Let’s talk some more about the music streaming business problem and how this related to scholarly communications. (OK, the last bit is new for me.)
This week on (cringe) Pitchform, Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 and Damon and Naomi wrote an article about Spotify and Pandora. He outlines the royalty rates, using Galaxie 500’s first EP Tugboat as a case study. Even given adjustment for inflation since 1988, it seems that the vinyl probably had a better return of investment.
Leaving aside why these companies are bothering to chisel hundredths of a cent from already ridiculously low “royalties,” or paying lobbyists to work a bill through Congress that would lower those rates even further– let’s instead ask a question they themselves might consider relevant: Why are they in business at all?
The answer is capital, which is what Pandora and Spotify have and what they generate. These aren’t record companies– they don’t make records, or anything else; apparently not even income. They exist to attract speculative capital. And for those who have a claim to ownership of that capital, they are earning million.
Companies like Spotify and Pandora have invest lots of money in the means of distribution, making something so convenient that people take it for granted and expect it. People are getting rich on it… just not really the artists, but who cares about them? Not most listeners! (The requisite MetaFilter thread covers that pretty well.) I mean… there’s a little guilt, but not enough to really change anything.
What’s this sound like? The big scholarly publishers. They are making buckets of money off of libraries and others, but the authors get what? Prestige? I guess in academia, people are used to that. It’s not a perfect analogy, but the big publishers have really invested a lot of money into a delivery system that we all have come to appreciate (for the most part). The problem is that the costs aren’t sustainable, but where’s the money going? Surely not to the content creators.
So I guess when i wondered before if a Spotify for books could exist, I didn’t see we already have it. It’s the Big Deal, something we loathe and love.