Rock music legend Neil Young made headlines and trended weeks ago when he announced that he was giving Spotify an ultimatum: either his music or Joe Rogan has to go. Given the $100 million contract Spotify has with Rogan, it was easy to guess that Spotify would end up choosing Rogan, and removing Neil Young’s catalog from its service. But initially, this did result in a larger conversation about free speech and Big Tech’s responsibility as it relates to responsible speech and big platforms.
Rogan has some 11 million daily listeners. He gives a voice to medical minorities; contrarians to consensus. Much of what’s said on his show is misinformation. I consider what Neil Young did to not be an attack on free speech, but a principled stand. It’s effectively a boycott. No where that I’ve seen did Neil Young call for the government to step in and censor Rogan or anyone’s freedom of speech.
I was behind Young in his position up to that point. But just days later, Young made more headlines. According to ETCanada.com, “Young shared an update on his website, urging fans to head over to Amazon Music instead, sharing a link and noting that all new subscribers receive the first four months for free.”
From principled stand to marketer of Amazon Music.
The article goes on to quote Young as saying “Amazon has been leading the pack in bringing Hi-Res audio to the masses, and it’s a great place to enjoy my entire catalog in the highest quality available.”
Another musician with a massive following, Kanye West, or Ye, as he calls himself now–no stranger to headlines and trending tweets– announced that his new album, Donda 2, would not be available on the major streaming services. He made a valid point about the industry being an “oppressive system” where artists barely get a piece of the revenue generated. “12%” according to him. But what does he urge his followers to do? Buy his new $200 device to hear his new album.
Both Young and Ye have to know that there’s a better solution. It’s a solution that arrived over a decade ago. It’s called Bandcamp. Most artists on Bandcamp retain 85% of the revenue from sales. That’s for your average artist. Even better, if you’ve got a solid fan base and bring in thousands of dollars per year, artists keep 90% of a given sale.
If Young or Ye really cared about sound quality and equity for artists, they’d point their large followings to a service like Bandcamp, where streaming is available, and artists are paid per sale, not paid per stream, and high quality audio WAV files are available for download, as well as physical merchandise (yet another revenue stream). For the consumer, the benefit is you own what you buy. Ownership is superior to renting. You don’t lose it because you stop paying a subscription.
I think it’s reasonable to even suggest that Bandcamp would be willing to strike a deal with artists like Neil Young and Ye, too. You’re not satisfied with 90%? How about we do 94 or 95%? Hell, we still have bills to pay. Just bring your fans.