Rock and roll has always been about free expression and revolt against societal norms. Since Elvis Presley first wiggled his hips and titillated young girls everywhere, rock and roll has ignited debate, enraged parents, and inspired kids to think outside the box and revolt against the establishment. In recent years rock has become watered down, and many of the bands that once rebelled against the establishment have become shills for corporate America.
You now have bands like Rage Against the Machine, Kiss, and artists like John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen advocating for covid injections, vaccine mandates, and compliance with the government. It is a far cry from the heyday of rebellion and free thought once exemplified by the genre.
As technology advances, many bands are seeing decreased revenue due to streaming services. In the 2000s, artists were concerned about file sharing and the unauthorized use of their music without compensation. In particular, Metallica sued one of the biggest file-sharing services of the era, Napster, and effectively shut down the practice of peer-to-peer music sharing. The intended effect was to force consumers into purchasing the music, either via compact discs or Apple Music. It didn’t exactly work out like the industry planned.
The advancements in streaming led to services like Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, and Spotify dominating the industry, choking out the compact disc market and effectively ending file sharing forever. It had some unfortunate effects on revenue for artists, and one of the biggest of the 80s was speaking out. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister recently railed against one streaming service in a rant about unfair compensation.
The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” singer unloaded on Spotify CEO Daniel Ek in a rant that bordered on the criminal recently. Snider said: “With Spotify, the wholesale, you know, you pay a one monthly fee — we’re getting so, so little, and that guy from Spotify, I want to tell you, he should be taken out in shot.” Snider is no stranger to bombastic and controversial stances as he has shilled for the vax, testified before Congress in defense of rock and roll, and advocated for children to be protected from the trans movement.
With regard to streaming revenues, Snider has a valid argument. Unless an artist generates streams in the hundreds of thousands, they essentially make pennies on the dollar for their music. While that is a great deal for Spotify subscribers, it is unfair to artists. The hair metal legend continued, speaking about the Spotify head: “When he heard that artists were complaining about how little we get paid, his response was, ‘Make more music,’ like, we’re producing cans of Coke, you know?“ t’s insulting and belittling.”
In a 2020 interview, the Spotify boss said: “There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough. The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans.”
Ek is suggesting artists should churn out music nonstop rather than take time to write songs and create quality albums. It is a strategy that may be beneficial to the streaming service and may make some artists a few more dollars, but in the end, it waters down the quality of the product, and fans suffer as a result.
Snider suggests licensing as the solution to the woes facing many artists. He concluded: “For me, it’s licensing. The licensing is the last godsend, the last oasis where you can actually make some money. Steven Spielberg chooses We’re Not Gonna Take It for the finale of Ready Player One. Thank you, God, because I’m not getting anything from Spotify.”
It is an uphill battle for Snider and the rest of the music industry. Streaming services don’t pay artists, yet bleed revenue. Perhaps the best bet is to move back to compact discs and maybe blame Metallica for ruining file sharing. Until there is a solution, streaming will still be paying pennies to artists while demanding more content, and no one wins in that scenario.
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