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Thread: The ethics and debate of streaming music online

  1. #1
    Stuck on the Border WalshFan88's Avatar
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    Default The ethics and debate of streaming music online

    https://www.billboard.com/articles/b...ists-coalition
    This doesn't surprise me. Don Henley and Irving Azoff want more money. What you are going to tell me next - that water is wet?!

    In all seriousness, the issue of streaming music, uploading YouTube videos of concerts, doing livestreams of concerts, etc is about as inflammatory of a topic as taking photos with your smartphones in concerts and smartphone usage in general. I was going to post this there but started this thread as while it's still concerning tech and are both polarizing, it's not exactly the same issue and I think it's worthy of it's own thread.

    Everyone knows my stance on taking photos in concert and using your phone whenever you please. But on this issue, I'm torn. I'm not so sold on either side of the fence. I definitely have a more balanced viewpoint on this issue. I have 3 distinct lenses I view this from. The lens of a technology enthusiast and supporter of the smartphone revolution, social media, and tech companies. There is also the lens of being a musician. While I'm not a songwriter, I'm a guitarist and musician myself and that affects my vision on this some. And there is the music lover lens, someone who listens to music maybe more than the average person who wants good music to still be made and impetus for great artists to continue to do so. Each one makes me think about it slightly differently. And there is definitely some conflict of interest between them.

    I've said many times that I use a plethora of sources for listening to my music. From vinyl/tape/CD, to purchased digital music from the iTunes store, to yes - streaming with Spotify and YouTube Premium. About the only option I don't have is 8-track but if I found a player that worked with my stereo, I'd buy it and start collecting those. I use it all and I fit in all in, and I'd say I use 2/3s of those methods every single day. When it comes to albums, in some cases I own the same album on 3 or more different sources and I still stream them for convenience. In those cases, I definitely have no guilt about streaming those songs.

    So as I said I'm torn. Although I get tired of Henley's antics and his and Irving's constant need for more $, artists and songwriters in general have a valid point here. Without them, there would be no music. They deserve to be paid fairly for their work. You pay someone who cuts your hair, you don't expect that to be free. I think when it comes to content consumption and entertainment - especially online - there is this viewpoint that it should be free and that it's public fair use, etc. When it's not. There's an almost sense of entitlement. Be it to movies or music or even journalistic sites or content creators like on YouTube. It's kind of astonishing really. I think because it's entertainment, it's seen as not something that is a product or service to some people. Artists have the right to stand up for fair pay and royalties. As a musician myself - if I was writing songs you'd bet I'd want to be rewarded for it. There will always be those who see those in the arts and entertainment industry as undeserving of pay and that they need to get a real job but it IS a legitimate living. It's just that not everyone can be a successful artist or actor, and because of that people will be jealous and feel like they shouldn't get paid because of it when deep down they wish they could do what they love for a career. With YouTube and Twitch, content creators get paid one of three ways. Through ad revenue, direct donations, or a third party service like Patreon which offers perks and special benefits in exchange for a monthly donation. They rely on donations and Patreon members because everyone uses adblockers these days so their ad revenue is nonexistent. Then you can get ads removed from your channel if you are a controversial figure in the YouTube community with demonetization and age restriction algorithms. As I said, as a music lover and someone who can't go even one day without music - I would be devastated if the music I've loved couldn't be found anymore and no more music like it would ever be made ever again. To play devil's advocate, there's the techie in me. The one who thinks that Google, Apple, Spotify, Amazon, etc aren't evil companies who hate artists or songwriters or feel they are undeserving of pay. They want to pay the artists, but not be gouged simply because they have a successful business model and the artist thinks they can use that to their advantage. Both parties need to be reasonable and held responsible and accountable.

    It's a fine line though. If the streaming services make too much and not give enough to artists and writers, it's a problem. And in reverse, if the artists insist on really high royalties or try to pull their music - then the service suffers because some artist/writer/label thought they would be greedy. Then a company who offers a service that puts your music in more listeners ears goes away and that might come back to bite the artist/writer/label on the butt. Without the artist, the company (be it online purchase or streaming subscription) has nothing to sell and they have no business. Without the company selling the songs or offering them to subscribers, the artist doesn't get their music heard, or at least heard by paying listeners. They then have to do it for free, which isn't sustainable. And without the subscription buyer or music purchaser - both cease to exist. The tech company can't gouge the customer or they won't buy any songs/albums or sign up for their streaming service - which means the companies will go out of business, which in turn means the artists music doesn't get sold or streamed at all, so they don't make any money - which means goodbye music, or at least quality music. All three parties have to be happy and satisfied for two of the three to survive. The customer can't feel like they are getting ripped off, either. So add that into an already complicated delicate balance. If one party pulls out from the mix - it's over. It's a classic symbiotic system.

