02/02/2009

The Squeeze and The Struggle

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This blog exists to spread the word about the best hip hop music out there and the most buzzworthy news. But most importantly, it’s a way for two beatmakers and friends to share their thoughts and enthusiasm for great kick ass music.

Now, because we love music very much (and actually make it and sell it) we follow very closely all the latest developments in the record labels vs the internet struggle. It all kicked off with Napster nearly ten years ago, and in 2009 we are still trying to figure out how the hell we’re going to make this work for everyone.

File sharing has its pros and cons, and numerous academic studies (yeah, people who know what they’re talking about) have shown how the impact on music sales is minimal, while others say the opposite. So no agreement there. It really depends on the artist and what relationship they have with their fans (is the fact that you’re downloading my music a sure sign you love my stuff, or are you killing my only source of income by stealing my stuff?) It’s a very complex debate, and I’m not going to get into it here.

What I will talk about instead is how some very clever internet people have worked hard to actually find an alternative that makes everyone happy: fans, record labels and artists. In the last few years, we have seen the rise of Pandora, Last.fm, Imeem, Lala, music videos on YouTube and very recently, the excellent Spotify.

Everything started going wrong when Pandora was forced to stop streaming in the UK (one of its biggest markets) and only focus on the US. The record labels (and their performance rights associations) squeezed harder and Pandora simply couldn’t afford to make music fans all over the world happy anymore. That was a sad day.

About a month ago Warner decides to remove all of its music from YouTube. Why? They couldn’t reach a financial agreement with Google, who owns YouTube. The same Warner who offered us a glimmer of hope in 2006 when they signed a revolutionary rev share deal with YouTube allowing their videos to be streamed and mashed up freely. So in 2009 it doesn't seem to matter that both the fans and artists themselves are actually against the removal decision... And so here we go, the little fun activity of watching videos and enjoying music via the world’s most popular video site (and sharing, like we do on this blog), is over for all Warner artist fans.

And last, this week Spotify feels the squeeze. Spotify is one of the most innovative free legal music services out there; via an itunes-like interface they stream cd quality music from a gigantic catalogue…and in return, all you get is audio ads (in between songs only) every 30 mins and banners, or you pay £10 a month for an ad free version. Perfect, fair and makes everyone happy (email us at info @ lacantinaproductions.com for free invites)

Well apparently not. On the 28th of Jan the Spotify team announces that they will start removing tracks from their catalogue due to licensing restrictions that record labels and artists now want to enforce. What this means is that there are artists out there who don’t want their music to be on services such as Spotify (absolutely no clue why considering they get paid for it as well) and there are record labels who are upset by the fact that if an album was meant to be US only, no one in Europe should be allowed to enjoy it. Hmm.

So the countdown has begun, day by day our banging Spotify playlists are going to get thinner. I’m praying to the hip hop gods out there that the artists who make the music we love are not so daft to be part of this music massacre. Some unfortunately already are, won’t name and shame as we don’t know the background to exactly how and why, but I do hope the list doesn’t get any longer.

In conclusion, fans deserve their music and artists deserve an income from their hard work and passion. But it seems crazy that now that we have a wonderful channel for sharing music, the internet, no solution appears to be good enough. We have come a long way from the renegade days of Napster, yet the struggle continues. Yes, It’s a difficult one to crack and there are many different sides to the story, but squeezing the life out of services who are at least trying to make it work is just insane…and frustrating like few other things in life.

Ah man…what do y’all think?

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