ll turn to you.  It went something like this:

Friend: Spotify and Rdio both seem to either limit your amount of free music or play ads. I guess I’ll have to switch back and forth between them.

Me: Or you could just pay for one?

Friend:  We pay after we know it’s good. We listen for free. Isn’t that the new standard?

Now, granted, my urging to pay for a subscription service does little to nothing to aid in providing the artist or writer with a living [ref. chart here], but it’s still a flag I carry.  I think it reminds people that streaming or downloading music gives you an emotional experience that took the creator time, money, and energy to create… and has monetary value.

I try to correlate this to something I know and enjoy quite often: Food.  As my friend pointed out later in our conversation, you can walk into many stores and sample their food before you decide to purchase as well.  I agree, and think that’s a great idea and pretty much good cheap advertising.

The difference between the restaurant industry and the music industry:  Domino’s isn’t sending you on-demand free slices of pizza to your computer for you to consume wherever you are, whenever you want it.  [But if they did we might just solve world hunger]

However, SpotifyRdio, and MOG now are [songs, not pizza, but you get it].

Now, full disclosure, I absolutely do allow Spotify and MOG to play my music and basically think of it as a necessary outlet, just like Facebook or iTunes, to reach new fans.  I also have a paid subscription to Rdio and buy records on iTunes.  While I don’t want to get into the technicalities of legislation or royalties here, artists and writers are getting compensated from a fraction of the ad revenue on these services [again, reference this humorous chart], but in essence, this trend is training the general public to think of recorded music as a Free Commodity.

So, my question to you: As recorded music becomes closer to a Free Commodity, is it up to the ethical duty of the patron to decide how to compensate the creator [Buy tickets to a show? Kickstarter support? Merchandise?] allowing the artist to incentivize listeners through their recordings?  Or should those who profit from the Commodity [Streaming Services? On Demand Radio?] be more closely regulated by legislation?



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