    So I can see it from both sides. At the end of the day - I'm probably honestly more inclined to side with the artists and songwriters - provided that they don't go overboard with their demands. You should be paid fairly, but don't go too extreme with the money you ask for or it could spell trouble. Don't abuse the legislation and board's decisions so you can be greedy just because you think those companies need you more than you need them and you want to take advantage of their success and need for your music on their platform. It might hurt you and your contemporaries. Ultimatums and threats of pulling music may only hurt you, especially if you aren't a huge name in music. Similarly, these streaming companies DO need to pay their fair share to the artists and writers because without them, they wouldn't be making anywhere near the money, and in the case of a company like Spotify who only does one thing - you could go out of business. I don't see Apple, Google, Amazon, or Microsoft going out of business because the artists don't allow streaming of their music on their respective services. However the only thing Spotify offers is a music streaming service. If the artists back out - there goes your entire business model and you find yourself bankrupt because either you lost all the artists (or the ones your customers care about), or you charge exorbitant prices to make up for what you have to pay the few artists who choose to go overboard with what they ask for so you can keep them on your service (usually the really big names and legends who are greedy) and no one will pay them. And then it goes back to hurting the artists themselves. If you are going to shoot into the dark, make sure it's not your foot.

    As far as the free streaming option that both Pandora and Spotify offer - personally I'm ok with the free tier of Pandora because it's essentially an online radio service. You don't pick the songs, you pick the station/genre much like you'd do with an FM/AM radio in your car. There are ads. You only get 3 or 4 song skips per a set time period - which is the only thing you can do that you can't with a traditional over the air radio station. IMO Spotify needs to tighten down their free tier to make it less likely to be overused and make it less desirable than the paid Premium tier. The free listens mean Spotify isn't going to pay the artists much for those spins. They need to make it more like Pandora. Ads, low skip limit, and station/genre based and not cherry picking songs and artists. I realize they don't want to do away with it as it does eventually encourage people to switch to the paid service, but I'd wager to bet there are a LOT of people who abuse the free tier who have no intent on ever paying for music - at least a streaming subscription.

    As far as YouTube - there are two issues here. There is the concert videos and livestreaming issue (which also applies to social networks like Facebook and Instagram) and there is the music streaming for free issue. Let's start with the music for free issue. It is SUPER easy to listen to any song ever made on YouTube. If YouTube or VEVO themselves don't upload the songs, there are random people uploading every song known to man at differing levels of quality. People can then use online services that convert those 'videos' with lyrics to MP3 files they can put into iTunes or the like, and they have essentially the same thing as Napster. It might be slightly less sketchy to some, but it's the same exact thing when getting to the meat of the issue. If you use a computer, you can put on adblocker and essentially you can listen to anything without any ads or limitations. YouTube/Google do need to start removing music that wasn't uploaded by themselves or the label or VEVO. They need to remove all of the lyric videos that have the full songs posted. They need to remove the "full album" videos uploaded by people where they play an album in it's entirety. If it wasn't authorized or uploaded by the recording artist or label - it needs to be GONE. Only allow music that was uploaded by official channels and/or YouTube themselves. Some of these uploads are such poor quality audio anyway. Then you have the issue that YouTube DOES upload songs in high quality themselves or a company like VEVO does. Those songs should only be available to people who pay for YouTube's premium service tier. And they should pay the artists just like Spotify, Apple, etc for every play. The only recorded music that should be on YouTube is from YouTube themselves or the labels. And on those songs, they should only be listenable by YouTube Premium subscribers. Or at least heavily limit how you can play them. On a phone/tablet you can't block ads in the YouTube app if you don't subscribe to Premium. And that's how most people listen. But the problem is on a computer - you can listen without ads free.

