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MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby DC-Choppah » Fri Oct 23, 2020 11:52 pm

Most folks are now arguing that the value of a stream is actually much HIGHER than the value of a download. The penny rate for being able to stream a song should therefore be higher.

If you download a song and own that recording, you have to do the work to put it onto your devices to give yourself access to it everywhere. That is time consuming and a pain.

If instead it is available by streaming, then it is more valuable actually.

The value that people place on something is very much tied to how much it impacts their time. If I get the same value (ability to play 'Play that Funky Music') whenever I want, but in one case it takes 20 mins to set up, and in another case it takes a few seconds, then the later case is MORE valuable.

This discrepancy in the value placed on the options (by the non-free market royalty judges) is exactly what causes the problem.

I am willing to consider that a stream is MORE valuable than a download, and therefore the penny rate should be higher for the ability to stream a song, then to own a copy through a download.

This discrepancy in true value vs. the value assigned (through the royalty judges) is exactly what creates the current problem for artists, and boon for the distributors.


As a matter of fact, downloading a song to my PC is a mechanical copy of the music and I can trivially capture it for use later. Everybody knows that. There is no reason to do this though, since I can just stream it more easily. Hence the ability to stream on demand, is MORE valuable than the download.
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby zenguitar » Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:33 am

A general comment rather than a response to any individual.

The mods here have to approve the 1st three posts from any new members, as part of our efforts to keep out spammers. And we are particularly interested in keeping out spam that also breaks forum rules. One rule we are very keen on is this one...

No links are permitted to web sites offering pirate/cracked/illegal software or illicit music and/or video downloads and anyone found to have posted such a link will have their SOS Forum access withdrawn.

So, we routinely disapprove spam posts offering links to sites/tools designed to rip streamed content. And as far as the mods are concerned, ripping streamed content is illicit. There may be plentiful tools available to rip streamed content, but on these forums at least, there is a clear distinction between legitimate downloaded content and streaming.

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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby blinddrew » Sat Oct 24, 2020 9:37 am

That's am interesting argument DC, and not one i've ever heard before. Fundamentally it assumes an 'always connected' world which is far from the reality for many non-urban dwellers.
However, rather than get into a discussion on the accuracy of FCC broadband mapping, or whether the convenience value is actually in the access rather than the content, i'd just say that this is yet another reason not to conflate streaming with downloading.
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:14 am

When you sell a download of a track you are getting paid once for a theoretically unlimited number of plays, when you get paid for a streamed track it is a 'per play' payment. For comparison you would need to know the average number of times an individual listens to a downloaded track (or CD).
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby CS70 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:38 am

Sam Spoons wrote:When you sell a download of a track you are getting paid once for a theoretically unlimited number of plays, when you get paid for a streamed track it is a 'per play' payment. For comparison you would need to know the average number of times an individual listens to a downloaded track (or CD).

Well, that can be easily modeled under reasonable assumptions, like Drew did above.

Thinking of the latest twist in this conversation, I realize part of the reason I think how I think is that ultimately I've never cared of owning anything in my life - only of having the possibility of using stuff to get done what I want to do.

I am not sure if I would consider a stream more or less valuable than any other way of achieving a listening experience - I think it depends on what is streamed. If I'm losing information (i.e. the stream is compressed) then I'd say it isn't. But if I stream the full PCM data, the experience is the same. On the to other side, it's true that, to achieve the experience, a stream requires less work than other ways... How much these things weight against each other is, I suspect, a very personal determination.. as this thread shows.

All this reminds me of the brilliant ad I read once, by a guy selling a an almost-new piece of IKEA furniture at a price higher than you would get at IKEA. He claimed that it was right to cost more, because it came already mounted. :D :D
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby blinddrew » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:43 am

So have we agreed that value is in the perception of the user? ;)
I wonder how many people will be at the hearing speaking for the position of the user?
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:53 am

Once I have the download on my computer I just click the iTunes tab, choose a song and click 'play' and it works every time. Streaming will only work when I have a reliable internet connection, fine when I'm at home but why bother, I have the song on my computer, not so fine when I'm away from home and relying in mobile internet, with limited bandwidth and potential unreliability, much easier to put the download on my iPhone...

Then there is the problem of content, my tastes are eclectic to say the least and a fair percentage of the content I want to listen to is not on Spotify or other streaming platforms.

