Did you really just release HALF a record?
Pat Metheny, 20th Century Man
I think I have to confess something that a lot of my Vast Legion of readers will take issue with: I get really irritated when fairly major recording artists use manipulative techniques to get me to buy their records.
And I will confess further, likely much to the dismay of anybody who is still trying to make any kind of a living from “selling music,” that I consider the whole concept very “20th century.”
It’s an idea that originated with Edison and Berliner and Johnson in the early 20th Century.
And has been essentially obsolete since the advent of the Internet, MP3s, and Napster. I live in the era of the Celestial Jukebox now. I expect it all to be delivered for a single monthly fee. Kinda like my cable teevee.
But people keep trying to sell me records, and they keep trying to do it with what I regard as onerous promotional methods.
Like releasing only parts of a new CD on Spotify. As Pat Metheny has done with his new album, called Kin.
First of all, I have been a Pat Metheny fan since early 1980s. As Falls Witchita, So Falls Witchita Falls (released in 1981 – no Spotify link) is one of my all time album titles, and some of the tracks on Off Ramp (released 1982, also no Spotify link) are repeat-play classics.
And I have been listening to a LOT of Pat Metheny lately, in particular his solo acoustic release from 2003, One Quiet Night (Spotify link) and 1992’s multi-sonic-dimensional Secret Story (Spotify link). His music offers that rare blend of soothing and soaring, stimulation without distraction, that is ideal for doing other kinds of work like processing photos or, especially, writing (for the most part; some of his music can also be wild and frenetic and “outside” – and that’s OK, too. That’s what the “skip” buttons are for…)
In fact, I just shelled out something like $150 for two tickets to see Pat Metheny when he plays the Ryman auditorium later this month. That’s a hell of a lot more money than I’ve paid to almost any artist I can think of in the past year or so (I tend to frequent small, less expensive clubs than the bigger concert halls).
So imagine my perplexion when I went to Spotify and discovered that, yes, like the email said, Kin by Pat Metheny is now available on Spotify… but ONLY 5 OF THE 9 TRACKS ON THE ALBUM.
What the fuck? C’mon Pat, what’s the fucking point? Do you seriously think that I am going to set aside my 21st Century, stream-it-all model just to hear the other four tracks? Are you and your management (more likely) so out of touch with how new technology works in the marketplace that you really think that’s going to work on me?
Is the $150 I just put directly into your pocket (apart from whatever onerous “convenience fees” that were part of that sum), not enough to sustain your creative energy? Do you really need the $9 that the full record would cost to download, or, worse, just the $4 to “purchase” the original tracks?
I cannot begin to tell you how antiquated the whole concept sounds to me. Or how disappointing it is that you’ve attempted to “tease” me with a partial release.
I know that the royalties that streaming services pay are a subject of raging controversy all over the Interwebs. I know that artists and labels get paid only a fraction of a penny each time a track is streamed over the internet, and that those streams cannibalize the market for potential unit sales. Or as friend of mine just put it, “Spotify is great for me and devastating for creators.”
To which I have to respond: if it is great for the user, then the creators will have to adjust, because what works for the customer is always what will prevail in the marketplace (that’s an old law of economics that I just made up).
The advantage of streaming for a creator is, potentially, in the multitude of plays. When I buy a record, the artist and his label get paid once. But when I stream a recording over and over again – precisely as I have been doing lately with Pat Metheny – the creators get paid every time. Yes, the actual numbers may bear some adjusting, but over the long term, and as more people become accustomed to this mode of delivery, the numbers are going to add up.
Because, like Lefsetz keeps saying, the future is streaming.
So please, don’t insult my good intentions and fan-boyhood by withholding half of your new release from the format that I am most inclined to listen to.
Now, all that said, let me hasten to add: there are circumstances when I will purchase CDs, but that is typically when I have gotten excited about some new, emerging artist – somebody who can genuinely benefit from an individual expression of support, both personal and financial. And, as often as not, I will be happy to contribute considerably more than the cost of a single CD to that artist’s crowd-funding campaign if they ask for it. In the past few years I’ve made a lot more $35 to $50 contributions to such campaigns than I have purchased individual $15 CDs.
Because this is the 21st Century. Because I want to a “patron,” not a “consumer.”
This new record sounds terrific, what I’ve heard of it, and I will probably listen a lot to those FIVE of the NINE tracks. And Pat will get a few pennies for the privilege. And those pennies will add up across the breadth of the considerable following he has amassed over the several decades of his career.
I like Kin so much that I’m going to embed the Spotify player for it right here in this blog post, so you can listen to the tracks that are available now:
But I will NOT go to iTunes and drop even the $4 it would cost me to get the other tracks. Because iTunes is just not how I listen to (god, how I hate the word “consume”) music any more.
“Selling” discrete units of music – (vinyl, CDs, downloads, whatever the format) is an industrial model, and we don’t live in an industrial economy any more.
If you don’t believe me, then just climb into my time machine, fly about 20 years into the future, and look back on today.
See what I mean?