    And as far as the concert videos and livestreaming of concerts on YouTube or social media. I'm personally guilty of watching them. A lot. I'm torn. I can see why artists don't like it. I'm of the opinion it might encourage someone to see a show if they like what they see and hear. I can also understand those who are afraid a bad video might discourage people from coming when it may just be a bad recording or an off night. I also understand those who feel once they see it on the video, they won't feel the need to go see it because they can do it from the comfort of their home. I personally disagree on that. I think if anything it might encourage someone to go - because it's not the same thing at all. I do see the concern for a bad recording turning someone off of seeing an artist or band live - and yes that is a legitimate worry and is a problem. Whether it's a video of a single song from a concert, or the entire full concert in one or multiple videos by the same person or old bootlegs that get posted on YouTube - it's definitely something that is not going to be ok with some, maybe even most artists or bands. I'm guilty, so I can't preach against it too much but I do see their point and I probably should try not to watch them. I never really record video myself at a concert or go live on social. I take lots of pics as I'm sure you know if you've seen my posts in the phone cameras at concerts thread or have seen my posts on my own social accounts. I think it's a whole other ball of wax than taking photos. It's not the same IMO. So while I watch them, I don't contribute to the problem by uploading them myself. So, I guess maybe I'm not quite as bad, but I do admit that I watch them.

    I'm not even going to touch on "free" (illegal) downloading and the piracy problem - because that's completely different, and that I'm very much against and am firm on. I did it as a teen, when I wasn't even a music fan - because all of my friends and classmates were doing it. Napster was the "in" thing. There is no excuse IMO that someone could give that makes piracy or stealing of works be it movies or music, etc ok. It's not even worthy of discussion IMO. It's not something I'm open to changing my mind on. In comparison, companies like Spotify seem like an artist's best friend. It's just not something that can be defended.

    Lastly, when it comes to streaming music services - there are a lot of choices. Spotify is the top dog but Apple Music is quickly gaining traction. There is also Amazon Music Unlimited, YouTube Premium/Google Play Music, Pandora Premium, Tidal, etc. I've always heard that when it came to paying the fair share of the $, Spotify was the worst and Apple Music was the best with the others squarely in the middle. I'm personally a big Spotify user, even though I use nothing but Apple phones, tablets, and computers. Maybe at some point I'll consider switching to Apple Music. Especially now that the Amazon Echo speakers support it.

    I'm curious to read other's viewpoints. I know there are at least a couple other Spotify users here. And other than illegal downloading, I'm guilty of a lot of this stuff too if there is in fact something wrong with any of it, I'm not preaching to the consumers but rather the artists/writers or the tech companies here. I feel like I'm just as guilty as anyone and maybe even more so. But I still try to be mindful of the issues at hand.
    Last edited by WalshFan88; 07-30-2019 at 07:53 AM.

  2. #2
    Administrator sodascouts's Avatar
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    Default Re: The ethics and debate of streaming music online

    Hmm. It looks like the Music Artists Coalition is essentially the same as the Recording Artists Coalition, rebranded, although nothing was said in the article about that. It's being treated as if it's completely new. Perhaps the difference is that they are now inclusive of musicians who play live but never record anything? Still, it seems like they were willing to include those people under the RAC's umbrella before... oh well, I'm not going to lose sleep over puzzling about MAC vs. RAC.

    As for your comments, much of what you are talking about, Austin, has been decided by culture and technology.

    Downloading music has essentially run its course. Most people don't do it anymore simply because they don't wish to. iPod sales are down. Most people stream without downloading because they listen to music on their phones, which have limited memory capacity. (That's why Apple killed iTunes; in 2018, streaming alone made up 75% of music revenue. It looks like that number will only increase.) Musicians are not really losing a significant amount of money anymore to people ripping stuff off YouTube to download it. Napster and its ilk are passe. Spending time trying to get harsher penalties for music downloads, or trying to figure out ways to stop it (something that has eluded the music industry for 20 years) is like spending time trying to get legislators to crack down on people selling bootleg VCR tapes.

    So the concern is how to make money off of the unauthorized streaming. YouTube already has a solution in place for this. It monetizes fan videos. Every time you play one of those lyric videos, record companies get a little bit of money, some of which goes to the artist. What the artist needs to do is convince YouTube and the record company to give them a bigger cut of that rather than force YouTube to take the video down. Most record companies and artists do this already. It's far better than playing "whack a mole" with the videos, it promotes goodwill with fans, and it gets your music heard as people play creative fanvids featuring your songs. Your song gets mileage it perhaps would not have gotten otherwise - the tracks that you didn't spend money to make a video for now have them. Win/Win. I'm hoping this is what MAC will concentrate on rather than the "scorched earth" approach.

