Black Keys Not Licensing New Record to Streaming Services

Categories: Music Bidness

There's been a furor brewing among people who love streaming music services like Spotify and Rdio over bands like Coldplay denying licensing to those services for new releases. Older albums are available, but bands have essentially delayed the release to streaming services. That was all well and good when it included much derided artists like Coldplay, but now, according to a report, El Camino, the new album from much-loved indie blues rockers the Black Keys has been blocked from the same services.

It would seem fairly obvious that this is is a calculated strategy by bands to delay the release of new records to services that pay them substantially less than CDs or downloads and we wonder why anyone cares. Streaming music pays pennies on the dollar compared to iTunes and other paid download services, which pay substantially less per sale than physical options like CDs and vinyl. It just makes sense that artists would want to capitalize on an initial album release before unleashing it to the masses.

It's tough to be successful in the MP3 era and we're not just talking about rock and pop startdom. Like most things, success tends to roll downhill. For every one artist that used to sell millions, there were dozens, even hundreds that could at least make a living. That became a much more difficult proposition when file sharing services showed up on the scene and it has only marginally improved with streaming. If anything, it has barely stabilized an industry already on life support.

Thing is, you can find these artists' albums on streaming services eventually, just not at first and, yes, that sucks for people who use these, but it is hard to blame them for trying to squeeze every penny possible out of a release. It is how they make a living.

We all love music and like to think of it as this precious, artistic thing that belongs to all of us, but it is also a product that helps musicians -- and everyone associated with them -- earn a living. For the VAST majority of them, that means a VERY meager one, so it's hard to begrudge them for doing what they think is necessary to increase their earnings, even if it inconveniences some people in the process. Hell, we remember when you had to order records from a store and wait two weeks before they would be delivered, but we're old like that.

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Brian Smith
Brian Smith

I would love to see some hard numbers on the claims made in the third from last and last paragraphs.  At first blush, I think your interpretation of where the industry was a decade ago and where it is today are misguided.


There is TONS of research out there backing up those statements. I have friends who were doing well in the business and got out after their royalty checks dropped by as much as two-thirds despite the songs still being fairly popular. There are also great numbers to back up the fact that touring makes very little money for the vast majority of artists. And that's just the performing artists. Used to be that songwriters could make a living if they weren't performers -- they lived off of royalty checks that are disappearing.

I'm not saying I want to turn back the clock, just that those are the facts of the matter. It's been a tough decade for making money at music, but whatever, them's the breaks.

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