Then, even when I have good internet at home and try to use Alexa to listen to BBC radio it drops out all the time :headbang:

I'll stick with downloads or CD's thanks.
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby CS70 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:56 am

blinddrew wrote:So have we agreed that value is in the perception of the user? ;)
I wonder how many people will be at the hearing speaking for the position of the user?

Yes! Was it ever a disagreement? In general terms, the (economic) value of something is its price, which is determined by supply and demand. The perception of the user is part of what determines demand, so it's definitely one of the factors that drives the price.

A fair environment is an environment where supply is not infinite and demand is whatever its. Then the price you get is a fair price.

And then we're back on how to get a fair price: ensure supply is not infinite, and generate demand. Obviously that does not mean that the price is necessarily over zero.. :)
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby CS70 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:59 am

Sam Spoons wrote:Once I have the download on my computer I just click the iTunes tab, choose a song and click 'play' and it works every time. Streaming will only work when I have a reliable internet connection, fine when I'm at home but why bother, I have the song on my computer, not so fine when I'm away from home and relying in mobile internet, with limited bandwidth and potential unreliability, much easier to put the download on my iPhone...

Then there is the problem of content, my tastes are eclectic to say the least and a fair percentage of the content I want to listen to is not on Spotify or other streaming platforms.

Then, even when I have good internet at home and try to use Alexa to listen to BBC radio it drops out all the time :headbang:

I'll stick with downloads or CD's thanks.

Ahah exactly! Different people, different perspectives. There's lots of fields where you the same happens, with similar debates - say cashless society.

In the end the idea of value that "wins" depends, I guess, on how which perspective is taken by a majority of people.. and more than one can survive at the same time, I guess.
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby CS70 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:04 pm

blinddrew wrote:I wonder how many people will be at the hearing speaking for the position of the user?

As for this... it seems evident from this thread that there is no single position of the user. Different users will have different positions.

Fairness however, comes before both users and producers - it comes from the structure of the market. That is, a place with rules that govern the exchanges vs. the law of the jungle (where "legal" means simply that you can do it)
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby RichardT » Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:07 pm

The value of an individual stream is important, but just as important is how many streams each artist gets, ie how is the total revenue pot distributed across artists? I hope they look into that. I would be very interested in seeing what they come up with. Is the long tail a myth or a reality?
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby blinddrew » Sat Oct 24, 2020 3:34 pm

CS70 wrote:
blinddrew wrote:So have we agreed that value is in the perception of the user? ;)
I wonder how many people will be at the hearing speaking for the position of the user?

Yes! Was it ever a disagreement? In general terms, the (economic) value of something is its price, which is determined by supply and demand. The perception of the user is part of what determines demand, so it's definitely one of the factors that drives the price.

A fair environment is an environment where supply is not infinite and demand is whatever its. Then the price you get is a fair price.

And then we're back on how to get a fair price: ensure supply is not infinite, and generate demand. Obviously that does not mean that the price is necessarily over zero.. :)
And if the user decides that the value of an item that can be infinitely reproduced for practicaly zero, or is virtually replaceable with another from a near-infinite pool, is zero?
Let's face it, even if you restricted every song on spotify to one play, there are 50 million songs on the platform... at 3 mins a track that's nearly 300 years of solid listening. We're near as dammit to infinite supply. Demand, however, is finite because we have other pressures on our time.
So how do you propose to limit supply? Because that really hasn't worked very well over the last 20 years...

And if we're going to talk fairness, an alternative view might be that if you can make all the worlds art and entertainment available to all the world for free (your infinite supply), would that not be the fair thing to do? Fair is a very nebulous term, especially when dealing with the digital economy but it translates into the material one as well. There is more than enough food in the world but millions starve every year, is that fair?
I digress, but basically I don't think your argument that "A fair environment is an environment where supply is not infinite" is logically sound. Hence I don't think the rest follows... ;)

I've done a quick read on the committee as well. There are no consumer groups (the users) listed in the piece. Which just reinforces the fact that this will achieve nothing because it won't be grounded in any kind of reality.
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby blinddrew » Sat Oct 24, 2020 3:46 pm