    As for the live stuff - the live experience can't be duplicated with a YouTube video. That's why tickets still sell. Those videos are for the people too poor to come to the shows / unable to come for whatever reason. If you begrudge them that because you're afraid it theoretically MIGHT cost YOU a few dollars - an obviously unfounded fear when you look at the numbers - well, that's your right.

    Older videos of live material are treasures that can't be seen elsewhere. When those are officially released, take them off YouTube. That's fair enough. Until then, leave them be.

    That's my opinion on the unauthorized streaming. When it comes to authorized use, it looks like the MAC is well-equipped to get the most money it can out of the other parties at the table Azoff speaks of. More power to them.

    Always in our hearts, Never forgotten

  3. #3
    Border Rebel Pippinwhite's Avatar
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    Default Re: The ethics and debate of streaming music online

    Interesting thoughts! I use Spotify, and I pay a monthly fee to do it. I'm glad to pay it so I can tailor my playlists to suit my tastes, and I don't have to put up with ads. I also have Sirius/XM in my car, for which I also pay a fee. Again, I don't mind -- no commercials.

    I don't watch too many concerts online, unless they're the professionally produced ones, just because smartphone footage is like doing it on an old VHS camera: camera shake, crowd noise, obstructions, poor sound quality, etc. I think artists are downright petty for yelling at YouTube to take these kinds of videos down, because it's not like they're of sufficient quality to bootleg.

    As for the Eagles stuff: oh mercy. I think it's fair to say the guys have made their piles from these songs. Now, I'm all for maintaining artistic integrity, and I certainly think musicians should be paid for their work. However, Henley's been paid a million times over (and then some) for every song he's written. Plus, he still gets royalty checks for print and performance rights, as I understand the music business. It would be nice if he had a little more consideration for the people who have shelled out the money for albums, CDs, concert tickets, etc., over the years. Like the Voorburg concert. It's an absolute gem and it's available on this Russian video site. Certainly not on YouTube. C'mon Henley. As soda said, why not get these live shows together, fix them up as much as possible and release them as a box set? Or on Netflix? I'd love to see some complete Eagles shows, just because I was too young in the 70s, and couldn't afford the ticket prices in the 90s. Or monetize an Eagles YouTube channel where people can see videos.

    Actually, I think "sampling" is a much worse fad. Especially when the "artist" samples just enough so the song is recognizable, but not enough to officially have to pay royalties or list the composer as songwriter in the credits. That really gets to me. It's a cheat for those who have little creativity otherwise, IMHO.

    It's a sad fact that many, many musicians got into the biz when they were kids, and were shamelessly fleeced by the people who were supposed to be taking care of them. Because of that, I'm all for making sure these people see profit from their hard work. And companies like Spotify certainly need to fairly compensate the musicians who appear on their site. That's why I pay for it. Guilt-free listening.

  4. #4
    Stuck on the Border WalshFan88's Avatar
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    Default Re: The ethics and debate of streaming music online

    Quote Originally Posted by sodascouts View Post
    Hmm. It looks like the Music Artists Coalition is essentially the same as the Recording Artists Coalition, rebranded, although nothing was said in the article about that. It's being treated as if it's completely new. Perhaps the difference is that they are now inclusive of musicians who play live but never record anything? Still, it seems like they were willing to include those people under the RAC's umbrella before... oh well, I'm not going to lose sleep over puzzling about MAC vs. RAC.

    As for your comments, much of what you are talking about, Austin, has been decided by culture and technology.

    Downloading music has essentially run its course. Most people don't do it anymore simply because they don't wish to. iPod sales are down. Most people stream without downloading because they listen to music on their phones, which have limited memory capacity. (That's why Apple killed iTunes; in 2018, streaming alone made up 75% of music revenue. It looks like that number will only increase.) Musicians are not really losing a significant amount of money anymore to people ripping stuff off YouTube to download it. Napster and its ilk are passe. Spending time trying to get harsher penalties for music downloads, or trying to figure out ways to stop it (something that has eluded the music industry for 20 years) is like spending time trying to get legislators to crack down on people selling bootleg VCR tapes.

