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Thank you Apple Music and Spotify for the pain

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I’ve ranted before about iTunes and Spotify dictating what music is for sale or available to be streamed on their respective sites, but apparently the topic never gets old.  We see it in the royalty statements coming from clients and hear it in the incorrect descriptions by the powers that be as to why the music business is suffering. After all, they claim people are just buying less instead of telling the real story about less product being available.

Every week I get e-mails from clients telling me they’ve had more titles removed from Apple Music and Spotify.  The people in charge of these sites use the descriptions “artist cleanup” and “editorial discretion” to justify this ridiculous policing.  But you know, I know and they know this is a bunch of junk.  For example, in the mid-1990s we recorded legendary singer Ben E. King.  We took him into the studio, had him do versions of his classics “Stand By Me” and “Spanish Harlem”, among others.  His album, done because the artist himself signed a contract himself and was paid, is not available on either iTunes or Spotify.  Why?  I would love to say because of “artist cleanup” or “editorial discretion” but I’d have to believe those terms in the first place.  But that’s the justification that the top download and streaming site give you when they pull titles such as these from their respective stores.

Why not clean up the major-label releases of his hits, the recordings where he (and now his Estate) are receiving nearly nothing from as opposed to our  re-recordings, where we split all revenues with the artist? And this is just one example, our clients have had THOUSANDS of titles removed from online sale/streaming.

Since Apple Music and Spotify make the exact same amount of money from re-recordings being purchased/streamed as they do from a major-label release, I have no answers.   All I have is frustration. The internet is about freedom of choice.  If someone wants to download or stream a re-recorded version of “Stand By Me” because it sounds almost exactly like the original version AND the artist gets paid half of whatever the label earns on that version, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?

Jimmy Iovine, Andre Young, Eddie Cue and to some degree Spotify founder Daniel Ek are lauded for all the good they’re doing in the music business.  After all, look at those great headphones people pay hundreds of dollars for that they couldn’t live without.  And look at all of the free music being given away by Spotify.  But these people are responsible for the decline in revenue for everyone, industry-wide.  Until more people realize that their “artist cleanups” are the problem and not the solution, we will continue to watch the demise of a once-great industry.

Name me one other business where the people in charge constantly try and screw things up.  Hey, I could use that phrase on a t-shirt.  Maybe I can give that away for free….wait, the clothing industry doesn’t give t-shirts away for free.  How about if I sold only certain sizes of that shirt so that I could maintain some “editorial discretion.”  This would allow me to cut my audience by perhaps 20%!  What smart business would do that?

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