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pay for listeners


Upon Spotify's floating on NYSE, someone posted the following comment on Hacker News:

I am a closeted hobbyist musician in a rather small niche (contemporary christian music in Spanish LOL)but I don't want to live off my music. I just want to be heard by somebody. And today, trough distrokid plus spotify this is sooo posible. Which wouldn't have been in my wildest of dreams 20 years ago when I wanted to start a band with my friends. Or even 10, when I toured with a small time ska band. And since my goal is being heard and not profit I would be glad to pay for listeners. And I don't think I'm the only one. (armandososa)

This is wrong on so many levels, it's hard to decide where to start unpicking it, harder to even decide if this person wasn't just being a troll.

Back in the late 1990s at NOiSE we faced an issue that some people didn't have the correct player for our Impulse Tracker or Fast Tracker modules, also a vast majority of people couldn't play any tracker files whatsoever. We eventually settled on MP3 - it raised the recording quality of everything we released, and allowed our music to reach a wider audience.

Twenty years later, just as it was back then, there is no problem with self-publishing music, with getting it out there, with getting people to hear it even. It costs nothing to put a file up in the cloud and to tell people it exists. And there is no shortage of curious people seeking out new music.

For the individual who wants to progress on from this, to grow it as an activity, there is however a problem of cutting through the noise, generated from people happy to exchange time they have put into creating works of art not just freely in return for attention, but also, as the comment states, glad to pay for listeners.

At the extreme end, Payola is illegal. Beyond the unfair competition it creates, it amplifies signals disproportionately, to the extent that, since money is abundant, the promoted products literally fill up all available space - broadcast slots, attention span area, with stuff that isn't the product of natural preference. All based on the advertising world's idea of effective frequency.

There is Bandcamp - a way to be heard and not battle the majors on Spotify. There is Soundcloud - a way to be heard and build an audience some of whom are happy to promote the work themselves. Before that there was and practically all the time there has been somewhere to post music that isn't fed to people's ears, the way Spotify does this.

Musicians, composer musicians especially, must invest thousands of hours into practice, and whatever amount of money into instruments, all the while having to negotiate the complex requirements of city life - paying rent, going out and being part of a scene, seeking out their community and collaborating, licensing work.

Not only is it not helpful to "pay for listeners". It's pretty demoralising to dump intellectual product out in the open, on the premise that the space is infinite. The long tail doesn't work for the majority of individuals. It works for the entity managing the tail, and for the very few at the top.

More countries used to sponsor artists than do now.

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