RichardT wrote:The value of an individual stream is important, but just as important is how many streams each artist gets, ie how is the total revenue pot distributed across artists? I hope they look into that. I would be very interested in seeing what they come up with. Is the long tail a myth or a reality?
There are already different ways of doing this. Some sites pay per stream (Tidal, apple music etc) some pay with a percentage of the pot (Spotify) - this is why the arguments that Spotify should just triple their payments (one of the themes doing the rounds) is nonsense - that would take them to 195% of their revenue.
So if you take CS70 and DC Choppah's suggestion of limiting supply, it's still not going to change that payment. You need to make the pot bigger. Which means getting more people to sign up for the paid service, which means giving them a reason to do so.
- maybe that's a limit on streams, but do they just hop onto another service when the first one's full? We're back to that infinite supply thing.
- maybe it's a better payout rate (surveys suggest more people would pay (or those paying would pay more) if more went to the artist), but if Spotify is paying 65% to the rights holders but only 13%* is making it back to the artist then maybe the problem isn't with Spotify?

Again, I have no solutions here (other than investigating the contracts between artists and their labels), but 20 years of trying to stop piracy by limiting access achieved nothing but falling revenues. Streaming has turned that around, if we make it unworkable for those operations then we're not going to go back to the glorious 70s, we're going back to the terrible 2000s.
I reckon. But I'm no economist. ;)

* According to one study.
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby James Perrett » Sat Oct 24, 2020 5:44 pm

blinddrew wrote:if Spotify is paying 65% to the rights holders but only 13%* is making it back to the artist then maybe the problem isn't with Spotify?

Isn't that where we started on page 1?

For the cases that I know about there are two people getting paid apart from the artist - the distributor and the label. The artist ends up with quite a bit more than 13%.
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Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Postby CS70 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 6:06 pm

blinddrew wrote:And if the user decides that the value of an item that can be infinitely reproduced for practicaly zero, or is virtually replaceable with another from a near-infinite pool, is zero?

Of course, yes. The economic value of something is zero if people don't want it. If the something can be infinitely reproduced is zero even if people want it. It's just enough that it's very abundant. :)

Let's face it, even if you restricted every song on spotify to one play, there are 50 million songs on the platform... at 3 mins a track that's nearly 300 years of solid listening. We're near as dammit to infinite supply. Demand, however, is finite because we have other pressures on our time.

But absolutely! We discussed this already, if I recall. Whether we like it or not, music in generic terms has no economic value at all. It's never had it. What has value is music (like anything else) that is scarce.

So a musician has to create scarcity. There's a limitless supply of generic music, but a very limited supply of music by, say, you. If you manage to create scarcity around _you_ and your name, the music you produce has economic value.

Voss water and all that.

So how do you propose to limit supply? Because that really hasn't worked very well over the last 20 years...

I don't - and never did? You cannot limit the supply of music in generic terms. Not much has changed in that respect - anyone could pick up a guitar and make a song and sing it in the street in times past. But you can create scarcity around a specific artist - by the usual tools of good product and marketing.

And if we're going to talk fairness, an alternative view might be that if you can make all the worlds art and entertainment available to all the world for free (your infinite supply), would that not be the fair thing to do? Fair is a very nebulous term, especially when dealing with the digital economy but it translates into the material one as well. There is more than enough food in the world but millions starve every year, is that fair?

The thread is about fairness for the artist. I was under the impression that what we were discussing here "fair" as in a way to enable artists to reap the economic value of their work.

I've been giving a simple advice - just the same as I would if someone asked how to operate a compressor: as an artist, given that you can produce a good enough product, focus on create scarcity around yourself - i.e. focus on marketing and any activity that create a traction on your name. Or have someone else do it for you, of course - which was the old labels' job.

That will increase the economic value of what you do - streaming included.

It shouldn't be particularly controversial - it's just how things work in the world.

As I have already said, there are other types of value than the economic one - and I for one find them superior. But in terms of making money for your work, we're talking about economic value.

I digress, but basically I don't think your argument that "A fair environment is an environment where supply is not infinite" is logically sound. Hence I don't think the rest follows... ;)

Perhaps the clarification above helps. :)

As of fairness.. I don't think it's so hard either. Fair is when there is a balance between someone's work (can be a musician, can be a miner) and the demand for that work. With music, means that if enough people want a piece of you, they get it, but you get to make a living out of it. Not rocket science, I'd say.
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