Back in February David Byrne relaunched his official website with an emphasis on new content and guest writers. Since then he's continued to address artist revenue topics in his now established role as public intellectual. In the process he's speculated on such topics as what a new Internet might look like and, over the weekend, how musicians might earn a living in the streaming era. As you might expect, he takes his thoughts in sometimes unexpected directions.
Byrne now has a much improved platform for that role with the recently relaunched davidbyrne.com.
In his relaunch post Byrne addresses an emphasis on the new, though archives will be migrated to the new site, and contributions from others such as "work, writing and playlists" so it won't be "exclusively about me, me, me." In addition, public comments have been added.
Annie-B Parsons has already weighted in with a piece about the financial realities of Off-Broadway performance and rehearsal pay.
Byrne addresses music, money and technology in this post as well as others:
"As always, there are no ads and nothing is sponsored. Why work for nothing? (I hate that the internet presumes we should all work for nothing!)"
"I have discovered that sometimes the stuff here does engage people—they find out about events, music, books or performances they might not have known about—and sometimes the longer journal posts have actually stimulated not just discussion, but have led to connections and collaborations."
So what Byrne is doing is describing his ROI for the work he put in which means he explaining why he isn't working for nothing on the site. But one of the downsides of Byrne's treatment of the world is that there's either free or paid and nothing in between. This causes him to equate free to the listener with unpaid when usually it's monetized through advertising and results in licensing fees.
Over the weekend Byrne posted a provocative and lengthy piece in which he addresses many of the issues with streaming and music monetization by musicians and then shares some suggestions.
1. "What if there was no free on-demand streaming (unless the artist is directly controlling that access through their own site or as a publicity endeavor)? In other words, the free ad-supported Spotify version should go away, as would free music on YouTube—everything would transition to be a subscription-only service."
This "suggestion" seems more like a thought experiment since the arrow of time cannot be reversed.
2. "Artists should get 50% of the income streaming sites now pay to labels—this usage of recorded works is a license and that’s the way licensing works."
This approach sounds fair, some labels are already doing so and various negotiations and legal actions get periodic news coverage.
3. "As with any other license, the artist should have approval whether his or her work can be used."
Such a right also sounds fair though, as Byrne notes, "if everyone reserved the rights to make their own deals then it could be chaos."
4. "Transparent accounting and data sharing. There should be transparent accounting to artists as well as their representatives. Big data and the gear that crunches it make this a technical possibility. Artists can use some of that information to become better at reaching their fans and marketing their music."
Transparency has long been possible and should be the norm.
Some people responded to earlier comments from Byrne about streaming music business models and the Internet with a general tone of dismissal and his more recent posts may receive the same treatment.
But in the above post he gave 4 suggestions only one of which is unlikely while the other three are key demands that musicians should be making.
Not bad for someone who could be just listening to the automatic praise he also gets and simply enjoying his own special world.
- David Byrne Takes A Sharp Yet Despairing Look At Spotify, Streaming Music and Musicians
- Trent Reznor & David Byrne On DIY vs Major Labels
- David Byrne's TED Talk On How Place Drives Music
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/Facebook) is currently relaunching All World Dance. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.