Making music pay online: a musician follows up

Bassist Steve Lawson – whose blog is a frequently thoughtful and provocative contribution to the ongoing music/internet/making a living debate – has posted his own thoughts on the Information is Beautiful chart that I critiqued in my last post. Like me, he is sceptical that the information as presented by Information is Beautiful gives a full picture of the economic factors behind physical, downloading and streaming models of music retail. But Steve takes a different, more pragmatic line, clearly distinguishing the different roles played by purchases (physical and mp3) and streams within the whole music-sales ecosphere:

anyone who thinks that Spotify – or any other streaming service based on the same economic model – is going to pay them a wage is on ’shrooms. That’s both a specious understanding of the value of ‘a listen’ vs ‘a download’ […] and also ignores the number of the events at the top of the list that are intrinsically reliant on events at the bottom of the list, that streaming and sales are cause and effect.

Spotify isn’t a replacement for CDs. It’s a replacement for adverts. It’s not stealing money from sales, it’s saving money from promo.


It’s fundamentally about the costless replacement of the irreparably broken role of the paid ‘gate-keepers’ who acted in the old system as a deeply expensive and impenetrable barrier between musicians and their potential audience.

Read more here. His critique of Spotify may be worth your time too.


2 thoughts on “Making music pay online: a musician follows up

  1. That’s interesting, but SOMEBODY is paying their rent from Spotify. This guy talks about how it functions for artists, but it’s still making money for media companies off of our labor and offering us little cash value in return. It might have a useful function, but it wasn’t designed with that in mind. And, as a user of Spotify, the gatekeeperish sort of functions are really not-obvious to casual users. and Pandora do that really well. If it’s there in Spotify, you have to go looking for it.

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