Music Business

Is a strike by artists to protest streaming payouts inevitable?

As discontent brews among musicians against the pitiful payouts provided by streaming services, we explore what an artist ‘strike’ against streaming services might look like.

Guest post from The Trichordist

We’re hearing more and more commentary like this post from John:

So how would that work? It probably couldn’t be a “strike” of the same kind as the UK Musicians Union strike against the BBC in 1980, the Writers Guild strike in 2007 or some of the handful of other famous ones. Those strikes were all related to creators who were employed by employers and that employment formed the basis of a collective bargaining agreement. Strikes are authorized by a vote of the membership and are a sign that collective bargaining has not produced a fair result.

Strikes or work actions usually produce images like this:

Another difference between collective bargaining strikes and artists against streaming is the striking workers’ well being. Strikes impose a cost on both sides and the costs are often a heavier burden for the worker.

Streaming is not that way. For most artists, streaming cannibalizes more sales that it offsets with income. David has written about this extensively. The choice for most artists is not getting streamed more–that is the false promise that Spotify tries to get you to buy into with their various payola schemes that are blatant exploitation.

Songwriters have led the way on this with the Ferrick and Lowery class action against Spotify and David’s class action against Rhapsody. The uprising against the ruling class in the frozen mechanicals protest is another example of songwriters standing together against exploitation.

Streaming presents different choices. The choice is whether to be on a streaming platform at all. YouTube can force you to participate due to their scummy manipulation of the loophole ridden DMCA, the worst nightmare that an incompetent and lard layered Congress ever imposed on creators at the behest of lobbyists, and that’s saying something. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with another MLC to make sure you know your place.

So you have to think about what a streaming strike would actually look like. It certainly would not have great economic impact for most artists because the income they would give up starts so many decimal places to the right.

One way to get started is to maintain an “Unfair” list for services that engage in anti-artist behavior. Like this guy:

What should the criteria be to get on the “Unfair” list? What would we all do with the unfair list?

We’ll be taking suggestions and thinking about exactly how this would work.

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