    So the concern is how to make money off of the unauthorized streaming. YouTube already has a solution in place for this. It monetizes fan videos. Every time you play one of those lyric videos, record companies get a little bit of money, some of which goes to the artist. What the artist needs to do is convince YouTube and the record company to give them a bigger cut of that rather than force YouTube to take the video down. Most record companies and artists do this already. It's far better than playing "whack a mole" with the videos, it promotes goodwill with fans, and it gets your music heard as people play creative fanvids featuring your songs. Your song gets mileage it perhaps would not have gotten otherwise - the tracks that you didn't spend money to make a video for now have them. Win/Win. I'm hoping this is what MAC will concentrate on rather than the "scorched earth" approach.

    As for the live stuff - the live experience can't be duplicated with a YouTube video. That's why tickets still sell. Those videos are for the people too poor to come to the shows / unable to come for whatever reason. If you begrudge them that because you're afraid it theoretically MIGHT cost YOU a few dollars - an obviously unfounded fear when you look at the numbers - well, that's your right.

    Older videos of live material are treasures that can't be seen elsewhere. When those are officially released, take them off YouTube. That's fair enough. Until then, leave them be.

    That's my opinion on the unauthorized streaming. When it comes to authorized use, it looks like the MAC is well-equipped to get the most money it can out of the other parties at the table Azoff speaks of. More power to them.
    I think another reason why iPod sales are down is because of the iPhone and other smartphones. iPhones basically do everything an iPod can do, but a lot more obviously. iPod touches are mainly for kids too young to have smartphones but want a similar experience as they can play music, install iOS apps, use iMessage, etc. The iPod nano, shuffle, etc cease to exist in 2019. I think phones are starting to get more memory capacity at the entry level price points - I think before too long we'll see 128GB as the entry point. Nowadays it's usually 64GB on the phones from the last two years. And you can always get the next storage model of iPhone if that isn't enough. Still though, even with more onboard storage, people choose to stream their music and movies so they can use that storage for photos. A lot of people aren't keen on cloud storage for photos (and with good reason, IMO), so they keep everything on the phones themselves. The downside is that if you don't backup every so often - you are going to lose a lot if that iPhone dies.

    As far as iTunes - Apple killed "iTunes", the app, on the Mac. It still exists on Windows. What they did on the Mac was separate the app into 3 separate apps. They took the music library, iTunes Music Store, and playlists and moved it to a new app called "Music". They moved the Movies and TV Shows library and store to a new app called "TV". And they moved the Podcasts to it's own app called "Podcasts". They didn't really kill iTunes in the purest sense of the term. They just segregated it into 3 different apps. This change will take affect when the new macOS Catalina operating system update comes out in September. They are leaving iTunes in it's current form on Windows for the foreseeable future. They did it to make the macOS experience more like the iOS experience as those are 3 separate apps with the same name on iOS. For the longest time, they've been trying to unify iOS and macOS, and this is just another step in that direction. It sure made waves in the media when they announced this though. But it's just turning one app into three. As a Mac and iTunes user, I sure wish they would have redesigned these apps from the ground up - but it's just iTunes as we know it today, but in separately named apps for each section of the application, lol.

    I wasn't aware artists got paid from the fan uploaded content and lyric videos. I know they did from the authorized uploads from YouTube, VEVO, or the labels. I did however know about the fact that labels and artists can restrict those videos by muting the audio, limiting it to a certain country, or pulling them altogether and then shutting down the channel after 3 strikes. That's been a problem with Eagles music.

    I see your point Soda, and trust me I'm definitely technology-positive. I love streaming music and I plan to do so for the foreseeable future. But I do think that these companies like Spotify need to give the artist and writer their fair share of royalties and $ per play - especially with artists and songwriters that aren't as big as Don Henley or the Eagles that aren't already just raking in the dough from many sources.

    As per usual, somewhere in the middle is where the ideal answer is to make both parties happy.

  5. #5
    Stuck on the Border WalshFan88's Avatar
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    Default Re: The ethics and debate of streaming music online

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippinwhite View Post
    It's a sad fact that many, many musicians got into the biz when they were kids, and were shamelessly fleeced by the people who were supposed to be taking care of them. Because of that, I'm all for making sure these people see profit from their hard work. And companies like Spotify certainly need to fairly compensate the musicians who appear on their site. That's why I pay for it. Guilt-free listening.
    Exactly.

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