Buy this Dark Was The Night it’s extraordinary.
I just wrote a Morning Star column about Spotify and ended up thinking optimistic thoughts about a future for selling recorded music, for the first time in a long old while:
What if, as music consumers move away from the bother of downloading, towards building playlists and streaming tracks using legal collectively held libraries (like Spotify or Last.fm or even the BBC iPlayer), this means they semiconsciously move back into the mindset of actually having to pay for music? The legal streaming royalty may still be tiny – fractions of a penny for plays – but it adds up and is negotiable in the long-run. What it does do, that’s a massive positive, is put value back on music. You either get used to the advert breaks, or you buy a premium account.
I really like the idea of increasing that per-play royalty a large amount but allowing the first 2-3 plays of any song by any individual for free or discount. Not a new idea I’m sure.
I also love the idea, in the long-run, of a compatible, direct-relationship streaming system between artist and audience. So I hold tracks on my own site and people stream them and an automatic process by which I get paid takes place. Liberating us (again) from the middle-man of the streaming hosts.
The solution was so damn simple after all – a user-friendly front end. Maybe I’m being over-optimistic but there’s a purism about streaming I like: it’s truly meritocratic, meaning that if you write a ‘classic’ and thousands of people play it over and over again over the years, you make more money. Obviously, if someone buys one of my albums, it’s (usually) so goddamn brilliant they’ll treasure it and play it several hundred times over the next decade. Ditto lots of people I love, from Decemberists to Radiohead to Tom Williams.
But if someone buys the latest hype album on the basis of the one good song on there, they’ll probably only ever play it a few times.
Consumer benefits because they haven’t shelled out for shit. I (by which of course I mean ‘good’ music) benefit because even if my initial core audience is smaller, they will repeat-play more often.
In other words, repeated plays are hype-proof. So there’s one solution.
Last night Jen & Jon took me to see Robyn Hitchcock – he was excellent, much better than last time I saw him playing solo. This time he had a terrific band (his UK band, not the celeb-heavy Venus 3) with Rob Ellis drumming and Tim Keegan got up as well, who used to accompany Hitchcock all the time – and also fronted one of the great lost bands of the early 90s, Departure Lounge (they were on Bella Union and produced by Simon Raymonde, I think, who, if memory serves, made them sound less good).
I used to vaguely know Robyn Hitchcock’s Mum, I interviewed Hitchcock at WOMAD about 10 years ago. When I introduced myself he said: “Have a cup of tea,” and passed me a plastic cup. “Thankyou,” I replied and took a big swig, “I just found it.” He said.
Anyway, I listened to Hitchcock today, then various other things connected (for me), Decemberists, Yo La Tengo, Fairport, Okkervil River, Delgados, the aforementioned Keegan, Mary Hampton, Bellowhead, other stuff, then found myself heading back to Capital, wondering if it was too ‘boring indie rock’ or was lacking something with hindsight. Fuck that though: I hope it’s not too arrogant to say – or at least you’ll take it as an honest feeling – but listening to it on Spotify, I sincerely can’t understand why it wasn’t a smash hit record, it’s great. Doesn’t matter though, the next two will be 😉 and actually, that doesn’t matter either.
So there’s another solution and it’s not yet 3pm.