You will surely all be aware of the campaign being fuelled by musicians like Ashley Slater and Orphy Robinson, as well as other good folk, on the back of the Olympic Games (and no, I am not going to be brow beaten into calling it London 2012 just because the control freaks who are running this thing insist on it) organisers LOCOG plan to get musicians to play for free.
If you haven’t been following it, here is the post and the link to the Facebook group.
The latest posting on there, from guitarist Phil Robson, extends the issue of fair pay for musicians further – and to Spotify in particular.
Here is what he has to say:
I believe this is relevant to the wider issue but please delete if the group believes it to be a diversion:
I will be removing my entire back catalogue of CDs from Spotify asap having discussed it with the label. My recent CD is not available there. I see absolutely no logical argument why music should be free or dirt cheap & personally, I would like a creature to exist in the future called ‘a professional musician’ (not a teacher that does the odd gig!). Most of us were duped into it under the tired old ‘exposure’ idea. Sound familiar? I have heard all the arguments for it & don’t buy any of them. Sure some people will always find a way to get it for free. Doesn’t matter. That will be a minority & the majority will get their heads around having to buy music again. There is also no comparison with the old home taping concept. People used to still buy the album if they liked the tape their mate did for them. Different time & culture altogether. I have clear personal experience that having music up on Spotify is now really affecting live sales in a way that even 2 years ago it was not. To give an example, a young guy said to me sheepishly at a recent gig “why would anyone buy the CD? I downloaded the whole thing for something like 1p on Spotify!” I thank you for your time.
The discussion is starting on the Facebook group “Musicians Against Playing For Free…” but I would love to hear your thoughts here, too, whether you are musicians or run a label or are just a regular punter.
Speaking personally, I am in an exceptionally privileged position, because record companies, distribution houses and individual musicians send me free copies of their CDs for review. In return I try to give them some positive publicity by writing reviews – mostly at no monetary benefit to myself, I hasten to add, though I occasionally get a modest reward from a national magazine.
So, I remain, of course, extremely grateful for these free CDs, but I pay in-kind in a way, and still buy CDs I haven’t been given. Being of an age where I still like an artefact (I no longer have any LPs but I loved those too), I rarely download music, and if I do, I pay for it.
Spotify strikes me as hugely attractive if you don’t already have piles of CDs to listen to, and it is impressively wide-ranging. However, what Phil has to say above has really struck a chord with me.
So what is the best way to buy music? The ethical and musician-supporting fan has some tricky decisions to make. For a start, I have started boycotting Amazon until they start paying taxes in this country. Now I am avoiding Spotify, too.
The best plan should be to buy directly from musicians’ websites, though this is not without its complications. I recently reviewed Loose Tubes’ new release, Sad Afrika, on Django Bates’s Lost Marble label and included a link on the review to Django’s site. Then I got a gentle rap on the knuckles from Proper Note distribution company who argued that since they had sent me the review copy they would rather I linked to outlets they distributed to, so that they might get their cut on any resulting sales. Which is a totally fair point – I am just indicating the complexities of the consumer chain here. And I deleted the link, in case you were wondering. (On the other hand, if you want to know what Django is up to, just go here.)
The other purchase option, and one I keep banging on about, is called “the record shop”. Remember them? Well, they still exist, albeit in small numbers. The upside is those small numbers are generally really fab places. In Birmingham, for example, go to Polar Bear in York Road, Kings Heath, where Steve and Nathan will be only to happy to sell you the right stuff. It won’t cost 1p as on Spotify, but it will be a much more rewarding experience. And you will be helping not only the artist, but the distributor, the shop, the high street and your fellow shoppers - I think this is called “society”. More about Polar Bear here.
So my conclusion is: buy music from an artist site or a shop, or from anywhere that gives the artist who made this beautiful music his or her just rewards for enriching our lives.