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Are streaming services really that bad for David Crosby and other classic artists?

David Crosby has sold his recorded music and publishing rights which includes his work in the Byrds, Crosby & Nash, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young to Irving Azoff’s Iconic Artists Group citing streaming services and the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason.

“I can’t work … and streaming stole my money,” Crosby tweeted after Bob Dylan sold his iconic catalog, and yesterday in the sale announcement he added, ““Given our current inability to work live, this deal is a blessing for me and my family.”

Certainly, the pandemic had decimated every artist’s ability to make money performing live, but does the streaming side of Crosby’s complaint really hold up?

How bad is streaming for classic artists?

How and how much all artists are compensated by music streamers certainly deserves a makeover, but legendary songwriters and performers like Crosby actually receive money for the use of their popular catalog that they did not previously.

Prior to Spotify David Crosby the songwriter got paid when a fan bought the album, CD or mp3 10, 20 or more years ago,; and no matter how many hundreds of times a fan played it, he never got paid again.

But when that same fan cranks up The Byrd’s “Eight Miles High” or Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Wooden Ships” on Spotify or Apple Music co-writer David Crosby gets paid. Arguably songwriters deserve to be paid more by the streamers, but something is much better than the nothing they get paid when that same fan listens on their turntable, CD player or iPod.

Then there’s David Crosby the singer.

When those same songs get played on the radio, David Crosby gets a check as a songwriter, but nothing as a performer on those iconic songs.

Now when those songs are played on SiriusXM, Pandora other digital audio channels, David Crosby the performer is paid via Soundexchange.

What about lost sales?

Crosby might counter that while all of the above is true, Spotify and Apple Music have decimated sales of any new music he release and that’s what ahs hurt him most of all.

With no offense meant to the talented singer-songwriter, how many copies of his newer works – even those released before music streaming became popular – were really sold?

Music streaming is neither all good or all bad, but one group that has benefited from the digital age is the creators and owners of classic catalogs of music.

Irving Azoff knows that.

It’s why he just bought David Crosby’s catalog.

PHOTO:  © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com (Email: glennfrancispacificprodigital.com)

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2 Comments

  1. “Prior to Spotify David Crosby the songwriter got paid when a fan bought the album, CD or mp3 10, 20 or more years ago,; and no matter how many hundreds of times a fan played it, he never got paid again.

    But when that same fan cranks up The Byrd’s “Eight Miles High” or Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Wooden Ships” on Spotify or Apple Music co-writer David Crosby gets paid.”

    Ok, but how many thousands of streams does it take to make the same amount of money for a single CD sale? I don’t have the numbers, but from what I read there’s no comparison.

  2. For most of human history, musicians got paid when they played live.
    Then there was sheet music, which was often bootlegged. Not sure how much people made, but it was only the composers, not the performers.
    Then recorded music came along, and the record companies thought of every way they could to keep as much of the money as they could. The musicians made money from touring.
    And then there was a brief period when some musicians got huge record deals worth millions. A minority of musicians became very very rich. But this was a blip in the vast scheme of things.
    People bought the records, then the 8-tracks, then the cassettes, then the CDs then the MP3s and then back to vinyl, sometimes rebuying the same songs from the same masters over and over…and now they can stream it. As a listener, it’s great being able to listen to music I never would’ve before (I still have my many hundreds of CDs and no machine to play them, but still, I had huge gaps in my collection that only streaming can fill in).

    Not every musician has their music streaming. Joanna Newsom, one of my favs, isn’t on Spotify. I have the mp3s, one record, and Youtube. I don’t know if she’s on other streaming platforms but I doubt it. No one is making Crosby put his music on Spotify (I think), but it probably doesn’t make much of a difference either way. Why? The people buying the concert tickets are going for the nostalgia, for the songs written in the 60s and maybe 70s. If they buy anything, it’s the old stuff. A lot of bands don’t even bother selling the new music at the merch tables. Why would they when they can sell a t-shirt or poster for better margins? Gregg Allman once quipped that he was in the t-shirt business, but he was wrong. He was in the live music business. If people buy the music, great, but that’s never been where most musicians earn their livings. I also don’t have unlimited sympathy for Croz, whom I like and have seen several times in recent years. The reasons are simple:
    1. He fucked up his career with every band he’s been in just about. I saw the Byrds do Sweetheart and there was no mention of bringing David on board for a similar tour of the music they made together. The guys in CSNY don’t want to play with him. Even before Covid, his commercial appeal was limited. I like some of his new stuff, but most of it is forgettable. Pleasant but not amazing. I’m glad he isn’t resting on his laurels or anything, but he’s never going to make serious money with CD/mp3 sales.
    2. He has the means to make money. He does his Rolling Stone advice thing. He sold his songs. If I met someone crying poor and they were sitting on millions of dollars worth of artwork they had made but didn’t want to sell them, I’d roll my eyes and walk on by. Some artists don’t get to make art and sell copies and keep the originals. They have to sell sculptures and paintings and screen prints. They have to create limited editions in order to attract collectors. And they make a living doing it. Crosby could do one of those sites where people pay for short videos. Kevin from the Office made over a million bucks doing it in one year. Songwriting workshops, music lessons, signed memorabilia, etc. Jazz and classical musicians often have to supplement their income by teaching, why not him? Whoever said rock stars get to coast on songs written half a century ago?

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