Music Streaming for Artists: Extensions for OA and ScholComm?

Damon, originally uploaded by kirstiecat.

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.
He writes:

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.






One response to “Music Streaming for Artists: Extensions for OA and ScholComm?”

  1. Rick Anderson Avatar
    Rick Anderson

    Actually, the Big Deal isn’t like Spotify for books at all — for one thing, the Big Deal is a purchase model for journals, not for books. For another thing, the Big Deal is really the opposite of Spotify: you have to buy a big package of journals in order to read the articles you want, whereas with Spotify you don’t have to buy any albums in order to listen to the songs.

    Also, when asking what scholarly authors get in return for inclusion of their articles in the Big Deal, you need to bear in mind that those authors (unlike musicians) are getting paid a salary to do work that includes the writing of scholarly articles. In other words, they got paid for their work up front. The publishers may get the content for free, but that doesn’t mean the authors aren’t getting paid–they’re getting paid for their work, just not by the publishers. None of this is to say that the system is great, only that it’s a very bad analogy for the situation that musicians are in.

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