Music streaming services, such as Apple Music and Tidal, have horns beneath their halos that have been sharpening with their exclusive content.
When an artist releases music through a specific streaming service, it starves consumers who aren’t subscribers. If you’re a Drake fan and subscribed to Tidal, you’re out of luck. His music is available to Apple Music subscribers before it’s available anywhere else in the marketplace. If you’re ecstatic about your favorite artists’ announcement of a new album, you’d better check their allegiance, if any. Otherwise, you might have to wait for what usually takes up to a week for the music to become available on all services, or go the more popular, illegal route.
“Exclusives are bad for artists, bad for consumers and bad for the whole industry,” Spotify Global Head of Creator Services Troy Carter said.
Music exclusivity is nothing more than a pissing contest between companies and the splash damage falls on consumers. Meanwhile, artists serve as puppets. The only way out is for artists and consumers to boycott, and say “enough is enough.”
Streaming services have also tricked consumers into thinking they’re getting a good deal. Ten dollars a month for unlimited music sounds like a bargain, but there’s a catch — you don’t own any of that music. You can spend 10 years using Spotify and the moment your subscription expires, you’re left with nothing to show for it.
Sure, in the illegal days of LimeWire you had to wait for your songs to download and waste moments of your precious time. You’d often have to download multiple versions of the same song in order to find one with decent sound quality. I still remember the countless times I’ve pressed play on the song I downloaded only to be barraged by Bill Clinton’s voice saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” But all that’s in the past. Now, we have a much bigger issue to worry about.
A good alternative is to buy music from iTunes, which is something I personally enjoy. In part, because of the ease of having the music quickly and directly downloaded to my phone. The other, more important part is that my favorite artists are deserving of my money. Their impact on me is worth far more than $10.99. Music is a sacred, special part of our culture. Sadly, corporations have disrupted our connections with the artists we love.
In response to Apple Music and Tidal, Kanye West tweeted: “We all gon’ be dead in 100 years. Let the kids have the music.”
He’s right, we deserve better. As consumers, we’re not as voiceless as we may think we are. Let your displeasure be known. We’re the reason these companies are in business. One too many disapproving messages from fans may be enough to teeter an artist’s mind on the matter. Even if one prominent artist stands firmly against content exclusivity, we could see a domino effect in the music industry. Streaming services will have no choice but to lay down their weapons, and give back what has always been, and will always be ours — the music.
Email Steve Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org